Understanding Fences and Property Borders for Your Chicagoland Home

Understanding Fences and Property Borders for Your Chicagoland Home

Do you or your neighbor have a fence or hedge to establish boundaries between your two properties? If not, are either of you thinking about adding one outside of your Chicagoland home? As a general rule, marking the boundaries of your property is helpful to do – how else will you know EXACTLY how far you must mow your lawn, or obtain a quote for the amount of fencing you need around the perimeter to keep your furry friends safely enclosed? On first glance, some fences or hedges may look imposing or even rude, but actually they often mean quite the opposite! Having your boundaries established through the use of fencing or shrubbery means that:

  • You care enough about your property and your neighbor’s that you don’t want to accidentally intrude or vice-versa.
  • You want to give your property curb appeal by adding an attractive border around it to distinguish it from the rest of your neighborhood.
  • You want to keep your pets and children safe from wandering into the road.

Remaining friendly and securing your safety might seem like two very different objectives when it comes to property borders, but in reality, they meet in the middle. For example, you can be friendly with your neighbors, while still keeping your household safe with a privacy fence or hedge around your property to avoid random peeping toms (not necessarily your immediate neighbors) from looking in. Your neighbors will understand if you are open in communicating with them about it ahead of time, especially if you are making drastic changes to a property that didn’t physical boundary markings before. If you are a homeowner, you do have control over your property’s appearance, but just because you can, doesn’t mean any and everything goes. There are some exceptions:

  1. If your fence is over 5 feet tall, you will need to obtain a permit. You are limited to no higher than 6 feet. Fortunately, recent changes have cut down on the wait time to receive zoning approval.

  2. Landscaping on your property (including your privacy hedge or tree line) must be maintained at all times. There is no permit required for planting a border hedge on your property.

  3. Whatever you decide to use for a property marker must be inside of your boundaries, and not on the line itself.

  4. The addition of a brick wall or other walls, earth berms, and elevation changes to the landscape are subject to municipal zoning approval.

  5. If building a fence, you must have a plan approved.

  6. The sides of your fence that face neighbors’ properties should be “flat-facing”: posts and supports, and the flat parts of the wooden slats and planks are facing your property, not your neighbors’. That means the posts, supports, etc. are all inside of your yard.

It is a good idea to discuss your plans with your neighbor, so that you iron out misunderstandings up front. If there remains uncertainty over the boundaries of your property and that of your neighbors’ on all sides around you, you can enlist the help of city fence viewers, who would have the official say in the matter of where fences should be placed, or if perhaps there is a tree that stretches into the next yard.

Finally, if you feel comfortable asking, and one or more of your adjoining neighbors agree, you can suggest that they share the cost of adding or changing a fence if you have approved of its plan. They may decline, but at least you asked in case it helps them feel better about having their own property altered by the changes you make on yours.

For more tips on maintaining your Chicagoland property, turn to the expertise of Teresa Ryan, Broker and Team Lead, Ryan Hill Group (Century 21 Affiliated). She may be reached at 630-276-7575 or by email at [email protected].

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