One of the best things you can do for your sanity and peace of mind if you own property is to fence it.
Fencing will provide you with privacy, help keep unwanted animals off of your property, give you better protection when it comes to dealing with trespassers and a lot more.
However, you may not be able to put up just any kind of fence wherever you happen to be.
Every state’s fencing laws are different, with some states having many restrictions and other states being pretty much a free-for-all.
Florida is a state that is closer to, but not precisely, the latter, with very few requirements to enclose your property, but a few hard restrictions concerning when you can put a fence up and under what conditions.
It’s not too bad, so keep reading and I’ll tell you what you need to know about Florida’s fence laws.
Under What Conditions are Fences Mandatory in Florida?
The State of Florida generally only requires that certain kinds of property be fenced.
Specifically, owners of livestock are required by law to keep their animals on their own land, and this typically requires fencing.
Also, the owners of game preserves, certain railroad installations and junkyards must have their properties fenced.
Also, while not a state law, it’s common in many municipalities throughout Florida that pool owners must have a fence or other barrier around their pool, particularly in the case of an in-ground pool.
It is also worth pointing out that Florida is strictly a “closed range” state concerning livestock.
There are many cases of the state strictly enforcing these laws concerning the trespassing of livestock and any damages they cause.
The owner of livestock can be held liable for any damage that his livestock cause even if there is no evidence of actual negligence on their part concerning the husbandry of the animals, the ownership of the land or any steps to keep them on the land.
Accordingly, if you own livestock in Florida you must do everything possible to ensure that they stay on your property or any other property you have legal rights to!
See Florida state statute 588.15 for more:
588.15 – Liability of Owner
Every owner of livestock who intentionally, willfully, carelessly, or negligently suffers or permits such livestock to run at large upon or stray upon the public roads of this state shall be liable in damages for all injury and property damage sustained by any person by reason thereof.
What are the Requirements for Fence Construction in Florida?
Florida actually has two separate statutory definitions for fences, in the basic sense. We can find one definition in Florida State statute 588.01, specifically that for a general fence.
A general fence is defined as a fence that is substantially constructed with rails, logs, railings, steel or any other material that is at least five feet high.
The other definition is a legal fence, defined as any fence it is at least 3 feet high and made of barbed or other soft wire of no less than three strands connected to supports no more than 20 feet apart.
The definition for legal fence can be found in Florida state statute 588.011. Both definitions are below:
588.01 – Requirements of general fence
All fences or enclosures of land shall be substantially constructed, whether with rails, logs, post and railing, iron, steel, or other material, and not less than 5 feet high; to the extent of 2 feet from the ground there shall not be a space between the material used in the construction of any fence greater than 4 inches; provided, that when any fence or enclosure shall be made with a trench or a ditch, the same shall be 4 feet wide; and in that case the fence shall be 5 feet high from the bottom of the ditch to the top of the fence.
588.011 – Legal fence; requirements.
(1) Any fence or enclosure at least 3 feet in height made of barbed or other soft wire consisting of not less than three strands of wire stretched securely on posts, trees, or other supports, standing not more than 20 feet apart; or when using battens, up to 60 feet apart for nonelectric and 150 feet apart for electric, if constructed with high tensile wire in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications, shall be considered as a legal fence.
(2) Any fence or enclosure made of any other material which meets substantially the minimum requirements or specifications mentioned in subsection (1) shall be considered as a legal fence.
(3) Legal fences may include gateways or openings therein provided:
(a) That any such gateways shall be equipped with gates which are so constructed as to meet the minimum requirements or specifications of a legal fence; or
(b) That any such opening shall be equipped with a cattle or livestock guard at least 6 feet in width extending to each end of the opening.
(4) The requirements of s. 588.01, shall constitute and be a legal fence to prevent the intrusion of swine where the running at large of swine is not prohibited by law.
Can Your Neighbor Force You to Build or Pay for a Fence in Florida?
No. Under Florida State law there is no obligation to erect a fence, what the State calls a boundary fence, on your property because of whatever your neighbor might think or say.
Likewise, if your neighbor is erecting a boundary fence, you are under no legal obligation, according to the state, to share in costs, contribute to the construction or otherwise partake in the project.
However this is only in the case that the fence was not agreed upon as a collaborative, or shared, fence.
This concept is hardly unheard of, and sometimes close neighbors will want to split the costs for the benefit of both parties.
However, unlike some other states, even though such agreements are legally enforceable, potentially even in the case of verbal ones, it’s only practically likely to be enforceable if the agreement was recorded in writing with the signature and dates of both signing parties.
If you want to voluntarily enter into such a deal with a neighbor, it’s definitely in your best interest to have a good legal agreement drawn up by a competent attorney and then record it.
Any such agreement should include legal descriptions of the involved lands and the specific location and plan of the fence, the specific responsibilities of each party and the names and signatures of each party. Make sure you get it notarized!
Are Fences Required to Contain Livestock in Florida?
Yes. Florida is a closed range state, and that means that livestock animals aren’t allowed to roam wherever they want.
Florida’s law is very close to the English common law rule that requires livestock owners to keep their animals off of neighboring, unenclosed lands, and that means they must keep them on their own lands.
The only way to reliably and ethically do this, typically, is through the use of fencing or other barriers as detailed above.
It’s also worth noting that any part of a parcel that is bounded by the ocean, gulf, bay, river, creek or lake is considered legally enclosed, so if you have a water feature all along one side of your property you would only be responsible for fencing the remaining sides.
It should also be noted that there are requirements for posting enclosed land against trespassing, you can see Florida state statutes 588.09 and 588.11 for more:
588.11 – Owner to maintain fences and notices.
The owner of legally enclosed land shall maintain in reasonable good condition the fence or enclosure around such land and shall maintain in legible condition any and all posted notices as required by ss. 588.09, 588.10, but a substantial or reasonably effective compliance with the provisions of ss. 588.011, 588.09, 588.10, disregarding minor or inconsequential differences in the size, shape, or condition thereof, shall be sufficient for the purpose of evidencing the legal enclosure of said land.
Do Neighbors Have to Share the Costs of Maintaining a Fence in Florida?
No. Unless as described above, two or more parties have entered into an agreement to construct and maintain a common fence a property owner has absolutely no legal obligation to share in the costs of maintaining his neighbor’s boundary fence.
However, a person can definitely be liable for any damages that are caused by action or negligence to his neighbor’s fence.
Trees are common perpetrators of such damage if they are in bad condition, so if your tree drops a branch that damages your neighbor’s fence, you can understandably be held liable for repair or replacement.
How Tall Does Florida Allow You to Build a Fence?
Florida does not have specific laws restricting how high you can build your fence, but it should be noted that there are many municipal and county laws that do govern the heights of fencing throughout the state.
These typically vary between a maximum height of 6 and 8 feet. You’ll need to check on these before you consider and barking on any boundary or other fencing project on your property.
Also, Florida law specifically forbids the building of any spite fence, fences that Florida classifies as nuisances. More on those in the next section.
What is a Spite Fence? Are they Allowed in Florida?
A spite fence is broadly defined as any fence which is intended to prevent another person from enjoying or accessing their property.
Generally, it is a fence that is put up to annoy, to block a view, to block movement, block light or even block air flow from an adjoining property.
Like the name says, they are done purely to be spiteful and are a common calling card of neighbors who have money to burn and want to passive-aggressively get back at their antagonist.
Luckily, Florida law prevents the construction of any such fences.
The watchword for the installation of a fence to avoid classification as a spite fence is whether or not the fence serves a legitimate and useful purpose.
Does Building a Fence Make You Liable for Anything in Florida?
No, though you are, of course, liable for any damages that might result during the construction of your fence particularly in the case of recklessness, or negligence.
It’s also important to know that in Florida building any fence, including a boundary fence and any fence meeting the specific definition of a legal or general fence does not necessarily protect you from liability.
The suitability of any fence to fulfill the legal requirements of the enclosure of land or livestock is demonstrated by the fact that the livestock does not get out, or that any other negative outcome does not occur, extraordinary circumstances excepted.
For more information on this concept, you can check the case of the Florida Board of Education v. Andrews and Hanson v. Scharber.
What Happens if a Neighbor’s Fence is Actually on My Property?
In Florida, if it turns out your neighbor’s fence is actually on your property, or is encroaching too close to your property line, you might be able to force them to take the fence down or move it.
Howard, adverse possession is a concept in Florida and if you take too long to raise the issue to them they might be allowed to keep the fence where it is or even legally take control of your property against your will! Don’t let these things slide.
HOA Requirements and Local or County Ordinances Will Still Apply
And of course, as I’ve mentioned several times already, it is imperative you check in with your local HOA if you have one, look up your neighborhood CCRs (covenants, conditions, and restrictions, not the band) and also your county and city laws before you erect any kind of fence for any purpose.
It is entirely likely that you will be faced with construction requirements on height, setback, and a lot more.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.