Fences in HOAs
When you live in an HOA, sharing a fence with a backyard neighbor is often part of the experience. Whether you’re updating or modifying an existing fence or constructing a new fence, there are several things you should be aware of prior to initiating the process.
Because backyards often represent the extended privacy of your home, sharing a fence with another homeowner can be a touchy subject, and because fencing significantly impacts the look of more than just your property, there are rules that stipulate the kind of fence that can be built.
Let’s take a look at the many things a homeowner needs to be aware of when it comes to making any changes to fencing in an HOA:
When a backyard fence splits the property lines between neighbors, it is defined as a boundary fence. Every homeowner shares dual ownership of the allotted portion of a boundary fence existing on their respective property (meaning that your neighbors have the same rights to the shared fence as you do), so if you’re planning on repairing or replacing the fence, you need to be familiar with your property survey or plat. This way, you can be sure that you don’t infringe on your neighbor’s property line. Also, you should communicate with your neighbor about your plans well in advance to avoid any issues or confrontations that may occur over the boundary fence.
Regulations and Guidelines to Be Aware Of
There are local, county, and state laws that dictate specific limitations when it comes to backyard fences. Most often, fences are the subject of the HOA. Because most local fence laws tend to be loosely imposed, your HOA regulations must be strictly enforced.
Below are a few common guidelines for fences:
- Fences must be a certain height. For example, your HOA may mandate that fences are no less than six feet (6’) tall and individual slats no more than nine inches (9”) wide.
- Fences may be required to be positioned a certain amount off of property lines. This is referred to as a setback. Check your plat or property survey to assess where the fence can be constructed and practice proper fence etiquette by making sure the smooth side of the fence faces outward toward your neighbors or the street.
Steps to Fence Modification
When you live in an HOA, there are certain processes that must be followed in accordance with your governing documents. You also must be considerate of your neighbors. Once you’ve come to an agreement with your neighbor(s) about the fence, there are at least three steps you’ll need to take prior to making any changes to, or adding a boundary fence:
- Communicate with your neighbor(s) prior to making any changes to the boundary fence! If change is not wanted by anyone but yourself, then you may have a problem on your hands. The last thing you want to do is cause friction between your immediate neighbors and yourself. Make sure everyone is on board. This may mean that you agree to pay for the cost, compromise on stain colors, etc.
- Get the approval of your HOA’s architectural control committee (ACC) prior to starting any work. Many associations require a certain aesthetic for fences, so it’s important to check the HOAs bylaws for specific requirements. If you fail to receive prior approval from the ACC to complete your fencing project, you may find yourself dealing with violations, fines, and fees, or even a lawsuit!
- Obtain proper permits from the county in order to modify or construct your backyard fence. Your application must be approved before you can start the project.
- Hire a reliable local contractor who understands local zoning regulations. They can help you avoid any future potential problems by reviewing regulations and building a fence that is safe and acceptable.
Constructing HOA-Friendly Fences
Once you have completed the appropriate steps and obtained the proper permits, it’s time to get to work on your new fence! Because HOAs can control, to some degree, the type of fence you construct and the material used, there are certain factors the association tends to look for:
Style and uniformity is often considered very important when it comes to HOA fencing. Many associations require all properties within the community to keep a certain appearance to remain looking uniform and pleasing. Whether it be modern or elegant, stucco or wood, the type and style of fence may have to fall in line with what other properties are using. It’s vital that you understand your HOAs guidelines so that you avoid any unpleasant situation or extra costs associated with having to replace your brand new fence!
Safety and Visibility
When it comes to fencing, safety is a top concern. Restrictions on fence height are often related to visibility issues. HOAs must consider fences that do not obstruct a driver’s view at intersections and/or promote neighborhood safety.
It’s no secret that most HOAs invest in landscaping and certain aesthetic features, such as meticulous greenbelts or man-made pond. These environments lend to the overall appeal of the community. Many will be unhappy if a fence were to interfere with or obstruct this carefully constructed landscape! For this reason, privacy-style fences may be prohibited in favor of shorter fences with narrow slats, or some similar style that promotes visibility.
Many cities have enacted ordinances pertaining to the preservation of lakes, trees, and other landscapes. In many areas, you are required to build fencing around trees or plant buses along the street-facing side of a fence when it backs up to a sidewalk or faces the main roadway.
Fencing Disputes, Variances, and Zoning Issues
In the event that you run into any issues, variances may be granted (in some cases). Investigate your state’s statutes and find out what your county’s zoning ordinances are. Also, carefully review the association’s CC&Rs and/or bylaws.
Here are a few examples that may warrant such actions:
- You need a fence that is taller than the law allows. If your neighbor agrees to this, you may be able to obtain a variance.
- You recently purchased your home and the current fence seems to violate the laws that you’ve researched. You feel the fence needs to come down. If the fence was built prior to the law, the fence can remain. If you’ve educated yourself on the law and know the history of the fence, you are in a better position to take action as needed.
- If your neighbor is the one pursuing a modification to a boundary fence and you’re the one who is not in favor of the construction, you can voice your concerns directly to the neighbor or contact your HOA board.
Once you’ve constructed or modified your fence, you’ll need to ensure that the fence is kept clean and safe at all times. Everything should be in proper working order and nothing should be unsightly or left damaged (think latches and hardware, splintering boards, weather damage, etc.). This will prevent any future problems with your neighbors and alleviate the potential for any site drive violations.
Properly maintained fences are also a good indicator of how well the overall neighborhood is maintained. When shopping for a new home, buyers are often influenced by the condition of the fences in the community. Fences can greatly influence property values!
By taking the time to follow proper procedure, obtain the necessary permits and approvals, hire a qualified contractor, and by following the tips above, you can rest assured that you’ve done your part to improve the fencing on your property. Now it’s time to enjoy your new fence! Contact Spectrum Association Management today to learn more about our highly reviewed HOA property management services and get a free quote for your community.
Related: Now that you’re aware of what actions to take before making any changes to your fencing. You should also choose the best company when it comes to your home Insurance.