Legal Issues to Be Aware of When Adding Fences, Pergolas, or Gazebos to Your Yard

Building a fence can add a great deal of property value to your home. A properly landscaped fence can add as much as $40,000 to your selling price!

A fence also increases the safety and security of your home. It keeps pets and children safe. It protects your privacy. It helps you create a lovely back yard oasis where you can relax.

Yet building a fence does create some legal issues which you need to be aware of. If you don’t pay attention to these legal issues then your fence could turn into a big, expensive nightmare. 

Property Lines

Prior to building your fence it’s a very good idea to pull the legal description of your property so that you know exactly where your property line is. It’s an even better idea to get a survey done. You may be able to get a pre-done survey from the City of Milwaukee Development Center.

We tend to suggest building your fence just inside your property line instead of directly on top of it.

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, if you stray over the boundary line of your property your neighbor can demand you tear down your new fence. Legal descriptions aren’t always accurate and sometimes there are discrepancies in the records. Bringing the fence just inside the property line can avoid all kinds of trouble.

In some townships, building your fence 2 feet back from your property line is the local law and ordinance anyway, and we encourage you to research those ordinances as well.

Of course, we also always suggest talking to your neighbor before you begin your fence building project. While it can feel a bit galling to ask someone else for permission to do something on your own property, doing so can help you avoid nasty legal battles in the future.

See also:

Do I Have to Ask My Neighbor for Permission to Build My Fence

4 Things You Should Know About Building a Fence in Milwaukee

What Happens if a Neighbor Builds a Fence Over My Property Line?

How to Avoid Fence Disputes

What is a “Spite” Fence? 

What Can You Do If Your Neighbor is Damaging Your Fence?

Help! My Neighbor’s Paint Job is Ruining My Fence!

Homeowner’s Associations

If you’re unlucky enough to have an HoA then you’re going to have to follow their guidelines before building your fence. If you don’t, they can fine you and force you to remove your fence. 

These organizations tend to have lots of crazy fence rules that dictate the style, height and type of fence you can build. They maintain standards for upkeep and maintenance. 

You’ll find everything you need in the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions. It’s usually a good idea to meet with the president of your HoA before you present your fence proposal.

Allow up to 6 weeks for the HoA to make their decision.

See also:

Present a Fence Proposal to Your HOA

Fence Height

Most fences in the Milwaukee metro area aren’t allowed to be any taller than 6 feet. Your fence height  may vary depending on where your property is located. For example, if you’re on a corner property you may only be able to have a 5′ or 4.5′ fence.

Fence Materials

It’s important to understand that most of the cities in the Milwaukee metro area will only let you build fences with certain, approved materials. Now is not the time to get creative with upcycling.

Here at A1 Fence we only build fences with materials that won’t get you in trouble with the law.


Every township in the Milwaukee metro area requires a permit prior to building a fence. 

We’ll happily pull permits for you as well. 

Historic Districts

If you live in a historic district you will need permission from the Historic Preservation Office to build your fence. You will have to obtain that permission before you enter a contract with a fence contract.

The Historic Preservation office then issues a “certificate of appropriateness” which allows you to begin construction. They will tell you what fences will match the era your home comes from and you can choose from those fences.

Updating Insurance Policies

If you don’t inform your homeowner’s company that you’ve built a fence you run the risk that your fence won’t be covered. Make sure you call your agent and update your policy so you don’t run into a problem later.

Work With the Right Fence Contractor

Here at A1 Fence what we do is work with you to make sure you’re paying attention to all of these legal issues. We look out for our customers!

Call us to schedule a free estimate today.

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