Regardless of the size of a property, every landowner strives to hold on to every inch of their land. If a neighbor encroaches on your land or doesn’t want to contribute to a shared fence, complications can easily arise.

What’s worse is that many owners in Montana don’t know how to settle their differences amicably. If you’re in such a situation, the Montana fence and property laws can be really helpful.

Can I replace an existing fence without a permit?

Replacing your existing fence without a permit is illegal in most townships in Montana. In many cases, you’ll need a permit even if you’re replacing the fence with similar material and location.

You might also require a permit if you’re replacing the fence with more than 50% of the existing fence.

A good way to confirm whether you’ll need a permit is by consulting a local fencing company.

How tall can a privacy fence be in Montana?

Fences in residential areas have a set maximum height of 4 feet on the front yard, and around 6 feet on the rear yard. Exceptions are allowed in some counties where the fence height limit is extended to 8 feet.

You can apply for a variance to build a taller fence from your local planning department.

Who owns the fence on property lines in MT?

The Montana laws state that adjoining neighbors must build and maintain a partition fence in equal shares as long as both landowners continue to use the fence. This means that each neighbor is regarded as the owner of a fence enclosing both your properties.

If one neighbor chooses to enclose their land to an existing fence of the adjoining neighbor, the law also demands that the owner can send a 3-month notice to the new occupant asking them to refund an equal portion of the fence value.

How do you know where the property boundary is?

Your property boundary lines are best identified through a survey. If you need the accurate position of your boundary, hire an expert surveyor to mark out the property lines.

The next best method is usually through visiting the local Assessor’s office. Ask them for the available maps for your street, and use that to measure your boundary lines.

You can also check the description of your property measurements on your deeds. Be sure to first ask your neighbor to show you where they think your boundaries are.

Can my neighbor build a fence on the property line?

Generally, yes. Since Montana is an open range state, a non-livestock owner is required to build a fence on their boundary to keep livestock out of their property.
This law is very crucial for rural areas of Montana where many homeowners keep livestock. In such a case, the neighbor is obligated to keep the fence in good shape.

However, if you choose to join their fence, that neighbor is legally allowed to compel you to contribute equally towards its maintenance. According to Montana Title 70. Property § 70-16-207, they have to give you a three-month notice to refund them of the current equal value of that fence.

If you refuse to pay for this maintenance, the neighbor can file a suit against you for damages that may result afterward.

Can I put up a fence on my side of the property line?

Yes! The Montana laws allow property owners to put up a fence on their side of the property line. This is especially important if the adjoining neighbor keeps livestock on their property.

In fact, the law allows you to put up the fence right up to the property line. However, there might be other regulations set by your local township or Homeowner’s Association.

What is a spite fence?

Spite fences are defined as any unusually tall fences, constructed with malicious intent to irritate the adjacent property owner. Many local enforcements have laws against such fences.

And even in states that don’t address the fence, most courts will classify the fence as a private nuisance.

Does Montana allow spite fences?

No! In Montana, spite fences are handled in court. The Montana Supreme court has, over the years, ruled against any fences built out of spite.

In any such case, the complaining neighbor has the right to ask for the removal of the fence, and also seek money damages from the neighbor that built it.

Fence law in Big Sky country

Montana, or the Big Sky Country, still practices an open range (fence out) policy. This means that a non-livestock owner is required to build a fence to protect their property.

However, adjoining neighbors who enclose their properties with a partition fence are by law required to share responsibility for the fence. Most property owners still use the right-hand rule to determine which part of the fence they own.

If one neighbor refuses to repair or build this partition fence, the adjoining neighbor can give them a 60-day notice to build a new fence, or 5 days’ written notice to repair the fence.

But if the neighbor still neglects this notice, the complaining neighbor can build or repair the fence, and then seek compensation from the adjoining neighbor.

Local ordinances and zoning rules

Besides the general Montana fence statutes, every township and city has its unique ordinance regarding fencing. If your neighborhood has a Homeowner’s association, they might also have some extra regulations.

These restrictions govern the height limits, fence setback limits, and building materials. You, therefore, need to look into these ordinances whenever you’re in a property dispute with your neighbor.

Montana boundary fence laws at a glance

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

StatuesSpite fenceLocal Fence Regulations
Montana code § 70-16-205 Mutual obligation of adjoining owners

Montana code § 70-16-209 Repair or rebuilding of partition fences

Montana code § 70-16-207 When required to share the cost
Montana supreme court has determined a spite fence to be:

“A useless fence or structure built or maintained by a neighbor for the sole purpose of annoying another neighbor”
City of Bozeman FAQ’s building a fence

City of Butte Building and code enforcement

The city of Billings Fence and retaining walls

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.

FAQ's

In Montana, all non-livestock owners whose neighbors keep livestock are required by law to own a fence. Nonetheless, if both neighbors use that fence, the law considers each neighbor equally responsible for its maintenance.

Montana fence laws strictly prohibit the construction of fences to annoy or harm your neighbor. So, you can sue the owner for that fence in court to have it removed, or gain monetary damages.

Not really. Your neighbor needs your permission to hang anything on your fence. If your neighbor hangs something, you have the right to ask them to remove the items or sue them if they refuse.


For your neighbor’s fence, no. The law is clear that as long as you don’t have ownership of the fence, you have no right to alter it.

Ask for permission to do so from your neighbor if you feel your side of the fence is ugly. If possible, get a written contract for this to avoid future disputes.

Yes. If you don’t want to share your neighbor’s existing fence, you can construct your fence on your side of the property. You’ll, however, have to observe your local fence ordinances and zoning regulations.

Yes! Neighbors who know where their property boundaries are don’t have to do a survey. Moreover, there are other ways to find your boundaries besides hiring a surveyor.

However, doing a survey before putting up a fence is important because it ensures you don’t encroach on your neighbor’s property or vice versa.

Yes, but they’ll first need to give you written notice. The Montana Title 70. Property § 70-16-210 states that your neighbor should give you at least a 6-month notice before removing a fence.

It depends. The fence laws in Montana require adjoining neighbors to share fence costs if both of them occupy and use the land. In this case, each neighbor has to contribute equal shares towards the fence. If any neighbor refuses to pay their share, you can take legal action against them.

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