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There are several factors influencing whether or not a permit is needed for building a fence. Privacy fence Norfolk virginia

- Is the project in a Commercial or Residential zone?

- How tall is the proposed fence?

- What material is the fence to be made out of?

Once you have determined the answers to these questions, check your county or city’s website where the fence is being built. You should be able to easily access zoning regulations and building permit guidelines on your specific local governmental site.

 Commercial fence permits do not typically allow building a fence more than 6 or 7 feet high. If you are installing security fencing you can certainly apply for the permit and it will be decided by your locality. Another option for higher fences is to apply for a variance for the specific height allowance.  I have found this process to be time consuming and it can require plenty of paperwork. Cities and counties will definitely take into account whether or not the fence will be transparent; for example a chain link fence versus a solid wood fence.

Commercial building permit applications can be printed off most county or cities websites and then emailed. Typically your submission will need to include the permit application, a site plan, fence specification sheets, and a method of payment for the application fee. The fees for projects taking place in commercial zones are sometimes waived.

Residential fence permits can be trickier and are often made difficult in housing subdivisions. Not only do you have to obtain city or county approval, but you may also need the consent of your Homeowners Association (HOA) if you live in a managed housing development. Typically, a residential fence can be no more than 6’ in height and a lot of HOA’s require a ‘natural looking’ fence. These are typified as wood or a neutral painted aluminum. I find it to be most expedient to check with your city or county first and then check your HOA guidelines second. This process may be somewhat painless or excruciatingly complex, depending on how stringent your Homeowners Association guidelines read. These rules can seem sticky, however they are in place to protect the resident homeowner’s from some extreme stylistic decisions that could affect property values. In a residential setting, I have found it easier to obtain permits by matching existing fence styles in the neighborhood. This can forestall any arguments concerning what fence is, and is not allowed within the community.

It is often surprising to homeowners that a building permit is needed for a fence.  They may even think the need for a permit is unjust, or some sort of hidden method of taxation. This is a shortsighted understanding of the benefits of building permits. Building permits can offer reassurance to the homeowner and neighboring parties to know that the project is done safely and in a way that was planned and completed to local specs.  This can help to maintain local property values as well. So the problem of obtaining a permit is outweighed by the long-term benefit within the local community.


Article contributed by fence professional Meagan Kenny

I’ve never been more pleased with a home project.–Kenny M.
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