Almost every homeowner has a neighbor. And while living harmoniously with each other is always the goal, it’s not always the case – especially when fencing is involved.

When fence disputes arise, knowing the fence laws in your state could be the only way to settle the matter peacefully.

Here’s what North Carolina’s fence laws say regarding property lines and fences.

Yes. Most local authorities will demand a zoning permit before installing any fence or similar structure on residential or commercial properties.

If you’re planning to construct a fence taller than 4 feet, most city and county authorities will demand a construction permit.

For properties located in/near flood hazard zones, street right of ways, or protected drainage areas (PDAs), a fence permit will also be required.

Some cities may also consider the fence material as a requirement to get a permit, so consult with your local authorities. You may also require a permit to replace or conduct extensive repairs on the existing fence.

FAQ’s fence in North Carolina

How tall can a privacy fence be in North Carolina?

Most local county zoning laws restrict privacy fences to 6 feet if it’s within 15 feet of any public or private street. Otherwise, the fence can’t be taller than seven feet.

The front yard fences are limited to 4 feet in height, while the back and rear yard fences are limited to 7 feet for residential properties.

Commercial, recreational and agricultural properties are restricted to a fence height of around 8 feet. Different Homeowner Associations also have their regulations on fence heights, so these restrictions could still vary by the neighborhood.

How close to the property line can I build a fence?

It depends on your county’s and HOA’s jurisdictions. Ideally, you can build a fence right up to the property line, but for this, you’ll need your neighbor’s consent.

Most HOAs recommend building the fence at least 3 feet from the property line if you don’t intend to share it with your neighbor.

If the fence you’re building doesn’t appear to be of any value to your property, your neighbor can contest its construction – even if it’s several feet into your side of the property line.

Who owns the fence on property lines in NC?

North Carolina has based most of its fencing laws on homeowners with livestock. Being a fenced-in state, each homeowner with pets and farm animals is required to build and maintain a fence on their property.

The adjoining neighbors can agree to build a fence together. In such a case, both neighbors are responsible for cost-sharing the repairs and maintenance costs.

These agreements should always be documented in writing to protect you in the future if a property dispute ever arises. Nevertheless, the contracts are only valid as long as you’re neighbors. If another neighbor moves in, you’ll need a new contract.

Look out for inclusions of covenant contracts on your title deed when purchasing a home or piece of land. Under such a contract, a fence will be considered a property of the house, regardless of the succeeding owners.

Who gets the good side of the fence?

North Carolina doesn’t have a defined law regarding the good side of your fence. However, some municipalities and HOAs require that the finished side of your fence faces your neighbor.

This is because your home looks much better from the outside if the good side faces your neighbor or the street. It also helps improve your relationship with your neighbors and makes it harder for their kids or pets to climb over to your side.

If you have agreed to jointly construct the fence with your neighbor, you should first speak with him/her and come to an agreement.

Whenever possible, opt for a double-finished fence that has two ‘good sides.’

What if my neighbor won’t pay half?

If you didn’t have a written agreement about sharing the costs for the fence with your neighbor, North Carolina fence laws can’t coerce them to pay half the price.

As long as the neighbor doesn’t have livestock on their property, they are under no obligation to share the fence costs. The neighbor will also be exempted from the costs if they’ve recently moved in and weren’t part of the initial deal.

But if you can produce a written copy of your fence agreement, you can sue the neighbor in court for reimbursement.

You can also choose to talk with them and try to figure things out or get a neutral third party for mediation before going to court.

North Carolina Property encroachment laws

North Carolina’s fence laws allow your neighbor to take ownership of part of your property if they’ve encroached on it for at least 20 years. This is done through the principle of adverse possession.

To avoid such a situation, you have to object to their encroachment as soon as you spot it. The law allows you to press charges on your neighbor for continued trespassing if they’ve built part of their fence on your land.

You’re also entitled to receive damage compensation that might have been caused by land loss of value during the period of encroachment.

If anything of the neighbor’s property has crossed to your property, the NC encroachment law gives you rights to an injunction that demands the neighbor to remove them.

The best way to determine if there’s an encroachment on your property is by hiring a land surveyor.

North Carolina boundary fence laws at a glance

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

StatuesSpite FenceBoundary Fence laws
Boundary Fences: North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 68http://scholarship.law.unc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5151&context=nclrBoundary fences can only be erected when agreed upon by both landowners.

If only one landowner wants the fence, it must be built within their property boundary.

Both neighbors must maintain the fence.

In North Carolina, landowners with livestock are required by law to have a boundary fence.

Landowners without livestock have no obligation to build fences.

No neighbor has an obligation to share the cost of building a boundary fence.

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

Yes! North Carolina laws state that each neighbor should build a fence on their side of the property lines unless agreed otherwise. They are, therefore, allowed to do whatever they want with their fence, including removing it.

If you, however, agreed to build the fence together over the property lines, he/she won’t have the grounds to remove the fence without your permission.

Since you signed a written contract, both of you have to consent to remove the fence. If they remove it without your permission, you can always sue them.

If the neighbor has livestock on their property, they also can’t remove their fence since it’s a state legal requirement.

Fences over the property line are considered encroaching. You should talk to your neighbor and have them move the fence to their side of the property. If they don’t agree to move the fence, you can file a lawsuit against them.

Alternatively, you can choose to sell the portion over the property line to your neighbor. If you agreed to share costs for the fence, you might need to talk to the neighbor extensively and revisit the fence plans.

In cases where the fence has to go over the property line, you can opt to sign an easement agreement with the neighbor. This way, you’ll still have legal ownership of the fence and protect yourself from losing that portion to adverse possession.

North Carolina is a fence-in state. This means that it requires all homeowners with livestock on their property to construct a fence that will keep the animals in.

Fence out states means that they require a homeowner whose neighbor possesses livestock to build a fence that’ll keep the animals out of their property. This is common in Western states that have small populations and large tracts of land.

Yes! Since the North Carolina fence law requires all neighbors with livestock to build fences on their properties, there’s no issue with building a fence next to your neighbor’s.

However, you’ll still have to obey the local zoning and homeowner’s association regulations on height limits, colors and appearances.

You can also opt to negotiate with them so you can join your fence with theirs. Ensure you have the details for such an agreement in a written contract.

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