Handling disputes with your neighbors about the fence and property line is never easy. Whether you want them to stop encroaching into your land or contribute to building a partition fence, how you tackle the matter is crucial.
This is why every property owner should understand Maryland’s property line and fence laws. Here are some of the laws you should know.
Every county has different regulations regarding whether or not a permit is required to build a fence. In most areas, you will need a permit if the fence is over 6 feet in height or if it’s surrounding a pool.
Other authorities demand a fence permit for all new residential fences from the Department of Planning and Zoning. You might also require a permit if your property has a corner lot.
As such, always consult your local planning department to confirm whether you’ll need a permit.
Can I replace an existing fence without a permit?
No. According to the fencing regulations in most counties and cities, only minor repair works don’t require a permit. Otherwise, replacing or repairing large chunks of the existing fence will require a permit.
If you’re lucky, like property owners in Montgomery, you will be able to replace the fence without a permit if you’re using the same materials and fence location.
Note: Most county ordinances are continually changing. It’s therefore advisable to always check with your local permits office for clarifications.
How tall can a privacy fence be in Maryland?
Most residential fences are limited to 6 feet in height, with 4 feet on the front yard and 6 feet on the rear and side yards. Some Homeowner Associations may, however, require the front yard and corner lot fences to be at least 3 feet.
Variances or special exceptions can also be required for fences taller than 6 feet.
Who owns the fence on property lines in MD?
Maryland follows the general fence law that recognizes a fence on the property lines of two adjacent properties as the property of both neighbors.
Some counties also observe a fenced-in rule (via court rulings) where a livestock-owning neighbor is required to fence their animals in.
If you’ve moved to a property with an existing fence, you’ll still be expected to contribute to its maintenance if the previous owner did.
Neighbors can also agree on how to share the division fence freely since there’s no law addressing fence ownership.
How do you know where the property boundary is?
The most efficient way to locate your property’s boundaries is by conducting a survey.
When you hire a land surveyor, they will find any contracts or covenants associated with your property, ensuring that you have accurate information of where your boundary lines are.
If you don’t want to spend more on a survey, you can also find details of the boundary on your deed. Other property owners also visit their local assessor’s office to access plat maps of their neighborhood.
Can my neighbor build a fence on the property line?
Yes! Due to the absence of a specific partition fence law, your neighbor can put up a fence on the boundary. But depending on the local regulations in your area, they may have to consult you before building the fence.
If you don’t think you’ll benefit from such a fence, it’s advisable that you formulate a written contract with the neighbor, stating that they’ll be the sole owners of the fence.
However, if you use that fence in any way, e.g., keep animals or enclose your land, the neighbor can hold you partially responsible for its maintenance.
Additionally, any conflicts arising from this fence, will have to be resolved through mediation. If it fails, the neighbor may then take the matter to court.
Can I put up a fence on my side of the property line?
Yes! Maryland property owners can build fences on their side of their property line in accordance with the local area’s ordinances. In such a case, you won’t have to inform your neighbor about your decision.
However, you‘ll have to locate your property lines if you don’t know their exact position to ensure that you don’t encroach on your neighbor’s property.
What is a spite fence?
A spite fence is an overly tall fencing structure constructed by one landowner with the intention of annoying or harming the adjacent neighbor. Such structures may also include shrubs and hedges.
Maryland spite fence law
In Maryland, the state has not passed any fencing laws regarding spite fences. All issues surrounding this matter are addressed under the nuisance law principle. Some individual counties, townships, and HOAs also have ordinances governing spite fences.
To determine whether the fence is considered a spite fence, the negative impacts of the fence to the adjacent owners must outweigh its benefits to the owner.
Maryland fence law basics
Maryland doesn’t have a direct law addressing fencing issues in the state. Most of the fence laws observed are guided by court rulings and different local ordinances.
Generally, adjoining neighbors are determined to be joint owners of the fence on their property line unless they agree otherwise. This means that both neighbors will cover all the repair and maintenance costs.
Even if you move into a property with an existing fence, you will still be considered an owner/co-owner of the fence, depending on what the previous owner agreed to.
Additionally, if one neighbor uses their property to keep livestock or connect to the existing fence later on, he/she will be considered a joint owner of the fence.
Maryland boundary fence laws at a glance
This table provides an overview of some of the state laws governing Maryland’s fence laws and links to their original documents.
|Statues||Nuisance Law||Local Fence Regulations|
|Maryland Code § 6-4031 Criminal trespass|
Maryland Code § 14-602 Action to quiet title
|In Maryland, a private nuisance claim requires conduct that is substantial and unreasonable or which is offensive or inconvenient. |
Such conduct must also cause real, substantial, and unreasonable damages or interfere with another person's ordinary use and enjoyment of his/her property.
|Baltimore County Government - FAQ Zoning
City of Baltimore - Permits
Montgomery County - FAQ Zoning
City of College Park - Fence regulations
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.
In most cases, the builder of a fence is the owner of the fence in Maryland. However, for adjoining neighbors, the laws take on the traditional ownership structure, meaning every neighbor is equally required to maintain their part of the shared fence.
Spite fences are usually covered under nuisance laws in Maryland. If your neighbor is blocking your view, you can file a suit in court to have the fence removed and receive money damages.
You will, however, need to have enough evidence to prove that the other neighbor doesn’t benefit from the fence and only built it out of spite.
They can if you permit them. Hanging things on a fence that’s well inside your property lines could attract criminal charges since the neighbor would have to trespass through your land.
In the same way, you can’t hang anything on the neighbor’s fence.
It depends on the owner of that fence. If the fence belongs to your neighbor, you don’t have the right to paint anything on their fence; that’s vandalism. If you have to paint, ask the neighbor for permission first.
You should also check out your local ordinances regarding fence paintings to avoid any last-minute hitches.
Absolutely! There’s no law requiring neighbors to use or share a fence with their neighbors. Although it might be costly, building your own fence closer to the neighbors’ will give you more freedom to do whatever you want on the fence.
Before putting up any new fence, there are several rules that you can follow to ensure you don’t conflict with your neighbors. These rules include:
- Inform your neighbor- Even if the fence Is located inside your property, informing the neighbor helps foster a positive relationship.
- Conduct a survey – Hire a professional surveyor to help you determine your boundaries and avoid encroachment.
- Know the fence laws – Each county has its own regulations addressing fence height, setback restrictions, etc. Some are also governed by Homeowner Associations.
A boundary fence refers to any fence, hedge, row of trees, shrubs, or similar structures usually located on the property line of adjoining properties. This definition might, however, be slightly different depending on the state you visit.