Fencing and property lines are a common cause of disputes among neighbors in Pennsylvania. Since most homeowners don’t know the state’s fence laws, many neighbors resort to litigation whenever conflict arises.

While going to court isn’t a bad thing, it can breed bad blood between neighbors, and this never ends well. A better way to resolve your fence conflicts is by implementing the Pennsylvania property line and fence statutes.

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

It depends on the kind of fencing. Most cities and local authorities in PA will demand a building permit for fences that are:

  • Taller than 6 feet in height
  • Situated directly along a street front
  • Made from heavy materials such as concrete or masonry

You might also need to obtain a zoning permit if the fence will be 50% opaque or more. If the property is located in a flood hazard area, you’ll need to submit a flood protection form alongside your permit applications.

An exception to obtaining a permit is if you’re replacing the fence with a similar structure on the exact spot. In such a case, your previous permit will still hold for the construction.

Does a fence define the property line wooden fence and sun light

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

The fence proximity regulations vary in different towns and neighborhoods based on the local laws of the area. However, in most towns in the PA, all fences from all sides should be set back at least 6 inches from the property lines.

In other towns, the regulation is at least 12 inches from the front yard property lines. Overall, the jurisdiction of property line setbacks in PA is between 3 – 12 inches.
To be safe, always look into the rules in your local area and the regulations from your Homeowners Association.

What is the “Doctrine of Contestable lines” in PA?

The doctrine of Contestable lines refers to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that allows courts to remap boundary property lines when settling disputes between adjoining neighbors.

This doctrine allows property title switching among adjoining neighbors once they agree upon a boundary, whether by recognition and acquiescence or compromise and dispute.

For this doctrine to apply, here are the conditions in both cases:

Boundaries by recognition and acquiescence:

  • Each adjoining neighbor must claim the land on their side of the property line to be their own
  • The fence should have been in place for a minimum period of 21 years

Boundary by dispute and compromise:

  • There must be a dispute between adjoining neighbors over the location of the property lines.
  • A new property line should be established following the dispute
  • The parties involved must agree to respect the new boundary line and be willing to drop their legal suits.

How tall can a privacy fence be in Pennsylvania?

Height restrictions in the state vary depending on your HOA rules and town laws. But the majority of them allow fence heights to a maximum of 4 feet on the front yard side and 6 feet for the rear and side yard fence.

In industrial zoning districts, the height restrictions stand at 8 feet. You can also apply for a variance if you intend to erect a fence taller than these regulations.

If you’re not sure of your area’s limitations, consult a local fencing company in the area.

Who owns the fence on property lines in PA?

The Pennsylvania fence laws recognize all adjoining neighbors as joint owners of the fence on the property line.

This means that each neighbor is required to contribute to the costs of maintenance, installations, and repairs. Any neighbor who wishes to remove the fence will need to seek the permission of the other adjoining neighbors.

If one neighbor doesn’t wish to contribute to the installation or maintenance of the fence, they can successfully argue out their case. The PA fence laws will, however, consider any neighbor with livestock responsible for the fence even if they don’t want it.

Does a fence define the property line?

Not always. While most fences are usually built on the property line, some aren’t always located precisely on the property line.

Many homeowners set back their fence at least a foot or two from the property line. You, therefore, can’t rely on the fence to define your property line.

However, if adjoining neighbors meet and agree on a boundary line and then erect a fence, even if it’s not on the correct property line, the law may recognize that fence as the property line.

The best way to define your boundary is by hiring a surveyor to mark the property line. You can also check your local assessor’s office or website for the data on your property line.

Property line fence laws Pennsylvania

What is property line encroachment?

Property line encroachment occurs when one neighbor trespasses into another’s property by building structures like a fence or shed on their side of the property line.

In Pennsylvania, most homeowners aren’t aware of this encroachment, and this comes to bite them once they plan to resell the home.

In cases where the neighbor has encroached and has used your land for 21 years, they might be able to legally claim the title for that ‘encroached portion’ through Pennsylvania’s Adverse Possession doctrine.

To avoid such a complication, you need to be aware of the location of your property lines. If you find any encroachment activities from your neighbor, talk to them to have the fence moved.

Under the PA laws, you’re also allowed to take legal action against any encroaching neighbor on the grounds of trespassing.

Is it legal to put up barbed wire around your property?

It depends on the regulations of your local municipality