The Common Law

Eight-Foot Privacy Fence – Can I Build It?

I want to build an 8-foot fence to have more privacy from my neighbors. I talked to my neighbor about it, and he told me that the city of Austin doesn't allow fences higher than 6 feet. Is that right?

Your neighbor is generally correct. The city of Austin has several regulations that control how high you can build your fence. The city's general rule is that a solid fence or wall constructed on the property's boundary lines may not exceed an average height of 6 feet or a maximum height of 7 feet at any point. One exception to this rule is that ornamental fences (open fences that do not visually disrupt view corridors) can typically be built higher than 6 feet.

If you still have your heart set on an 8-foot privacy fence, you must obtain a permit from the city's Planning and Development Review Department. The city will typically allow an 8-foot fence when there is a relevant safety concern or if there is a significant change in grade that makes a taller fence appropriate. The city will also allow an 8-foot fence to be built if it is located on or within the building set back lines (usually 5 or 10 feet from the property line). The city also typically allows an 8-foot fence to separate a residential property that adjoins a commercial property. The location of the fence may also create limitations, particularly if your property is close to an intersection. Due to visibility and traffic concerns, the city prohibits any fence or wall higher than 3 feet from being built within 20 feet of a street intersection.

Your best bet may be to get your neighbor to consent to the project and then contact the city's Planning and Development Review Department (974-7668) to obtain the necessary permit. It is usually easier to obtain the permit if you can show the city that your neighbor does not oppose you building the 8-foot privacy fence.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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