Are you thinking about replacing or repairing your fence in Austin, Texas? As a homeowner, there are certain ordinances you need to be aware of before building a new fence. You’ll need to check each level of government for these rules. For example, state laws may govern fence permits, city code may cover zoning, and you may even have applicable homeowners association, or HOA, rules for your specific neighborhood.
Regulations and requirements governing fence permitting vary from city to city and between residential property and nonresidential areas. Fences built near floodplains, airports, historic districts or around pools have their own special regulations that you’ll need to be familiar with.
If you are working with a reputable fencing company, they will help you better understand any rules that apply to your fence installation project and whether or not you need to apply for a building permit. Generally, if your fence is not located in a flood hazard area and won’t be over 8 feet high, you do not need to apply to the city of Austin for a residential fence permit.
However, Austin does have ordinances governing certain types of fence projects, which you can find in full here on the city’s Code of Ordinances web page, section 25-2-899 - Fences as Accessory Uses. Below are a few examples of laws you need to be aware of for your fence project in Austin, Texas.
The City of Austin does not regulate the types of materials that may be used in the construction of a fence.
Austin’s land development code specifies that a solid fence along a property line can be constructed not exceeding an average height of six feet or a maximum height of seven feet. A solid fence can be constructed to a maximum height of eight feet if each property owner that adjoins a section of the fence that exceeds a height of six feet files a written consent to the construction of the fence with the building official for several reasons:
Austin prevents residents from building a solid fence of eight feet high, but an ornamental fence may be built higher than eight feet. An ornamental fence is defined as a fence with an open design that has a ratio of solid material to open space of not more than one to four. Solid fences are anything else.
Texas doesn’t have a specific state law that addresses boundary line fences. Before you construct a new fence or remove an old one, it’s advisable to make sure you have evidence of the legal property lines. Oftentimes the City has the Assessor’s Parcel Number (APN) and can look up the property lines if it has been assessed. If it hasn’t, it’s a good idea to hire a land surveyor before proceeding with your plans.
You should also communicate with your neighbor on the adjacent property about your plans and come to an agreement about any fences constructed on boundary lines. That way, you can talk about cost sharing and fence styles and avoid problems down the line. When these discussions aren’t prioritized disputes can occur that need to be settled in court. One issue that sometimes comes up with shared fences is who gets the finished side of the fence and who gets the rails? With a good neighbor fence, both sides appear finished so no one gets stuck with the backside of a fence.
Generally, when a fence is constructed on the property line, the cost of the fence and any fence maintenance or upkeep would be a shared financial responsibility between you and your neighbor.
Generally, if your property is not located in a floodplain hazard area and not higher than eight feet tall, you don’t need a permit to build a fence of any material.
To find out whether your property is located in a floodplain area, contact the city Watershed Protection Department.
Austin’s residential fence permit application has several required reviews for certain types of properties. These include:
If your property is on a corner lot, before building a fence you should get in contact with the Austin Transportation Department (ATD). They will help you determine whether the fence would be a view obstruction or not.
Texas law governs pool fences for safety. Chapter 757 of the Texas Health and Safety Code states that pools must have a fence surrounding them that are at least 48 inches high.
The law also says that any gaps between the fence and the ground should be less than four inches to prevent small children or pets from crawling into the pool area.
Fences surrounding pools cannot be made from chain-link or slats because children could climb them and get into the pool. Each swimming pool fence should have a 48 inch gate that is self-latching and self-closing. This helps make sure children don’t get in accidentally.
If you belong to an HOA, contact them for their fence regulations which could be different from those of the municipality.
Before you start on a new fence or fence repair project, contact Texas 811 - a free service offered across the state that homeowners can use before starting any digging. Texas state law requires this communication at least two business days before digging. That’s because every property has underground lines for things like water and gas and hitting one of these lines can cause major property damage if not serious injury. Contacting Texas 811 first will help prevent you and your family from harm, prevent utility services interruptions and avoid costly damage.
Besides the issue of underground lines, replacing a current fence or constructing a new fence on your own without experience is not advisable for safety reasons. Building fences requires the use of things like nail guns, dealing with fence panels falling over, and the difficult and potentially dangerous job of removing fence posts.
Before starting your fence project, make sure to review your city, state and neighborhood rules governing fence construction. Each city can have different ordinances, and every HOA has the potential to have their own specific rules about fences. You’ll need to be familiar with these rules in order to find out if the fence you want to build is allowed, or requires a permit or special review.