When you are a homeowner or landowner, you have to decide what you want to do with your property lines. Maybe the boundary between you and your neighbor just needs to be marked. Or maybe you want to enclose your front and back yard for privacy or to keep small children and pets inside the yard. Whatever your motivation, if you are planning to build a fence in Florida, make sure that you familiarize yourself with state laws and local codes and regulations regarding fences before you get started.
Sometimes looking around at your city’s regulations is easier than looking up state law. For example, Florida state law has a long list of requirements for a legal fence, but does not get to the basic questions most homeowners might have. County or city regulations can govern everything from fence height and fence placement, to steps to take before beginning construction on your new fence.
Florida building code generally requires that fences should be built no taller than six feet. Lower levels of government may have their own rules though. For example, Miami-Dade County regulations say that height for fences cannot exceed six feet in most cases. But there are exceptions, and a fence up to eight feet tall can be approved by local authorities in some cases. In Broward County, fence height also should not exceed six feet.
Front yard fences usually need to be under four feet tall according to Florida statutes. Sometimes there are exceptions to this for chain link fences.
Florida state law does not require homeowners to build fences around their property, and neighbors do not have to divide their land with fences. However, Florida does require fences to be built around public and private pools as well as other water features like spas and hot tubs. Pool fences must surround the entire perimeter of the pool and be at least four feet high. Gates on these fences must open away from the pool and be self-closing and lockable.
In many states, a law called the Good Neighbor Fence Law applies to situations where one neighbor wants a fence that will be placed on the boundary line between the adjoining landowners. The law views the fence as benefiting both property owners equally. Because of that, it requires both homeowners to pay equal shares of the cost of construction of the new fence. It also requires both to share the costs of repair and maintenance.
In Florida, that law does not apply. There is no law that compels both neighbors to pay for a fence on the boundary line between them. The only time this applies is if the plan was discussed and agreed upon by both parties ahead of time. If you are thinking of building a fence on the boundary line to your neighbor’s property, try to give them written notice of your plan and also get their agreement in writing. For any issues that could not be resolved between neighbors, real estate attorneys might need to get involved. Be aware though that if there already was a fence in place then both neighbors are considered joint owners and have equal responsibility for maintenance and repairs.
Another neighbor-related regulation in Florida is a law that prohibits spite fences. So-called spite fences are built solely for the purpose of harassing or annoying your neighbor. It is always a good idea to have a conversation with your neighbor about fence projects that are on the boundary line between your properties, or that could affect your neighbor in any way. If your neighbor really does not want the fence there, they can take legal action to stop the project if it qualifies as a spite fence. One way to show that a fence was built for valid reasons is to prove that it was constructed to stop vandalism on the property or to keep out trespassers.
Sometimes state or local laws regulate fences down to the materials a fence is made out of. While Florida does not have those, Miami-Dade County code does cover some aesthetic requirements. The code says that for wire and chain link fences, cloth, fabric, canvas and other materials affixed to the fence must be properly maintained. Those are things that would legally be the landowner’s responsibilities.
Florida requires homeowners to apply for a fence permit and get approved before starting construction on a fence. For those living in Miami, the city website goes over steps to apply for a permit. The first step is to verify that your planned fence is actually within City limits. If it is, they recommend you get familiar with the Miami zoning code related to fences and meet with a qualified licensed contractor. Finally, collect documents including a site survey and details of your fence design, fill out the application and apply.
Broward County in Florida also requires homeowners to apply for a building permit even if you are only replacing an existing fence. A new wood fence replacing an old wood fence would still need a permit. To apply for a fence permit in Fort Lauderdale, the city has created a fence permit checklist to make sure you get through the process correctly. In coastal, high flood hazard areas, Fort Lauderdale municipal code has strict requirements for showing that a potential fence would not become a hazard in case of a flood.
If you have any large vegetation that must be removed for the fence construction then landscape requirement laws may apply to the project. In Miami, removing any tree requires a permit.
If you live in an area with farming and livestock activities, you may want to check out the Handbook of Florida Fence and Property Law for further information. The handbook was designed to inform property owners or their rights and responsibilities when it comes to their obligation to put up fences. This applies mainly in areas where Florida’s agricultural economy exists alongside other commercial property.
The handbook also covers what happens in case one landowner claims they need a right-of-way easement through another’s property. One example of this is when a neighbor’s land must be crossed to reach a public road. According to the state law, the owner of the easement is financially responsible for its maintenance. If it is for cattle or livestock, they must maintain the cattle guard through the fence.
If you live in the state of Florida and are planning to build a fence, it is important to be aware of the state laws and local codes that apply to fence construction so you meet all of the fence requirements. Remember if you do not see much applicable to your fence project in the state law, check out your local city codes that may be easier to navigate and more relevant.
Once you get a good idea of the legal requirements for fences in Florida, you can better plan the details of your new fence. Then you can get in touch with our experts here at Ergeon to plan next steps in getting your fence built!