Putting up a fence may raise a lot of unfamiliar questions. Yours may be a fence-in or fence-out state. Fencing may require a neighbour's cooperation or even permission, or not. Initially, states created rules about fences when most land was agricultural. Counties, towns and villages have been responsible for adhering to state regulations while adapting them to modern residential situations. Learn the steps needed to build the fence you want for your property.
Urban and suburban property owners will find fencing laws outlined and administered by the local city, town or village building department. If you live outside a township, local may mean county, regional or even state authorities. Finding the laws that govern your property is your first step.
Checking Property Lines
Your property deed included survey maps and descriptions of your property lines and limits. Copies are on file at your local tax or assessor's office. You need the exact legal description of your property to determine your property line. Be aware also that, in some cases, the description of your property lines and those of your adjoining neighbours do not match.
Working with Neighbors
Because of potential property-line conflicts, notifying neighbours about your fencing plans early in the process will make the overall project go more smoothly. Especially in the case of property-line fences, you may need agreement or permission from one or more neighbours before regulators will approve the project. Fences on the property line can also become cooperative projects, with each party bearing part of the cost or maintenance responsibilities, as is the case with the Kansas' right-hand left-hand law.
Local fencing codes may present a challenge to your vision of the perfect fence. In some communities, the major underlying issue that determines regulations is view. Traffic visibility and views from one house to another regulate fence heights and placements. Walls and hedges are included in the regulations. Another community prohibits vinyl or plastic fencing, requires fencing to be placed inside the property line and does not allow fences over 4 feet high. A third sets the height of front-yard shrubs close to the boundary at 30 inches. Close reading of your local laws and regulations is essential to avoid running up against what may be surprising restrictions.
Local Appeal Procedures
Nearly all communities have formal procedures for appealing a rejected fence permit. Follow rules exactly, including documentation; appeals can be turned down because applications or attachments were not properly completed. Support from your neighbours may also play a part in a successful appeal.
- North Carolina State University Extension: North Carolina Fence Law and Liability . . .; Theodore A. Feitshans, September/October 2006
- City of Bellingham WA: Fences, Walls and Hedges
- City of Dublin OH: Ordinances
- Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation: Iowa Fence Law; Roger McEowen; January 2008
- Muscatine IA: Frequently Asked Questions
- Grosse Pointe Woods MI Code of Ordinances: Article IX - Fences