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What Is the Legal Height of a Fence Between Neighbors?

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Whether you want the fence for kids to play, dogs to run around safely, or to separate your property from your neighbor’s property, there may come a time you decide you want to build a fence. When you are looking at installing a fence on your property, there may be rules that come with installing the fence.

The typical legal height for fences between neighbor’s homes is four feet for the front yard and six feet for the backyard. This height can vary depending on whether you live in a metropolitan or rural area.

This height limit can also apply to trees or shrubs if they are all planted in a row and form a barrier between your yard and the next yard. Read on to see what the rules exist for fence heights between neighbors in the US.

fence between neighbors

US Urban Fencing Laws

If you live in the US, urban homes typically have the strictest policies. It is best to check local zoning laws, the laws in some of the biggest cities are:

CityFront YardBackyardCorner Lot
NYC4’6’6’
Seattle4’6’ w/ 2’ topper6’
Los Angeles3.5’6-8’ depending on zoning6-8’ depending on zoning

As you can see, the basic laws are that fences in the front yard need to be at the highest, 4 feet, and in the back and side yards, 6-8 feet. Most places do not require a permit if it is less than 4 feet or 6 feet, but you do need to double-check your area’s rules. 

According to the city code regulation list for Washington DC, “Fences abutting a street shall not exceed 7 feet (2,134 mm) in height in Residence or Waterfront Districts, nor 10 feet (3,048 mm) in height in Mixed Use, Special Purpose, Commercial, or Industrial Districts. 3112.3. … Fences between the front façade of a structure and the front lot line shall be at least 50 percent open.” 

In some areas, you can request additional feet added to your fence heights if

  • Your neighbor is an “eyesore” (like a plant, public owned or another type of industrial or business complex) 
  • You can prove that you need it
  • You get special permits

Suburban areas may be subject to special HOA regulations but six feet for the backyard and four feet for the front yard are the typical legal requirements. If you live in a rural or unincorporated area, they may be different. Some HOA rules can be stricter than urban and require special materials to be used or certain looks to the fence so everything looks the same. 

Rural areas have the least strict rules. Some rural areas may not even have laws or zoning laws about fences but it is always best to check with your local state and county regulations. 

Other Laws About Fence Building

There are other laws based around building a fence besides just how high they can be. If you live in some areas, you are required to give written notice to your neighbors with the cost, timeline, and other details at least 30 days before you plan to begin building. Some places will give the neighbor time to try to stop the building, but if you place the fence on your property’s side, there is very little a neighbor can do to stop construction. 

The best bet to see what information you need to give would be to contact the city or county planning and permitting department in your area. You may also be allowed to build the fence on the property line, but if your neighbor is government-owned, they may make you put the fence further on your own property and not touch the line. 

There are also potential rules that your neighbor may be allowed to upkeep, decorate and add on to your fence on their side, depending on how close it is to the property line. In those cases, you also can require them to pay for their side of the fence. 

In some areas, you will need the neighbor’s permission unless you make sure the fence is 100 percent on your property line, you may also be able to enlist your neighbor’s help with the fence- the building and maintenance if they are on board with the fence. Even if they are not on board, you can still build the fence, it may cause a rift between you both. There are times they can force you legally to stop the construction of the fence. 

Do you need the neighbor’s consent to build a fence?
On the property lineIn most cases, yes
On your property lineIn most cases, no
On the border of both property linesSometimes you need to give up to 30 days written intent 

If someone builds what is called a “spite fence,” you may be able to get them to stop legally. On the same note, they would have the same power to make you stop building one as long as there is proof they, or you, are doing it thanks to a feud or to irritate you. 

If there is proof of the “spite,” you or your neighbor can legally be forced to stop building the fence. The spite needs to be proven and that may be hard to do. 

Rules About Fences and Neighbors

In some areas, you can even get the neighbor to pay for half of the fence’s expenses, despite them agreeing or not if it is on the property line. The same can happen to you, though. 

Some areas require the fence to be 100 percent on your property line and require that you have a certain space between your fence and the edge of your property line. 

Fences tend to need to have the nicer side of the outside board facing the neighbor’s yard instead of facing in towards your yard. In some places, this cosmetic rule is required and in others, it is common courtesy. If you live in an area with a homeowners association, you may be required to keep the fence looking a certain way or only use certain materials to build it. That is another rule and another regulation to look up. 

Sometimes, if you live in a rural or unincorporated area, you may not be subject to the same zoning laws as those who live within city limits. You will need to contact your utility company to make sure your fence will not harm a gas or water line, but other than that, you may be able to build on your property without permits or consent. Look into your town or county to make sure the unincorporated area you live in is exempt from zoning.  

Conclusion

Your best bet is to look at the laws in your city, state, or county. The laws are different for different people but in the US, most fences cannot be higher than four feet for the front yard or six feet for the backyard. You can always get special permits to raise the cost and permits are not always needed. 

In places that are not incorporated, the rules are not always the same and in some cases, they do not have the same zoning and permitting rules. 

In some cases, the neighbor may be able to stop or stall the construction of your fence. They would need to prove why you should not build the fence, which would be difficult to do. Still, it can at least stall your construction. As with all things related to your property, it is always best to check your county’s laws and regulations. 

There are other things that you may want to do or should know when it comes to your neighbors. Be sure to checkout what can i plant to block neighbors view, or can you block your neighbors window for privacy? and lastly how close can you get to your neighbors property to build something.

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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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