How Close Can I Put A Fence to My Property Line?

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Installing a fence directly on top of your property line may appeal to you if you want the maximum area available to play, plant, and relax in your yard. Whether or not doing so is actually a good idea depends on a few factors, including where you live and your neighbor’s feelings on the new fence. In this post, we’ll help you figure out how close you can build your fence to your property line and discuss common concerns related to fence placement and property usage.

Is that the neighbor's property or your property on the other side of that fence?

What to Do Before You Install Your Fence

Get a Survey

In order to know if your fence is on your property line, inside your property line, or even on your neighbor’s property (yikes!), you’ll need a survey. Your county deed and assessor’s office may already have a copy, or you may have paid for one when you purchased your house. If not, these usually cost $500 to $1000 from a qualified surveyor. While this may seem expensive, it will save numerous headaches in the long run if you accidentally put the fence where it doesn’t belong. No one wants to rebuild their fence or address the issue in court with their neighbors!

Check Rules and Regulations

Your jurisdiction may have laws about how far back a fence needs to be set on your property, which is typically 2, 4, 6 or 8 inches from the property line. Other areas will allow you to go right up to the property line. These laws may depend on where you live; think of a subdivision with large yards where the setback won’t matter vs. an urban row home where those few inches really make a difference! You’re more likely to be permitted to build right on the property line in a densely populated area, but it varies. If you live in an area with a homeowner’s association, they may also have rules about fence placement (not to mention what type of fence you can have in your front and back yards). Check your HOA covenants to make sure you are following the regulations.

If you build a fence directly on the property line, it may mean that responsibility is shared by you and your neighbor according to the law. This is great if your wants the fence too and is happy to split the cost, but if they’re not thrilled about it, you could find yourself in a nasty legal dispute.

Since we’re a fence company located in West Chester, PA, we’re well-acquainted with Pennsylvania fence law, which states that neighbors must share the cost of installation, maintenance, and repair if the fence is built on the property line. A good rule is to practice fence etiquette and discuss any fence you plan to build with your neighbor, and this is all the more vital if you’re encroaching on a shared property line.

What to Consider If Your Fence Is Inside Your Property Line

If you install a fence inside your property line, there are a few things you should be aware of when it comes to property maintenance, ownership, and your neighbors.

Fence Maintenance

When you place a fence a few inches inside your property line, you can’t forget about the part of your property outside the fence! While your neighbors might mow the additional strip of yard on their side to be nice, it’s technically your job to make sure the grass is cut and the weeds are pulled.

If your neighbors install a fence inside their property line as well, leaving a narrow strip of grass between the two fences, you will need to decide who will maintain it and make sure there is a way to access the area. On the other hand, if your fence is right on the property line, you will have to determine if your neighbors will be responsible for fence maintenance on their side, or if you will be able to access their yard to stain or repair your fence when needed.

This is one way to maintain your property that's been fenced off.

Prescriptive Easement

If you set a fence inside your property line and your neighbor is able to use the property outside of the line, that portion of your property may fall under prescriptive easement. Legally, this is a type of property easement that is earned by regular use of the property. While your neighbor would not gain a legal title to the land or be able to sell it, they may be able to claim a legal right to use the property. Clearly, if the property is outside of your fenced yard, it’s likely you are not regularly using it, which is where they may be able to claim prescriptive easement. This can make it difficult if you ever want to move the fence outward. It also may be an issue if you sell the house and the new owners think the property outside the fence is an issue because they don’t want to pay for unusable land.

Adverse Possession

Adverse possession is even more legally binding than prescriptive easement. If the property “trespasser” (such as your neighbor who uses the small strip of land outside the fence) has exclusive and continuous use of the property for a number of years, he or she may claim adverse possession and legally gain ownership rights of the property. If your neighbor happens to pay taxes on that property, the adverse possession can be claimed in as little as five years, although this is very uncommon in a fence scenario! Still, be aware if you install a fence inside your property line that in 10, 20, or 30 years when your home may be sold or transferred, you or the new owners may be surprised to learn that your property is not as big as it used to be.

Aside from practical matters like being able to use your full yard or abiding by local ordinances, selling your home may be impacted by the choices you make when you place a fence inside the property line.

Lots of setback from the property line. A fence installed on the property line.

Consult With an Expert If You’re Unsure About Fence Placement

You might want to consult with multiple people – including a realtor, your local government representative, your HOA president, your neighbors, and a fence installation professional – before making a final decision on how close you place your fence to your property line.

If you live in or near West Chester, PA, Montgomeryville, PA, or Smyrna, DE, you have an excellent resource at your disposal! The Fence Authority provides professional fence installation services as well as materials for building your own fence (check out our online shop!), and our Outdoor Living Experts will go above and beyond to ensure all your property line questions get answered. Give us a call at 610-431-4343 or contact us online if you’re in need of a new wood, vinyl, or aluminum fence.

 

 

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21 Comments

  • Zequek Estrada says:

    I appreciated that list of people to consult if you’re planning on installing a fence. My husband and I want to have an aluminum fence installed around our property. However, talking to each of these people sounds like a great way to avoid any possible problems in the future.

  • Jason Hampton says:

    I have a question. My sisters and I inherited a property in town. The property has been the same for over 40 years, the fence s and everything. I met a guy that was in front the property saying that our fence line is 3 feet from where it should be. Not only that but that will take quite a bit of property because the fence will have to pulled back from the front of the property all the way to the back of the property. It’s not a square property, it’s more elongated.
    My other neighbor said that the fence has been the same for over 40 years and that he has no rights to change it now after all these years.
    My sister said just move the fence but my other sister said have him take us to court.

    Any suggestions/thoughts?

    • tyra says:

      Just move your fince, the cout will make you. Why go through the expence . Unless you can talk to the person and he agreed to let it be. Let him take you to court. Just be nice to him.

    • Lyn says:

      Don’t take someone else’s word for it. Pay for a boundary survey to mark where your lot lines are. Only then should you make a decision about whether to move the fence.

    • Terri says:

      I just read the ordinances from the town where my brother bought property and came across this exact thing. It’s in PA. The ordinance said you can ask for a one time variance from the fence ordinance due to the fact that the fence has stood in the same spot for more than 30 years. I’d go to the local zoning board first before ripping down a fence.

  • debi says:

    Neighbors pu up a nice fence but store there junk on my side, like cement block, awning, gutters ect
    That what I see out my kitchen window !!!

    • Terri says:

      If the junk is still on their property there is nothing you can do but put up your own fence to hide the hideous clutter.

  • Janet Pope says:

    My neighbors are redoing a fence in their back yard that also runs right up to my driveway (they have front entry garage, we have side with a long driveway that curves into a garage at the very side of the house). They are extending this fence to go down our driveway about 3/4ths of the way (very narrow, one car driveway). which is going to block my view of the neighborhood from my kitchen window and also my bay windows in dining room. Virtually most of my scenic view as these are the only windows to the front. I am considering this a “spite” fence. It has no purpose as the old fence closed off the normal way (at the side/back of a property) It will enclose nothing as it is just a barrier past the gate at the back.

    • Terri says:

      A front yard fence should not be able to exceed the height of 3.5′ or 4′ max. Rear yard fences can be up to 6′ usually.

  • Marion Macpherson says:

    A few years ago my neighbor erected a iron fence directly on the line . Now they have cleared down to the dirt a 3 foot path outside this fence and it is on my property. ( fence is over 100 ft long). They never even asked permission to do this. Do they even have the right to be on my property clearing my land that meets their fence??! I have put native shrubs not touching their fence and they have removed them. We are into permaculture and organic gardening, our style is much different then theirs as they have a very monocultured manacured yard and our is more of the bird sanctuary type. We also wonder if herbicide was used and is that allowed??? We don’t talk to these neighbors as we had differences in the past and just try to avoid them. we like peace but feel we are being trespassed on.

  • Ophelia Simmons says:

    neighbor puts up a tacky wire fence using any kind of fencing with all sorts of poles. Then proceeds to plant plum trees,tiger worm tree and garden. Its on her property but the fence is not straight,plum trees are growing on my side which I think is her property and I’m the one who is keeping this side up. What should I do?

  • Marta montemayor says:

    What if my neighbor build his fence 1ft from supposedly my property line for he had it surveyed and put stakes as my line.he build his fence outside his property line like 5 feet .his stakes are inside his yard!!

  • kathy says:

    That’s horrible. Please tell them to move their stuff away from your fence, you saw red carpenter ants galore in that area!!

  • juanita says:

    My husband and I just purchased a home in November 2016. The neighbor’s fence were leaning onto our home and being held up by a broad against our bedroom window. We has an estimated done to our home where his trees damage our roof. After knowing that the fence is not on our property line and two and half feet onto our property. We paid for another survivor to come out. Do we let him take the over property or go to court. We had no problems from our other neighbor on our other side. The y wantthe area to look good.

  • I had no idea that my property needed to be surveyed before installing a fence. My yard happens to be very open and it makes me feel a little vulnerable. I would like to have a fence installed that could add some security around our perimeter.

  • Marcie Davies says:

    I need some help with a neighbor who has not spoken to us in the first 5 or so years she has lived next door, until her boyfriend moved in a year and half ago. He treated me in a condescending misogynistic manner and yes I resorted to calling him out on it with a expletive in tow. Small man, big ego. She,the owner, began e-mails with us concerning a wall at the back of her property, which became hostile and offensive. The wall is adjacent to our vacant flag lot at which the corner wall was moving and threatening our hot tub because of a failed drain system on her land, which somehow they think we are responsible for. Unless they were to dig it up to fix it. They sit 4 and 1/2 feet above us at this back corner, that radiates out and tapers to meet our property at the front and the easement on the north side. Our home was built in 1976 theirs in 1968. We lived next door to the previous owners and then their son for 6 years before it was sold to this lady. To say these folks are not nice people is an understatement, I would and have called them bullys! We had a survey done before any dispute began to locate our lot lines, nothing to do with them, we wanted to know where they were for our .35 acre lot and our home plat. Our intentions were to continue to maintain the roughly 10 x 45 foot strip between our homes as I was given permission to plant, bark dust etc…. in the area by the previous owner and to offer us some privacy from their open windows that face us. Again they are above us and have a full view into our home. The boyfriend once he moved in made this area and harassing us a focus. He threatened to tear out small trees and bushes that had been planted, and generally has made our lives miserable. They are now using our paid for lot markers to their advantage and are building a fence, knowing full well we are going to build along the line. We will then have no access to dig post holes, or to erect fencing if they do so. We have asked them to please give us the chance to recoup $6700 we spent to tear down the back failing wall (again their failed system became our legal obligation), and erect a new retaining wall with drain system. He would not allow the drain that has to sit up on their land to catch their run off to sit “one inch” on their side. We just don’t know what to do. We hired a lawyer in the beginning last August to help us determine who the wall belonged to, before the actual survey, and hoped they would help, they would not. We are out of money and out of ideas, Can anyone offer help?

  • LLJ says:

    My neighbor and I live in attached town homes. She built a fence in our shared front yard several inches from her property line. I removed the survey stakes that were left on my side of the fence. She called the police and told them I stole her stakes. I’m returning them, but wonder if they need to stay on my side of the fence since I try to beautify my side with plants and such.

    • Matt says:

      Technically, property markers should not be removed, unless they were paid for by you. My recommendation is to ask if you can place permanent concrete markers (or similar) that can be put on grade but will mark the property without having to leave steaks or flags in the ground at all times. Let them know it will be less of an issue in the long run , as stakes or flags deteriorate over time, but concrete markers are a more permanent solution. Even if they get buried over time, they usually have a steel rod in them that can easily be located with a metal detector. However, since you already removed them, you will likely need to have it surveyed again by a professional. Having a good idea where they were is not good enough.

  • Gwen says:

    I have a cyclone fence inside my property line. My neighbor hot wired the side facing his land and never told me, I got shocked. Is this legal?

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