Thinking of building a fence on your property? Many cities and counties will require that a homeowner file a permit for the job. This permit is to ensure that your fence design, size, scale and material, are built to code and approved by the city or local governing body. Permits are really another way to make sure that structures are safe for the public and adhere to current standards and practices.

Do I really need a fence permit?

As a general rule, adding outdoor structures, like a fence, requires a permit, but the real answer depends upon the codes, zoning, and regulations of where you live. The codes and regulations established by your city, town, or county will let you know exactly what types of fences require a construction permit and what don’t. Some agencies also require a permit for the repair or replacement of an existing fence. The specific rules and regulations will vary depending upon where you live, what type of community your home is situated in, what type of fence you want to build, and if you are adding any special features. For example, if you live in a rural area, adding a barbed wire fence may be an easier approval compared with adding a barbed-wire fence in the city. Additionally, if you live in a neighborhood of shared fences, your neighbor’s approval may be part of the permitting process.

According to Find Law, “most fencing laws limit the height of artificial fences in residential areas to four feet in front yards and six feet in backyards. Local ordinances set by cities and counties, and sometimes subdivision rules called Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs), regulate fencing.” In other words, before buying your fencing materials and other supplies, you’ll want to check with your local government agency, CC&R or neighborhood association to make sure your design matches the permitting rules. Once you’ve settled on the appropriate design, or know what changes you are making to your fence, your permit may be filed. If your fence is shared with a neighbor, you may be required to receive written approval from that neighbor. Again, the permitting office will let you know exactly what type of information is required in order to receive the building permit.

Can I file a permit on my own?

The answer depends upon where you live and what your local government agency requires. Some agencies require computer-aided design (CAD) drawings (or professionally stamped drawings) of the fence with specific sizes and measurements, as well as materials, called out. Some offices do not require CAD drawings for fences. If you hire a professional to do the design for you, their set of permit drawings, along with filing the permit, should be included in your pricing. Having a professional do the permitting work on your behalf can save you time and money, as they know exactly what information to provide. Again, check with your local office to verify if you can file this fence permit without the need of a professional.

How do I file for a fence permit?

Before you do anything, check with your local government agency regarding what you need to provide during the permit filing process. A simple web search, phone call or in-person Q&A will save you a lot of time right from the beginning. Once you have all the information in place, and have your designs and materials specified, you will need to fill out a form with the permitting office. These forms are generally available online.

How much time does it take to receive approval?

Again, the answer will depend on the agency where you live and what you plan on building. In the city of Seattle, for example, if a fence plan requires a construction permit that permit may be granted over the counter that same day. However they also require multiple sets of drawings, including a site plan, section and detail drawings and construction notes. Some permits may require several weeks to review.

How much does it cost to get a fence permit?

Permitting fees vary from region to region and may depend upon the size and scale of the project. It can range from $20 – $30 but can be much greater than that. To learn more on other pricing factors, read our post on costs drivers for fencing construction.

What happens if I don’t get a permit?

If your local governing agency requires that new fences, or remodeled fences, require a permit and you do not file for a permit, a stop-work order may be issued. This means that all work must come to a halt until the appropriate paperwork has been filed. Additional fees may be instated as well.

Thinking of building a new fence or remodeling an existing fence and not sure if you need a permit?

Speak to a local fencing contractor today!