Good Fences Make Good Neighbors: Exploring Basic Permit Guidelines in Pennsylvania

Imagine buying your dream home only to have a nasty neighbor install a 40’ fence along the property line! While it sounds like something out of a movie, it actually did happen — and you can read about it here. Nicholas Yung, a German immigrant, worked hard his entire life to afford a small cottage and plot in San Francisco. Little did he know that years later, wealthy railroad baron Charles Crocker would erect a 40’ high fence around Yung’s property due to Nicholas’ refusal to sell his land. In a feud that would span nearly two decades, the “spite fence,” as neighbors called it, would become a local landmark and symbol of what could happen without the protection of local ordinances regulating the height of fencing.

Here we will review some of the reasons it is crucial to understand local ordinances and obtain permits when having a new fence installed on your property:

What Steps Should Be Taken Before Construction?

There are several necessary steps you should take before installing a fence on your property. These are necessarily specific to Pennsylvania and should apply to everyone looking to increase their privacy and security with the addition of a fence around their property.

The first step should be to do your research regarding fencing in general. This will involve the following:

  • Research property lines and zoning codes: The Recorder of Deeds in your county may have a recent survey of your property on record. They will also direct you to a comprehensive list of current codes for your local community. These codes will include the distance a fence must be installed from the property line and a maximum allowable height.
  • Have a survey of your property done: If the Recorder of Deeds does not have a current survey of your property, it would be prudent to have one done to ensure you are not encroaching on adjoining lots when the fence is installed.
  • Obtain the proper permits: Once you are aware of local building codes, you will know if a permit will be required for a fence installation. If a fence is being replaced along the property line, you may be granted a grandfathered status removing the need for a new permit.
  • Contact your HOA: If your home is located where a homeowner’s association is active, there may be different rules in place other than local ordinances. In most cases, an HOA will have even stricter guidelines as to fence construction in the neighborhood.

What Are the Rules of Fence Ownership in Pennsylvania?

One of the most important things to remember when living in the state of Pennsylvania and installing a fence for privacy or security purposes is fence ownership. In the state, if a fence is built directly on the property line of two lots with different owners, it is considered a “shared” fence. This would mean that the cost of installation, maintenance, and repair is shared equally between the two landowners. That said, before installing a fence directly on a property line, you may also need to get your neighbor’s permission to do so.

Local building codes vary significantly throughout Pennsylvania. What may be appropriate in one area may be considered illegal in another. Local governments are free to expand upon existing state regulations and make additional ordinances regarding fence style, location, and height. Be sure to go over all local laws regarding fence construction before beginning the installation.

When erecting a fence around a pool or body of water, strict requirements must be adhered to to comply fully with the law. Any area of water greater than 2 ft in depth is considered a pool, and a fence will be required. The pool needs to be surrounded by a fence that is at least 4 ft high. For above-ground pools, if the pool’s sides are at least 48 inches tall, they can be considered the fence. A ladder is required for access and will need to be removed or in a locked position when the pool is not being used. An in-ground design requires all sides of the pool to be surrounded by fencing with a self-latching gate. The side of the residence can be considered an enclosure, but the homeowner will need to install an audible device if no defined entranceway leads to the pool from the house area.

Don’t Be a Charles Crocker!

The feud between Nicholas Yung and Charles Crocker continued long after their deaths. Although the Yungs moved after dealing with Mr. Crocker’s 40’ fence, Nicholas’ widow refused to sell the land to the Crockers, where the fence remained surrounding the now-empty plot of land. Nearly twenty years later, with the passing of Yung’s widow, did the heirs of the two families settle the disagreement with Yung’s descendants selling the land to Crocker’s descendants for an undisclosed sum. Only a year later, the entire neighborhood would be destroyed in the Great Fire of 1906.

When choosing to install a fence on your property, it is essential to know all the local building ordinances concerning fence construction. Keeping these in mind, obtaining the proper permits, and being considerate of your neighbors will provide you the ability to install a fence around your property that abides by local laws and isn’t considered a neighborhood nuisance.

Reach Out to Everlasting Fence Today

Our team is committed to providing high-quality fencing for your home’s privacy, security, and aesthetic qualities. For more information and to get your free estimate, contact Everlasting Fence today!

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