A Guide to Fence Laws in Philadelphia, PA

Learn how to stay in compliance with fence regulations in Philadelphia, PA before your next fence installation project!
Veda Yalamanchili
Veda Yalamanchili
Last Update:
January 11, 2023

Fences serve a variety of purposes from providing privacy and security to defining property boundaries and enhancing curb appeal. However, fence installation and maintenance can quickly become a legal headache if not done properly and according to the zoning code of where you are located. In Philadelphia, fence laws regulate everything from fence height and material to property line disputes and neighborly disagreements. Whether you're a homeowner looking to install a fence or a neighbor concerned about your rights, understanding the legal requirements and potential pitfalls of fence ownership in Philadelphia is essential. In this blog, we'll explore the fence laws in Philadelphia and provide tips for avoiding common legal issues.

Fence Materials Regulations in Philadelphia, PA

Fence materials regulations in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania are essential to ensure the safety and aesthetic appeal of properties. These regulations dictate the type of fence materials allowed for use in residential, commercial, and industrial areas. For instance, chain link fences are prohibited in residential areas, but permitted in commercial and industrial areas. On the other hand, wooden fences are generally allowed in residential areas but must be made of specific types of wood that meet the city's requirements for rot resistance and durability. It's important to note that fences in historic districts must also adhere to specific design guidelines to maintain the district's character.

Fence Height Regulations

The maximum height allowed in Philadelphia for a privacy fence is typically six feet, but it's important to note that this can vary based on specific circumstances. For instance, a fence built for security purposes, such as around a commercial property or industrial facility, may be allowed to exceed the six-foot height limit with a permit. Additionally, if the fence is on a slope, it may be allowed to be taller to ensure that it provides adequate privacy and protection.

Homeowners must research the specific regulations in their area before starting a fence installation project. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in fines, legal action, and the costly removal or modification of the fence. Homeowners should also consider the impact of their fences on their neighbors and the surrounding communities. A fence that is too high can negatively affect neighboring properties by blocking views, causing shadows, or reducing the amount of natural light.

Property Line Regulations

Property line regulations are a critical consideration that dictates where a fence can be placed on a property and ensure that it doesn't encroach on neighboring properties or public spaces. It's essential to research the specific regulations in your municipality before starting a new fence installation project to avoid legal issues and conflicts with neighbors.

In the city of Philadelphia, the general building code for fence placement is that it should be installed within the property line. This means that homeowners cannot install a fence that extends beyond their property line onto their neighbor's property or public spaces, such as sidewalks or streets. Additionally, it's crucial to ensure that the fence does not block access to easements or public utilities.

In cases where the exact property line is unclear, homeowners can request a property survey to determine the exact boundary of their property. A survey will help ensure that the fence is installed within the property line and avoid any potential disputes with neighbors over property boundaries.

It's also important to consider the impact of the fence on neighboring properties. A fence that is too close to a neighbor's property can impact the use and enjoyment of their property. As such, it's crucial to maintain a reasonable distance from neighboring properties when installing a fence. Homeowners can work with their neighbors to determine a reasonable distance that takes into account the purpose of the fence and any impact it may have on neighboring properties.

Obtaining a Fence Permit

Obtaining a fence permit in Philadelphia may be required. It is relatively straightforward, though some rules may apply that require additional steps. Residents must first apply for a permit from the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I). It typically takes about 10 business days for a response on an application if no zoning variance is needed. If zoning variances are necessary then more time may be required to obtain all necessary approvals before the permit is issued. Generally, this process takes another two weeks or so to complete before the permit is issued. It should also be noted that additional fees may apply when applying for a zoning variance which could add additional time to obtaining your fence permit in Philadelphia. Here is a step-by-step guide to obtaining a fence permit in Philadelphia.

Determine the regulations in your area:

Before applying for a permit, it's important to research the regulations for fence installation in your area. This includes regulations for fence height, materials, and placement. In general, you probably need permits if your fence will be:

Prepare the necessary documents:

To apply for a fence permit, as a property owner, you will need to prepare a set of documents. Required documentation includes the scope of work, proof of ownership or occupancy, installation plans, and a survey of the property line. There are other forms like Flood protection forms, accelerated plan review request forms, structural design criteria forms, etc., that you might need to submit along with your application.

Complete the application

You can obtain a fence permit application from the local zoning department or online. Complete the application and attach the necessary documents.

Pay the fee

There is a fee associated with obtaining a building permit in Philadelphia. The fee can vary depending on the size and scope of the project. If you have all the required plans for the fence, you are eligible to request an expedited review of your building permit. Accelerated applications are reviewed within 5 business days. $350 is due when you apply.


Submit the completed application and the necessary documents to the local zoning department. You can apply online using eCLIPSE or take an appointment to visit the Permit and License Center in person. The application will be reviewed for compliance with local regulations.

Install the fence

Once you have obtained the permit, you can proceed with installing the fence. Be sure to follow the plans submitted with the permit application and any additional regulations or requirements provided by the zoning department. A licensed Philadelphia contractor or fence company must perform the work, except when the project involves an existing single-family or two-family home.

Fence Safety Regulations

Fences in Philadelphia must also be installed with safety in mind. This includes ensuring that the fence does not create a visibility hazard for motorists and pedestrians and that it is not installed in a manner that creates a hazard for individuals passing by. According to one of Philadelphia ordinances, fences that are 50% opaque or less would not require a zoning permit from the zoning board of adjustment.

Furthermore, homeowners must ensure that their fences do not have any sharp or dangerous protrusions that could cause injury to individuals who come into contact with them. This includes ensuring that any fence posts or hardware are not exposed and that the fence isn’t installed in a manner that creates a hazard for individuals passing by the front yard or driveway.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, fence laws in Philadelphia are set to promote safety, security, and aesthetic appeal for homeowners. Homeowners need to familiarize themselves with these laws before installing a fence on their property to avoid potential fines or penalties. By understanding the regulations for fence height, materials, placement, and safety, homeowners can ensure that their fence meets all local requirements and enhances the value and appeal of their property.

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