Understanding Property Line Fence Laws 

When planning to erect a fence on your property, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with fence laws and consider the proximity to the property boundary. 

Adhering to these laws will help you avoid legal issues and maintain positive relationships with your neighbors. 

This article will explore fence laws, the importance of understanding property boundaries, and how close you can build a fence to the property line.

Understanding Fence Laws

Fence laws, also known as “fence statutes” or “boundary laws,” refer to the rules and regulations governing the placement, height, maintenance, and other aspects of fences, especially between adjoining properties. 

These laws can vary significantly depending on the locality (i.e., by city, county, or state), so it’s important to check local regulations if you’re planning to build or modify a fence.

Common aspects governed by fence laws may include:

  • Height: Most jurisdictions have regulations about how high fences can be. For example, fences in front yards might be limited to a certain height, while fences in backyards could be taller.
  • Materials: Some local laws may stipulate what materials can be used to construct fences.
  • Location: The fence should be located entirely on the property of the person who builds it unless an agreement is made with a neighbor. Some jurisdictions have “setback” laws requiring fences to be a certain distance from the property line.
  • Maintenance: Responsibility for maintenance may be shared between neighbors if the fence is on a boundary line.
  • View obstructions: If a fence blocks a neighbor’s view, it could be subject to restrictions or require special permission.

The Importance of Knowing Property Boundaries When Installing a Fence

It is crucial to know property boundaries when installing a fence. Here are several reasons why:

1. Legal Compliance

Many jurisdictions require that any boundary fences (fences that divide one property from another) be placed directly on the property line. 

If the fence strays into a neighboring property, it could be considered a violation of local ordinances and may need to be removed, resulting in wasted time and resources.

2. Avoiding Disputes With Neighbors

Building a fence on or over a neighbor’s property line can lead to disputes. These disagreements can be time-consuming, costly and may require legal intervention to resolve. They can also strain neighborly relationships.

3. Financial Implications

If a fence is mistakenly built outside of your property line and into public or a neighbor’s property, you may be responsible for the costs of removing or relocating the fence. 

Additionally, if a fence is built within your property boundaries, but very close to the line, you may still be liable for any damage caused to your neighbor’s property during construction.

4. Selling Your Property

If you decide to sell your property, an inaccurate property boundary could lead to problems during the sale process. 

For example, a survey completed during the sales process might show the fence is on the neighbor’s property, leading to delays or reductions in the property’s sale price.

Tim’s Legal Tip: Before installing a fence, it is advisable to have a professional land surveyor confirm your property boundaries. A property survey conducted by a licensed surveyor is recommended to determine the precise boundaries and avoid encroaching on your neighbor’s property. It’s also a good practice to check your local fence laws and discuss your plans with your neighbors.

How Close Can You Build a Fence to the Property Line? 

The distance at which a fence can be built from your property line is primarily determined by your area’s local laws and regulations. 

It’s commonplace for fences to be erected directly on the property line in many jurisdictions, although some localities have “setback” requirements. 

These “setback” rules dictate that a fence must be built at a specific distance from the property line—this could be a setback of 2 feet, for instance, or potentially more if the fence borders public land or a roadway. 

Typically, fence installations occur between 2 to 8 inches from the property division line, but local rules can alter this standard. Some regions allow for the construction of fences directly along the property line. 

In such cases, cooperation with your adjacent property owner could be necessary, and you may need to share the expense of the fence.

Practical Considerations For Where to Place Your Fence in Relation To The Property Line

Practical considerations are also essential. For example, even if your local regulations permit building a fence directly on the property line, you might position it a bit further back to facilitate easier maintenance—including tasks like painting or repairs—without infracting on your neighbor’s property.

Regardless of the distance from the property line, whether a few inches or feet away, remember that you maintain responsibility for the upkeep of your property up to the boundary line, including the area outside your fence. 

Therefore, it’s vital to consult your local planning or building department to understand the specific requirements in your area before starting your fence project. 

It would be best if you also considered ordering a survey to establish the precise location of your property lines.

Furthermore, discuss your fence-building plans with your neighbors before commencement to keep them informed and hopefully secure their approval for the project.

Can You Build a Fence On The Property Line? 

In many jurisdictions, you can build a fence on the property line. 

However, this can depend on local laws and regulations, which can vary widely.

It’s also important to note that if you build a fence directly on the property line, it often becomes a “boundary fence,” which might require you and your neighbor to share maintenance costs and responsibilities with your neighbor, depending on local laws.

Moreover, building a fence directly on the property line can potentially lead to disputes with neighbors, especially if there’s any uncertainty about the exact location of the line. 

Therefore, discussing your plans with your neighbor before starting to build is generally a good practice.

Before starting any fence construction, you should consult with your local planning or building department to understand the specific regulations in your area. 

Who Pays For The Construction of a Fence On The Property Line? 

The responsibility for paying for constructing a fence on the property line can vary depending on local laws and regulations and any agreements or arrangements made between the adjacent property owners. 

In general, the costs of constructing and maintaining a fence on the property line are shared between the property owners whose properties are directly affected by the fence.

In some jurisdictions, specific laws or regulations may dictate the sharing of costs for a fence. 

For example, several states have laws stating that both property owners are equally responsible for the construction and maintenance expenses. 

In such cases, the owners are expected to contribute equally or in proportion to the benefits they receive from the fence.

It is important to consult local laws and regulations and any applicable homeowners’ association rules or agreements to determine the specific obligations and responsibilities regarding constructing and maintaining a fence on the property line. 

Additionally, discussing the matter with the adjacent property owner(s) and reaching a mutual agreement can help clarify the financial responsibilities involved.

What are the rules for fence maintenance? Who is responsible for it?

The rules for fence maintenance can vary depending on local laws, regulations, and any specific agreements between property owners. 

However, in general, here are some common principles regarding fence maintenance and responsibility:

1. Ownership

The responsibility for maintaining a fence typically falls upon the property owner on which the fence is located. 

Determining who owns the fence is important, as this will dictate the maintenance obligations.

2. Boundary Determination

Fences are often installed on property boundaries to separate one property from another. In such cases, both property owners usually share the responsibility for maintaining the fence that serves as a mutual boundary.

3. Agreement

In some cases, neighboring property owners may agree to share the maintenance responsibilities and costs of a fence that lies on or benefits both properties. Both parties should sign This agreement in writing to ensure clarity.

4. Local Regulations

Local municipalities or homeowner associations may have specific rules and regulations regarding fence maintenance. 

These rules may include requirements for the type of materials, height restrictions, and regular upkeep. It is essential to consult the local authorities or relevant associations to understand any specific guidelines.

5. Repair and Maintenance of The Fence

Maintaining a fence involves keeping it in good condition, ensuring it remains structurally sound, free from damage or hazards, and visually appealing. 

This may include regular cleaning, painting, staining, or repairing any damages that occur over time.

6. Cost Sharing

If a fence needs repairs or replacement, the cost is generally borne by the property owner(s) responsible for the maintenance. 

However, if there is an agreement in place or if the fence serves as a shared boundary, the costs may be shared between the property owners as per the agreed-upon terms.

It is important to note that the specific rules and responsibilities for fence maintenance can differ based on local laws and legal agreements. 

Therefore, you should consult local ordinances, homeowner association guidelines, and legal professionals for accurate and up-to-date information regarding fence maintenance in your area.

What Can Be Done If Your Neighbor Built a Fence That Encroaches Onto Your Property? 

If your neighbor has built a fence that turns out to be located on your property, they are technically trespassing. 

You should first approach your neighbor about the fence to avoid adverse possession complications. 

If they refuse to move or take it down after you’ve had a property survey done or some other official means to prove the boundaries of your yard, you can take action to remove the fence. 

However, it is important to note that any action to remove a fence should involve your local government’s planning or zoning office. Do not attempt to remove the fence yourself.

If your neighbor obtained a permit to build the fence, you can contest the permit and seek an order from your local government for your neighbor to take the fence down. 

However, if there was no permit involved or if contesting the permit is unsuccessful, you may need to hire an attorney and take the issue to court to resolve it legally.

Is it Permissible to Construct a Fence Next to My Neighbor’s Existing Fence?

Generally, it is permissible to build a fence next to your neighbor’s existing fence, but it depends on a few factors.

Firstly, it’s essential to understand your local zoning laws and regulations. These laws vary widely by location. Some places allow you to build a fence next to your neighbor’s, while others require a certain amount of space between them.

Secondly, you should check your property lines. A survey of your property will determine where your land ends and your neighbor’s begins. It’s critical to ensure that your fence is built within your property lines to avoid potential legal issues.

Finally, it’s always good to talk with your neighbor about your plans. Even if the law allows it, good neighbor relations can prevent disputes or hard feelings in the future.

Can a Neighbor Attach Something to My Fence Without My Permission?

In general, whether a neighbor can attach something to your fence without your permission can depend on a few factors, such as local laws and regulations and the specifics of the situation (e.g., whether the fence is on the property line or entirely on your property). 

However, in many cases, it’s usually not acceptable for someone to modify another person’s property without consent.

  • Ownership: First, you need to establish who owns the fence. You can prevent your neighbor from attaching something to the fence if it’s entirely on your property. If it’s a boundary fence shared between two properties, then the laws may be more complex and could vary by jurisdiction.
  • Local Laws and Regulations: Different places can have different rules about fences, boundaries, and property modifications. You should check with local authorities or a legal professional for specific guidance.
  • Homeowner Association (HOA) Rules: If you live in an area with a homeowner’s association, they may also have rules about what can and can’t be done with fences. This can include things like the type of material, height, and color of the fence, as well as whether and how things can be attached to it.
  • Permission: Even if local laws or HOA rules allow for certain modifications, it’s usually considered good neighbor etiquette to discuss any changes with your neighbors before proceeding, especially if those changes could impact them in any way.


Before putting up a fence on your property, it’s crucial to understand fence laws and consider the proximity to the property boundary. 

Familiarize yourself with local regulations, conduct a property survey to identify boundaries accurately, and determine the setback requirements in your area. 

By following these guidelines, you can ensure compliance with the law, prevent disputes with neighbors, and create a harmonious environment within your community.

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Tim McDuffey is a practicing attorney in the State of Missouri. Tim is a licensed member of the Missouri Bar and Missouri Bar Association.

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