Rules on Fencing Property in Pennsylvania

Considerations for before you decide to build

By Kevin Salzman | Last updated on January 27, 2023

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As the old saying goes: “Good fences make good neighbors.” Improperly-installed boundary fences, however, can create costly legal headaches for property owners. While a fence may seem like a simple construction project, there are a number of considerations that should be made prior to digging that first post hole. It is far easier to think twice about whether to erect a fence—and where to do it—than to tear down or move one you’ve already built.

Practical and Legal Considerations

Take the time to investigate the following matters before building a fence on your property in Pennsylvania. While some issues might require you to spend some time and resources to fully investigate them, the costs associated with building an illegal fence can run much higher.

  • Where is your property line? If you’re considering building a boundary line fence to separate your property from adjacent private or public properties, you should seriously consider having your property line surveyed. An improperly placed division fence is surefire way to start a neighborly dispute. If your fence encroaches upon property owned by your neighbor or adjacent landowner, he or she can file a lawsuit against you and obtain a court order requiring you to remove the fence at your expense, as well as repair any damage that the fence may have caused to his or her property.
  • Is your fence up to code? Some local municipalities may require a building permit before building your fence. Constructing a fence without the requisite permit application and zoning can result in an order from the municipality to tear the fence down.

You should check with your municipality or homeowner association to determine if they have any particular restrictions on the type of fence or maximum height of the fence you can erect. For example, some homeowner associations will only allow fences of a certain color, or will restrict its height. Failure to comply with these restrictions can result in an order for you to tear down the fence and erect one that complies with the regulations of the association.

When You May Need Help

In most situations you may not need the advice or assistance of a Pennsylvania attorney to complete your fencing project. Pennsylvania fence laws affecting your project can oftentimes be easily obtained from relevant authorities, such as the municipal government or homeowner association. If your fencing project causes a property dispute between you and an adjacent landowner over the precise location of the boundary line, however, you may find it beneficial to employ a Pennsylvania real estate attorney. He or she can help you resolve disputes and provide legal advice about building codes, zoning permits and spite fences in an efficient manner so that you can proceed with your project.

For more information on this area, check out our overview of real estate laws.

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