Fence and Retaining Walls, Permits and Information
When is a Fence Permit Required?
A building permit is required to install any type of fence in Montgomery County. Replacement of an existing fence, ORIGINALLY INSTALLED WITH A BUILDING PERMIT, with the same kind of fence in the same location at the same height, does not require a building permit.
If an existing fence was not installed with a building permit, the replacement fence must have a building permit.
When is a Retaining Wall Permit Required?
A permit is required to install a retaining wall if the height of the wall measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall is 54 inches or more or if it supports a surcharge. Per the 2009 International Residential Code, (Retaining walls that are not laterally supported at the top and that retain in excess of 24 inches (610 mm) of unbalanced fill shall be designed to ensure stability against overturning, sliding, excessive foundation pressure and water uplift. Retaining walls shall be designed for a safety factor of 1.5 against lateral sliding and overturning). To satisfy this requirement, the retaining wall must be designed by a Maryland State Licensed Design Professional. If you are unsure if you need a permit call 311 (240-777-0311 if calling from outside of Montgomery County).
What are the Restrictions for Type, Height and Location?
Measurement of Height: Fence or wall height is measured from the lowest level of the grade under the fence or abutting a wall.
Height and Placement: The maximum height of a fence or wall in any front setback in a Residential zone is 4 feet.
A fence, wall other than retaining wall, terrace, structure, shrubbery, planting, or other visual obstruction on a corner lot in a Residential zone can be a maximum height of 3 feet above the curb level for a distance of 15 feet from the intersection of the front and side street lines.
A deer fence on a corner lot in a Residential zone must not be located closer to the street than the face of the building.
A wall or fence must not be located within any required drainage, utility or similar easement, unless approved by the agency with jurisdiction over the easement.
Exemptions from Building Line and Setbacks:
- Building line and setback requirements do not apply to: deer fencing in an Agricultural or Rural Residential zone; or behind the front building line for property in a non-Agricultural or non-Rural Residential zone unless the property adjoins a national historical park.
A retaining wall where changes in street grade, width, or alignment have made such structures necessary;
Any other wall or fence that is 6.5 feet or less in height, is behind the front building line, and is not on a property abutting a national historic park;
A rustic fence on a property abutting a national historical park;
Any boundary fence behind the front building line if the property is located within 100 feet of a parking lot in a national historical park; and
Deer fencing and any other fence that 8 feet or less in height if the property is farmed and agriculturally assessed.
A permit application for a fence or retaining wall installed on the property line must be accompanied by a letter of approval from the adjacent property owner. Occasionally, lot conditions require approvals from other agencies such as easement holders, or homeowner associations.
A fence/retaining wall is considered an accessory structure if it exceeds the height of 6' 6". Accessory Setbacks will be applied to those structures as needed.
Restrictions are very specific for fences used as swimming pool enclosures and those may be found in Chapter 51 of the Montgomery County Code. “Deer Fences” also have specific restrictions (see below). The Zoning Code does not restrict which side of the fence is installed facing either property.
The fence/retaining wall permit is limited to the applicant’s property as indicated on the approved site plan. Any dispute as to whether a fence has extended into a neighbor’s property or questions about the location of property lines is a legal matter to be resolved by the property owners.
What is a Deer Fence?
A fence that is up to 8 feet high and constructed of an open mesh, heavy weight, plastic or similar material that allows a clear view through the fence. Mesh size ranges from 1.5 x 1.5inches to 2 x 2.75 inches. A deer fence may be constructed with wood, metal, or fiberglass posts. Deer fences must be made of the above material only.
Fences are typically not inspected unless they are used as a swimming pool barrier. All swimming pool barriers must be inspected and approved prior to using the pool. If your fence is to be used as a barrier for a new or existing swimming pool please make note of this at the time of application. Typically the fence is permitted along with the swimming pool and does not require a separate permit. If you are applying for a separate fence permit to surround a swimming pool please be sure to note this on your application.