Do You Have a Permit for That Fence?

Permit Fence

The fence. It offers privacy, security, and safety. It can be decorative, stylish or strictly utilitarian. It is generally easy to install, whether you hire a fence contractor or do-it-yourself. And it needs a building permit. It surprises many homeowners that building permits are not confined solely to buildings. Even a fence must, in most cases, be permitted.

Fence Permits Depend on the Locality

Fence permitting regulations can vary significantly based on location and jurisdiction. In some areas, obtaining a permit before constructing a fence is mandatory, while in others, it’s not required at all. This variation is often tied to the local government’s approach to property development and zoning laws.


The necessity for a fence permit can also depend on whether you reside in an incorporated city or an unincorporated area of a county. Incorporated cities often have more stringent regulations and require permits for many types of construction, including fences. These cities have their own set of codes and enforcement mechanisms. In contrast, unincorporated county areas might have more relaxed rules and might not require permits for fences, or if they do, the process might be more streamlined.

It’s important for homeowners to check with their local planning or building department to understand the specific requirements for their area. Failure to comply with local permitting regulations can lead to fines, the requirement to modify or remove the fence, or other legal complications. This is particularly crucial in areas where neighborhood associations or historical preservation guidelines play a role in property modifications.

Fence Permits Are Limited to the Type of Fence

The regulations surrounding fence permitting often hinge on the type of fence you plan to build. In more rural, unincorporated areas, there is generally a greater degree of flexibility regarding fence construction. For instance, fences that are less than six feet in height often do not require permits in these areas. This flexibility is particularly beneficial to farmers and ranchers, who may have specific fencing needs that differ from typical residential requirements. For agricultural purposes, types of fencing like barbed wire and electric fences are common and necessary for managing livestock and protecting crops. These areas tend to have less stringent rules to accommodate such agricultural needs.

In contrast, urban settings, or incorporated cities, usually have more comprehensive regulations regarding fence construction. Here, almost any type of fence might require a permit, regardless of its height or material. This is often due to concerns about safety, aesthetics, and neighborhood uniformity. Cities tend to have stricter codes to ensure that fences fit within the overall urban landscape and meet safety standards. For example, obtaining a permit for a barbed wire or electric fence in a city can be challenging, if not impossible. These types of fences are often seen as hazardous in densely populated areas and are generally not permitted in residential zones.

Furthermore, there is a common regulation found across many localities, both rural and urban: the restriction on fence height. Most places do not permit the construction of fences higher than six feet, regardless of the fence type. This rule is often in place to maintain clear sightlines for safety and to avoid disputes between neighbors over blocked views or shadows cast by overly tall fences. It’s also a measure to ensure a certain level of uniformity and aesthetic appeal within communities.

Fence Permits Are Not Always Easy to Obtain

For such a simple thing, one would think it would be easy to obtain a fence permit. But some permitting offices require sketches, plans, and photographs. If a neighbor shares your fence, you may have to obtain written consent from that neighbor to build the fence. Whether or not you share the cost of the fence with the neighbor is a different matter. As you might suspect, bringing up the topic of fences with a neighbor can often be divisive.

In regions where fence permits are required, the process usually involves submitting a plan or proposal to a local government authority, such as a city or county planning department. This plan typically needs to detail the fence’s dimensions, materials, and location relative to the property boundary. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that the fence adheres to local codes and standards, which can include height restrictions, material limitations, and aesthetic guidelines.

Fence Permits Are Cheap — Except When They’re Not

Fence permits can be as low as $20, but can sometimes exceed $100.

Fence Companies Can Obtain Fence Permits for You

One nice thing about contracting with a fence company to put up your fence is that they may obtain the fence permit for you. This is a great time-saver though keep in mind that the fee is still paid by you. Not all fence companies do this, but a good fence company will. Definitely ask about this when getting your fence estimate.

Read More:

Everything You Need to Know About Fencing Permits

Do I Need a Permit to Build a Fence?

Fencing 101