Every so often, you’ll come across neighbors arguing about their fence situation. With so many Illinois residents unaware of the state’s law regarding the matter, many end up enemies over small issues that could be easily resolved.

This is why you should strive to understand the Illinois property line and fence laws before any disputes arise. 

Ideally, yes. The Illinois laws don’t prohibit building a fence on your property. You just have to ensure that it’s not too close to the property line.

You’ll also need to comply with the height, appearance, and location laws in place by your district or county, and the fence regulations set by your local homeowner’s association.

Additionally, even though Illinois doesn’t have a specified law against spite fences, it’s still illegal. All fences constructed with malicious or evil intent are prohibited under the nuisance law principle.

Your neighbor can sue you in court and have an order to remove or prevent you from building the fence.

Do I need a permit to build a fence in Illinois?

It depends. In most cities, you won’t need a permit to build a fence shorter than 5 feet using the allowed materials. These materials include wood, steel, composite, aluminum, and vinyl PVC for residential fences.

You’ll only need a building permit if you intend to use other masonry materials for the fence. For commercial projects, you might need several permits, depending on the type of building.

The permits are valid for about six months of the issuing date.

In cases where you don’t need a permit, you might need your HOA’s approval before proceeding with construction. 

property line fence laws illinois

Can I replace an existing fence without a permit?

Not really. Many municipalities in Illinois implement zoning laws that require having a permit when replacing your fence.

Even though most homeowners try to avoid the permits by replacing the fence with the same materials, chances of getting caught are pretty high. The only time you won’t need a permit is during repairs or when installing temporary fences.

Fence laws in Illinois

Height:

The fence height restrictions for residential properties are set at 6 feet for solid structures but can be extended to 8 feet for open structures.

Front yard fences are restricted to a 4.5 feet height, while the rear fence, side fence, and corner lots are restricted to 6 feet. These restrictions will vary slightly in different suburbs so, check with your local authorities first.  

State of repair:

Both adjoining neighbors are responsible for the repairs of the boundary fence. If the fence is on one neighbor’s side of the property line, they’re responsible for the full repair costs.

Who pays for a fence between neighbors?

According to the Illinois Fence Act, 765 ILCS 130/3, two or more adjoining neighbors shall make and maintain an equal proportion of the division fence. Each neighbor is required to pay for the construction and maintenance of the fence.

Whenever one neighbor refuses to pay their portion, there are several solutions you can opt for.  This includes mediation, writing them a detailed letter about the issue, or suing them in court for reimbursement.

Under ILCS 130/8 – 130/9, Illinois laws also allow each neighbor to involve two fence viewers who’ll assess the state of the fence and direct the parties on how to resolve the matter.

However, there’s an exception for neighbors who don’t need the fence, e.g., for a neighbor who doesn’t have livestock or crops, the law protects them from the burden of paying for the fence.

Who’s responsible for maintaining a fence?

For the boundary fence, both neighbors are held responsible by law to maintain and repair it. In many rural areas, however, one neighbor could be responsible for maintaining the fence if the other party proves he/she doesn’t use it.  

For instance, Illinois law defines a fence as a structure that can contain livestock on your property. So, a neighbor without livestock can evade the responsibilities.

Keep in mind; The fence laws for residential neighborhoods in counties with less than a million residents away from the city corporate limits, are also different.

Each adjoining neighbor must take care of their portion of the boundary fence even if one neighbor opposed its construction.

Who owns the fence on property lines in Illinois?

Illinois state laws recognize all adjoining neighbors as owners of the fence on the property line unless agreed otherwise. This means that neither neighbor can take down the fence without the other’s permission.

Everyone will have to bear the costs for the maintenance, repairs, and replacement of the fence. However, most neighbors without livestock avoid building the fence, and in such a case, it becomes the property of just one neighbor.  

Do I need a survey to determine the boundary?

Yes! Before erecting a fence on your property, doing a survey is the best way to determine the property line. Knowing the exact location of these lines ensures that you or your neighbor don’t encroach into each other’s property.

It’s also important to have a survey report as it’s a requirement when selling the house to receive title insurance. 

Nonetheless, a survey isn’t the only way to determine the property’s boundary. You can also look for the boundary details on your local assessor’s office or website.

Illinois boundary fence laws at a glance

This table provides an overview of some of the state laws governing Georgia’s fence law and links to their original documents.

LawsMaintenanceMax heightsDisputes
Boundary fences: Property 765 ILCS 130 Fence Act

Spite fences: Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel
Adjoining neighbors are considered responsible for maintenance of boundary fenceMaximum height restrictions are 8 feet for open fence structures and 6 feet for solid structures

Front yard limits stand at 4.5 feet

Rear and side fence limits stand at 6 feet
Disputes can be settled by selecting two fence viewers who define each neighbor’s fence portion

Trustees could be the board of trustees in different towns

One neighbor can select both trustees if the other neighbor doesn’t act on their 8-day notice

Keep in mind; These laws are bound to change with time depending on the new legislation, federal court decisions, and other initiatives. Use the information provided above as a guide and research the latest regulations in your municipality.

Fence Ordinance by County

City of Champaign

No permits are required when building a fence. However, key requirements to follow before installing a fence include:

  •   Contact JULIE (811 or 800-892-0123) to locate and mark any buried utilities on your property. (It’s a free service!)
  •   Fence height limit on the front yard is 3-feet for solid fences and 6-feet for transparent fences.
  •   Fence height limit for the rear and side fence is 8 feet.

City of Decatur

Fence requirements include:

  •   Front yard fences shouldn’t be taller than 4 feet
  •   Rear and side fences are restricted to 8-feet in height
  •   Fences taller than 3-feet are prohibited 20-feet from the intersection of the right of way

City of Highland

Fencing requirements include:

  •   No fence should be installed on a front yard facing the street.
  •   Front yard fence is restricted to 3 feet in height and 4 feet if it’s chain link
  •   Side and rear fences are restricted to 6 feet in height 

City of Joliet

A permit is required for the construction of all the fences. The fence requirements include:

  •   Front yard fences are restricted to 4 feet
  •   Backyard fence height limit is 6 feet
  •   Contact JULIE (800-892-0123) or online at https://www.illinois1call.com/ to mark the buried utility lines

City of Rock Island

Fence requirements include:

  •   Front yard fences height limit is 3.5 feet
  •   Rear and side fence height limit is set at 6 feet
  • The ‘good side’ of the fence should face your neighbor
LawsMaintenanceMax heightsDisputes
Boundary fences: Property 765 ILCS 130 Fence Act

Spite fences: Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel
Adjoining neighbors are considered responsible for maintenance of boundary fenceMaximum height restrictions are 8 feet for open fence structures and 6 feet for solid structures

Front yard limits stand at 4.5 feet

Rear and side fence limits stand at 6 feet
Disputes can be settled by selecting two fence viewers who define each neighbor’s fence portion

Trustees could be the board of trustees in different towns

One neighbor can select both trustees if the other neighbor doesn’t act on their 8-day notice

Keep in mind; These laws are bound to change with time depending on the new legislation, federal court decisions, and other initiatives. Use the information provided above as a guide and research the latest regulations in your municipality.

Who owns and maintains trees on the property lines in Illinois?

Both neighbors are, by law, considered owners of the trees on the property line. The adjoining neighbors are required to share the costs for maintaining the trees.

None of them can cut down or harm the trees without the other neighbor’s consent as well. However, you can always cut and trim the branches and trees that spread over to your side. 

FAQ’s

It depends on the location of the fence. If the fence will be on the property line, you’ll have to first get your neighbor’s consent. In this case, you’ll need to know if they’re willing to contribute to the costs of the fence.

However, if the fence is on your side of the property, at least 2 feet from the property line, you don’t have to inform them. 

Not without your permission. The Illinois fence act recognizes adjoining neighbors as joint owners of a fence on the property line.  The neighbor, therefore, needs to consult you before making any decisions regarding the fence.

Illinois fence laws encourage the use of fence viewers to settle any outstanding fence disputes. The fence viewers are chosen by each party to hear the allegations and provide the final decision for the matter (usually in writing).

If one party doesn’t select a fence viewer, the other party can send them an 8-day notice, after which they can select both fence viewers.

No! For boundary fences in Illinois, each neighbor has equal rights to the fence. Therefore, neither of the two can remove the fence without the permission of the other neighbor. You both have to agree to a decision for one party to implement it.

Timothy Munene
Author: Timothy Munene - Timothy is a freelance writer and an online entrepreneur.