Fences and property lines are top factors that most people often overlook when buying homes. However, in New York, a fence that encroaches over the property line can be a huge source of contention, even if it’s by just a foot or two.
It’s therefore important to know where your property line is and understand what the New York fence laws say about it. Here are some important laws to note.
It depends on the projected height of the fence. In most parts of New York, you won’t need a permit to erect a fence shorter than 6-feet. Anything taller will need a permit from the Department of Buildings (DOB).
You’ll also need a permit from the DOB to put up any temporary or construction site fence. Keep in mind; some neighborhood associations may also require some sort of permit before allowing you to build.
How do I apply for a fence permit?
There are two ways; online or in person. To apply for a fence permit online, visit the DOB NOW site and create an eFiling account, then submit your filings.
Alternatively, you can download the PW1 Plan/ Work Approval Application form from the site then submit it in person at the DOB offices. Here is a link to the application form.
Do I need a permit to replace an existing fence in NY?
Yes! Most towns in New York require homeowners to have a permit for any renovations that alter the structural feature of the fence. So, even if you’re replacing the fence with a similar structure, you’ll still need a permit.
If you don’t know the regulations in your town, ask a local fencing company or your salesperson for help.
How close to the property line can I build a fence?
It depends on the local district and zoning restrictions in your area. Many fencing experts recommend building your fence anywhere from 2 – 8 feet from the property line.
Several districts in New York recommend setting back around 5 feet from the line.
However, every neighborhood is different, and some associations allow you to construct the fence right up to the property line.
The setback regulations may also be different if you’re closer to a right of way or public easement area. Always consult an expert regarding the local area’s zoning laws before moving forward with the construction.
How tall can a privacy fence be in New York?
In most districts, the maximum fence height restriction for residential properties is 4 feet for the front yard and 6 feet for the back yard and corner lot fences. The general limit, however, is 10 feet, according to the NY building code.
Fences around playground areas are allowed to extend up to 10-feet. In all these areas, they have to be made of plastic, brick, wood, or chain link.
Variances are also granted for various reasons and may not exceed 15 feet in height.
What is a spite fence?
Spite fences generally refer to an overly tall fence built by one neighbor to annoy the other. It normally has no purpose or benefit to the owner.
In most cases, the fences are erected to block a neighbor’s views, light, or access to a driveway.
Spite fences are illegal in most states in the US, including New York. However, one neighbor must have compelling evidence that proves the owner’s intentions to have it removed.
Spite fence lawns in New York
New York Fence laws consider any fence taller than 10 feet that was maliciously built to annoy or block a neighbor’s enjoyment of air or light to be a spite fence or ‘private nuisance.’
Being a large state with numerous enclosed neighborhoods, these disputes are fairly common in New York.
The law allows you to sue your neighbor on the grounds of private nuisance if you can prove their evil intentions. Check to see if the neighbor violated any neighborhood association rules and use their misdemeanors as evidence.
Who owns the fence on property lines in NY?
The New York fence laws don’t cover much with regards to a fence on the property line. However, homeowners in urban and contained areas aren’t required to build a fence separating two properties.
Anyone who chooses to construct the fence becomes the owner of the fence. Joint ownership only happens under an agreement from both parties.
Nevertheless, the fence laws do cover division fences regarding residents like farmers and ranchers in rural New York. Under this, the law states that adjoining neighbors must build and maintain an equal portion of the division fence unless they agree otherwise.
If the other neighbor doesn’t contribute to the construction of the fence, the owner can recoup 20% of that cost every year for five years or thereof, as long as the neighbor uses their land to keep animals.
The only exception to contributing or owning this fence is if you don’t keep livestock and pets within five years of its construction.
Can my neighbor build a fence on the property line?
Yes, but they’ll need your permission! In most cities and counties in New York, there’s no strict law for adjoining neighbors to build a fence. So, if your neighbor wishes to build a fence on the property line, you’ll be under no obligation to contribute.
In rural New York, the neighbor will first have to seek an agreement in writing from you before building the fence. Otherwise, they’ll have to stick to their side of the property line.
You also have to ensure that the fence won’t encroach on your property. Ask the neighbor to hire a professional surveyor first to map out the property lines.
You can also check your title deed or visit your local assessor’s office for data on your property line.
If you don’t agree with your neighbor about the boundaries, New York laws allow you to incorporate fence viewers.
These are people from the local county office who’ll assess your situation and offer final solutions to the dispute.
New York boundary fence laws at a glance
This table provides an overview of some of the state laws governing New York fence law and links to their original documents.
|Statues||Boundary Fences||Spite Fences|
|Dividing Fence: §300-309||Fence Regulations §381; 871|
Adjoining neighbors in rural NY, are responsible for building and maintaining equal portions of the boundary fences unless otherwise agreed
Neighbor who doesn’t have livestock within five years of the fence construction isn't responsible for it
Disputes should be resolved by the town fence viewers
|Fence Regulations §843
Fence structures over 10 feet in height built to annoy or hinder the neighbor’s enjoyment of their property are illegal.
Neighbors can sue on grounds of private nuisance.
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 gets the good side of the fence?
Your neighbor should get the good side of the fence. Even though there’s no state law enforcing this rule, it’s a show of good etiquette to your neighbor. Your home will also look better if the finished side faces the outside.
Some local homeowners’ associations might also have this rule for their neighborhoods. You should therefore check your local regulations before making your decision.
If you have an agreement to share the division fence with your neighbor, talk to them first to avoid a legal battle.
Alternatively, get a double-sided privacy fence. These fences are stronger and will ensure both neighbors get smooth polished sides.
Can a neighbor remove a fence?
It depends on the location of the fence. If the fence is within your side of the property line, New York property line statutes restrict them from removing the fence. If the neighbor crosses the property line to remove the fence, you can sue them for trespassing.
The neighbor can, however, sue you in court for violation of the local homeowner’s regulations, forcing you to remove the fence.
If you constructed the fence out of spite and it doesn’t really serve you, the neighbor may also take you to court and have the fence removed.
Important: Even if the fence encroaches on the neighbor’s land, they don’t have the right to remove it. All they can do is either sell you the affected portions or take legal action to move the fence.
What is property line encroachment?
Property line encroachment refers to a situation where a property owner, usually a neighbor, trespasses into the other neighbor’s land and builds a structure on their side.
This could happen due to an error from a construction contractor or intentionally, to claim that portion through adverse possession.
The New York laws allow landowners to sue and charge damages for anyone who encroaches on their property.
To avoid encroachment disputes, ensure you know where your property lines are.
You can also opt to give the neighbor permission to use that portion they’ve encroached on. This will be cheaper and will still retain you as the full owner of the property.