A Guide to Fence Laws in Arlington, VA

Interested in building a fence in Arlington, VA? Don't miss these guidelines.
Veda Yalamanchili
Veda Yalamanchili
Last Update:
January 11, 2023

Fences are an essential component of any property, and they serve a variety of purposes. Whether you want to increase privacy, establish boundaries, or add aesthetic appeal to your property, installing a fence is a considerable investment. It is important to understand the fence laws in your area to ensure that your investment is not in violation of any local regulations. This guide will provide an overview of fence laws in Arlington, Virginia, and what you need to know to install a fence that complies with all the required regulations.

Failure to comply with state laws in Arlington can result in fines, penalties, and legal action. In addition, installing a fence that violates local laws can lead to disputes with neighbors and potential damage to property values. This article is intended to help property owners navigate the process of installing a fence and ensure compliance with local laws.

Fence Materials Regulations

One of the most important considerations when installing a fence in any city is the type of materials that can be used. Each city has its specific regulations regarding fence materials, with certain materials being allowed and others prohibited. Homeowners must ensure that their fence materials meet these requirements to avoid potential fines, penalties, or disputes with neighbors.

Permissible Fence Materials

Arlington allows a variety of fence materials for residential and commercial properties, including wood, vinyl, chain-link, and wrought iron. Wood fence is a popular option due to its natural appearance and versatility, but it may require more maintenance and can be susceptible to rot or termite damage. Vinyl is a low-maintenance alternative that can withstand harsh weather conditions, but it may not offer as much aesthetic appeal as other materials. Chain-link is an affordable and durable option that provides security and visibility, but it may not offer as much privacy. Wrought iron is a high-end option that offers both durability and aesthetic appeal, but it may be more expensive than other materials. It's important to note that while these materials are generally allowed, there may be specific restrictions in certain zoning districts or designated conservation areas.

Impermissible Fence Materials 

Arlington, VA has specific regulations regarding fence materials that are not allowed, including barbed wire, electric fences, and chain-link fences exceeding six feet in height. Barbed wire and electric fences are prohibited because of safety concerns, as they can pose a risk to individuals or animals who come into contact with them. Chain-link fences exceeding six feet are not permitted because they can obstruct views and create a potential safety hazard. Additionally, certain types of bamboo and invasive plant species are prohibited as fence materials due to environmental concerns. Property owners should ensure that they are familiar with the regulations regarding prohibited fence materials in Arlington, VA to avoid potential fines or disputes with neighbors.

Fence Height Regulations 

Before you start building your new fence in Arlington, VA, it's essential to know the height regulations to avoid any legal issues. You wouldn't want your fence to be too tall or short and disrupt the beauty of your neighborhood or even become a safety hazard. Fence height regulations in Arlington, VA, vary depending on the property type and zoning. So, let's dive into the fence height regulations for residential and commercial properties in Arlington, VA.

It is essential to note that these regulations are subject to change, and it is crucial to check with the Arlington County zoning department to verify the current regulations before installing a fence. Additionally, if the property is located within a homeowner association (HOA), there may be additional regulations and restrictions on fence height and design that must be followed.

Maximum Fence Height

For residential properties, the maximum fence height allowed without a permit is four feet in the front yard and six feet in the rear yard. If the fence is within the front or corner side yard setback, the maximum height is four feet. In some cases, the fence can be up to eight feet tall, but a permit is required.

For commercial and industrial properties, the maximum fence height allowed is eight feet. If the fence is located within the front yard setback, the maximum height is four feet. In some cases, the fence can be up to ten feet tall, but a permit is required.

Exceptions to Maximum Height

While there are maximum fence height regulations in Arlington, there are exceptions to these regulations that property owners can take advantage of. One exception is the use of retaining walls or similar structures that act as a fence, allowing property owners to go above the maximum height limit. Another exception is the use of landscaping or vegetation to create a natural fence or barrier, which can exceed the maximum height limit.

In addition, property owners can apply for a variance to go above the maximum height limit if there are special circumstances, such as a steep slope, an irregular lot shape, or a need for additional security.

It is important to note that these exceptions and variances are subject to review and approval by the Arlington County Zoning Department. Property owners should consult with the department before proceeding with any fence construction plans that exceed the maximum height limit.

Property Line Regulations 

Have you ever heard the phrase, "good fences make good neighbors?" While this might be true, installing a fence on your property can lead to disputes with your neighbors if you do not follow property line regulations. Nobody wants to be that neighbor, right? So, before you start installing your new fence in Arlington, VA, it's important to understand property line regulations. Property lines are the boundaries that separate your property from your neighbor's property. These lines are essential in determining where you can install your fence and must be respected to avoid legal disputes.

Regulations for Fence Placement

According to the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance, fences must be installed entirely on the property owner's side of the property line, with a minimum setback distance of two feet from the property line. Additionally, if the fence is located within the front or corner side yard setback, the maximum height is four feet, and the fence must be set back a minimum of one foot from the front or corner side yard setback. It is essential to comply with these regulations to avoid fines, legal disputes, and the removal of the fence.

Easements and Setbacks

Easements are portions of land designated for specific uses, such as utility lines or drainage ditches, and may be subject to certain restrictions. Setbacks are the minimum distance that a structure, such as a fence, must be from the property line or easement. Understanding these concepts is crucial to ensure that your fence is installed in compliance with local laws. It is recommended that property owners consult with the Arlington County Zoning Department to determine any easements or setbacks that may affect the installation of their fences.

Importance of Property Surveys

A property survey is a document that shows the exact boundaries of your property and can help you determine where to install your fence without encroaching on your neighbor's land. It can also help you identify any easements or setbacks that may affect the installation of your fence. Obtaining a property survey can also protect you from legal disputes with your neighbors or the removal of your fence due to non-compliance with local laws. It's important to note that property surveys may be required when obtaining a fence permit, so it's best to obtain one before starting any fence installation project.

Obtaining a Fence Permit

You may need a fence permit in Arlington, VA, for a fence that is over four feet in height or that is located within a front or corner side yard setback. To obtain a fence permit, property owners must submit all or some of these documents - a permit application, property survey, certificate of occupancy, or business license (for commercial fences), and fence design plan to the Arlington County Zoning Department. The permit fee is based on the linear footage of the fence and can vary depending on the location and type of fence.

The permit application requires property owners to provide their name, address, and contact information, as well as the fence type, height, and location. A property survey may be required to determine the exact location of the property line and any easements or setbacks that may affect the installation of the fence.

The fence design plan must include a detailed sketch or drawing of the fence, including its height, material, and location. The design plan must also show the location of any gates, as well as any landscaping or other features that may be affected by the fence installation.

After the permit application, property survey, and fence design plan have been submitted, the Arlington County Zoning Department will review the application to ensure that the fence complies with local laws and regulations. If any changes need to be made to the fence design to comply with local laws, property owners will be notified of the required modifications before issuance of the building permit.

Fence Safety Regulations

We all know how important to make sure that the fence is installed securely to prevent it from falling or collapsing. But it is also essential to make sure that the fence installation does not obstruct sightlines or create hazards for pedestrians, cyclists, or drivers. Property owners should avoid installing fences that are too tall or that block the view of traffic or pedestrians. They should also ensure that the fence installation does not create a hazard for wildlife. Arlington county has set up some building codes for safe fencing as mentioned below

Height Restrictions

As mentioned earlier, Arlington has specific height restrictions for fences. Fences installed in the front yards of properties cannot exceed four feet in height, while fences in the backyard can be up to six feet tall. This is to ensure that properties maintain a consistent appearance from the street while still allowing for privacy in the backyard. For corner lots, the fence must be lower than four feet within the triangle formed by the street curb lines. This ensures that visibility is not impaired for drivers and pedestrians.

Setback Requirements

Property owners must ensure that their fence is installed at least two feet from the property line to allow for maintenance and repair work.

Gate Safety

Gates must be self-closing and self-latching to ensure that the fence is secure and inaccessible to unsupervised children. The gate must also open outward, away from the pool or property. If your fence includes a gate that provides access to a swimming pool, additional safety measures are suggested. The fence must be located at least four feet away from any other structures, such as the house, and any surrounding trees or bushes must be trimmed back to prevent children from using them to climb over the fence.

Fence Material

The fence material must be sturdy and durable, with no protruding nails or sharp edges that could cause injury. This is especially important if you have children or pets, who may accidentally run into the fence while playing. Additionally, if an electric fence is used, it must be adequately grounded and meet specific code requirements to prevent electrical hazards.

Final Thoughts

In summary, make sure you're aware of the fence laws and regulations in Arlington, VA before installing a fence. To avoid penalties and ensure compliance, follow height restrictions and property line regulations.

Consulting with professionals such as fence contractors, surveyors, and building officials can be crucial when installing a fence in Arlington, VA. They can guide you on regulations and ensure that the fence is installed safely and legally. By seeking their expertise, homeowners can avoid potential penalties and ensure that their fence meets all requirements.

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