When making changes to your home or property, it’s important to obtain all required legal permits or documents. This goes for everything from large extensions or major construction projects to smaller changes, such as building a fence.

In this blog, we look at whether you need a permit to build a fence, the various rules and regulations across different states and counties, and how to apply for a permit should you need one.

Do you need a permit for a fence?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear-cut answer to this question. In short, it depends. Whether you require a permit for a fence or not hinges on where you live, its height, and its material. There are varying rules and regulations in different states, counties, and even cities.

So, when trying to answer the question “do I need a permit for my fence?”, our best advice is to contact your local authority to determine whether a permit is required. That being said, read on for more information about the permits that may be needed and how to obtain one.

Factors that determine whether you need a fence permit

There are different considerations to be made when determining whether you need a permit for your fence. We cover a few of the most common ones here.


As we mentioned above, the number one thing that will determine whether you need a fence permit is where you’re located, and your local laws and regulations. For example, in Montogomery County, Maryland, a permit is required to install any type of fence, unless you’re replacing a permitted fence with a like-for-like replacement.

Location is especially important as there can be different regulations within the same city. In Baltimore, Maryland, for example, you need to obtain a fence permit from the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development — unless you live in the metropolitan area that crosses over into Baltimore County, Howard County, or Anne Arundel County, that is. In that case, you’ll need to check your county websites to see if they have different fence regulations and then complete your fence permit applications there.

Fence height

The height of your fence may determine whether you need a permit. Usually, there are restrictions on how high your fence can be. This also often depends on the location of your fence.

In Milwaukee, for example, a fence in your front yard can be a maximum of four feet tall, whereas a fence in your backyard can be up to six feet tall. Side yards and corner lots have different height requirements, so it’s important to check the height restrictions based on the specific location where you plan to build your fence.

house with low, white picket fence

Fence materials

The material your fence is made of is another factor that determines if you need a permit. In some counties, fences can only be made of certain materials like wood or brick. In others, there may be restrictions on where you can build fences of certain materials.

In Lee County, Florida, for example, you’re required to obtain a Residential Fence or Wall permit to build or replace any fence or wall. However, there are stipulations regarding building materials, size, and location of your fence. For example, it isn’t permitted to build fences with barbed wire, spire tips, sharp objects, or electric currents within 100 feet of any residential area or residential zoning district without the Director's authorization and review of hazards.

Fence type

The type of fence you’re planning to build also impacts whether a permit is needed. A privacy fence — typically made of wood and with little to no light passing through — of a maximum of six feet in your backyard is usually allowed without a permit provided you’re in a residential area.

A different type of fence, like the electrified ones we mentioned earlier, on the other hand, will likely require a permit regardless of location, although there may be some instances where it’s not needed.


Setbacks refer to how far your fence is located from the street, your neighbors, or other properties. Again, whether you need a permit often depends on how far your fence is situated from surrounding buildings or infrastructure. In some cases, if your fence is too close to another building, it may not be permitted at all.

How to get a fence permit

So, you’ve checked with your local authority and you need a fence permit. How do you go about getting one? Again, this usually depends on your local authority’s specific requirements but there are common themes with all permit applications:

  • Check how to apply — In many cases, you can apply for a permit online but this may differ depending on your location.
  • Submit a site plan — You will need to provide a detailed site plan for your proposed fence. The exact requirements for your site plan may vary depending on your local authority but, in short, it’s a detailed rundown of the site and what you’re planning to do. Have a look at this sample site plan for a fence permit from Lee County for a great example.
  • Check if you need a survey — Sometimes, you may need to have your property surveyed before you can obtain a fence permit. Your local authority will have their own procedures and requirements for carrying out a survey.
  • Review — Once you’ve submitted your permit application, your local authority will review it. They will check to see if everything follows local and state building codes and will inform you of any corrections that are needed. They will also usually let you know once the review is complete.
  • Approval — If everything is in order, your application will be approved and you’ll be awarded a permit, meaning you can get started on your project!
house with high, green, metal fence

Penalties for building a fence without a permit

If you fail to obtain a permit before building your new fence, you could be subject to penalties. These often involve paying fines and buying a retrospective permit. However, in certain circumstances, especially if your fence isn’t up to code, you may also be forced to tear your new fence down.

It’s important to stress here that the specific penalties will again vary depending on where you live. Different authorities will impose different penalties, so make sure you check beforehand or risk getting a nasty surprise.

Fence permit FAQs

Let’s look at some frequently asked questions when it comes to fence permits.

Why do I need a fence permit?

You need a permit to ensure that your fence meets the size, material, height, location, type, and other requirements of your local authority. Without checking these, your fence might be torn down or you may be subject to a penalty.

Do I need a permit to replace a fence?

Typically, if you’re replacing a fence like-for-like, you won’t need a permit. However, if you’re planning on changing the type, height, material, etc. of your fence, you will likely need a permit. This is the case in Montogomery County, for example, where like-for-like replacements don’t require a permit but all other replacements do.

How long does it take to get a fence permit?

It usually takes three days to obtain a fence permit. This will vary depending on where you live though, with some applications taking up to two weeks and others being awarded the same day. If there are issues with your application or corrections that need to be made, this will increase the length of time it takes to obtain your permit.

How much is a fence permit?

The cost of fence permits varies between $30 and $200. Once again, this depends on your local authority. Take a look at our article about building permit costs here.

Get a site plan for your fence permit application

If you’re planning on building or replacing your fence, chances are you’ll need a permit — which means you’ll also need a site plan. Creating your own site plan can be difficult, time-consuming, and complex. Luckily, MySitePlan is here to help!

With MySitePlan you can get an accurate and detailed site plan for your project in as little as 24 hours and the best part is, it’s all done online. Get in touch with the team today and find out how we can help with your site plan for your fence permit application.