We’ve all heard the expression before: good fences make good neighbors. Whether the old aphorism is referring to knowing exactly where the property line is, keeping prying eyes out of your business, or keeping animals contained where they belong, is up to interpretation.
Speaking of interpretation, each and every state in the U.S. has its own unique fence laws.
Whether you want more privacy, better security or just to stay completely on the right side of the law, you’ll need to know what they are if you are a homeowner or tenant.
Keep reading and I’ll tell you all about Texas’s fencing laws below…
Under What Conditions are Fences Mandatory in Texas?
Under Texas State law, there are basically no requirements for building fences at any time. Pretty much all of the legal requirements for fencing are found at the county and city level.
And yes, this includes on cattle ranches. The Lone Star State is famously big into cattle ranching, and it is also known, or perhaps infamous, as an “open range” state.
This will become important later, but for now, an open range state means that livestock can basically go wherever they want, and their owner has no obligation to keep them contained on their home property, to keep them off the property of neighbors, or even to keep them out of the road.
This is something you’ll definitely want to keep in mind if this sounds like it would aggravate you to death, as you will probably be the person that is responsible for putting up a fence around your own property to prevent that occurrence.
Can Your Neighbor Force You to Build or Pay for a Fence in Texas?
Only under certain, rare circumstances. Generally speaking, a person can only force you to put up a fence or to pay for a fence if there is a prior agreement between you and them to do so for any reason, whether or not it relates to livestock or other animals.
Otherwise, the erection of a fence is only the concern of the property owner who wishes to enclose their property for any reason.
So, let’s say that you have a property right next to a person that owns cows or sheep, or any other animal.
In the course of their usual coming and goings, these critters come over onto your property grass, do their business and generally make a mess.
Could you force your neighbor to build a fence to stop this from happening? No!
In this case, throughout Texas, you will be responsible for fencing in your own property to keep the animals off of it; it’s that open range policy at play.
It is worth pointing out that Texas state law allows counties to vote to become “closed range” counties, meaning that livestock owners must fence in their properties or otherwise keep their animals contained.
If you want to avoid this exact circumstance and don’t want to fence in your property, I suggest you look for one of these counties!
To be perfectly clear, the owners of livestock are rarely liable for any damages that their animals cause when roaming around!
Are Fences Required to Contain Livestock in Texas?
No. As described above, Texas is an open range state, broadly, meaning that animals are allowed to roam pretty much wherever they want to go.
The owners of these animals are under no obligation to enclose their properties in order to contain them.
Property owners that don’t wish to have animals wander onto their property are responsible for enclosing their own properties.
Do Neighbors Have to Share the Costs of Maintaining a Fence in Texas?
Sometimes, and only if a prior agreement for a common fence was in place.
One way or the other, when a person puts up a fence it belongs to them. If two property owners put up two separate fences around their properties, then each is responsible for the maintenance of their own fence.
However, if neighbors collaborated and agreed to build and maintain a fence together this agreement is legally binding and enforceable in a court of law.
Of course, it is enforceable according to the pact and commitment that each party made, even if it is only verbal.
If you want to avoid the inevitable he said she said accusations if you’re planning on building a common fence with a neighbor it is critical to put everything in writing, no matter how redundant or pedantic it might seem.
If, at any point, you agreed to build or maintain a fence and decide not to or are unable to do so the other party could haul you to court to force you to comply or even extract damages from you for breaking the agreement.
But other than this instance, a neighbor is in no way responsible for the care or upkeep of his neighbor’s fence, though he may be liable for damaging it depending on what happens to it.
Falling tree branches or displacement from tree roots or a common cause of damage that a person might be responsible for.
How Tall Does Texas Allow You to Build a Fence?
There is no state law in Texas that governs how tall you can build your fence.
However, there are almost certainly going to be laws and covenants present at the city or county level, or from governing bodies like HOAs and other groups that will say otherwise and can be enforceable legally.
If you want to build an 8- or 10-foot fence, or even a 12 foot tall monster, the State of Texas is fine with it so long as your local municipal laws are.
However, there are some vague stipulations that no structure, including fencing, may be classified as a “nuisance” if it’s going to remain legal.
This is understandably quite nebulous, and rarely comes up, but that brings us neatly into our next section concerning “spite fences,” a legal concept that is important to know if you are at odds with your neighbor.
What is a Spite Fence? Are they Allowed in Texas?
A spite fence is precisely what it sounds like; a fence that is put up or designed in such a way to be spiteful to your neighbor! Is your neighbor complaining about your barking dogs?
Why not put up a 16-foot fence so he doesn’t have to look at them anymore? Are they complaining about the stylistic choices you are bringing to the neighborhood?
A blaze orange fence will give them something to take their mind off of your choice of trim… A spite fence is any fence that is erected to block a view, block light, or even impede aiflow to a property.
In short, it is a fence that is put up to interfere with someone else’s enjoyment of their property!
Typically, they are deliberately put up when one person is angry at another and wants to tell them to shove off in an entirely legal passive-aggressive way.
Except, a spite fence might not be legal; some states and many locales have specific laws and covenants concerning the erection of such fences. Luckily, or perhaps unluckily, Texas is not one of them…
In Texas you can put up any kind of fence, of any height, any color and any style that you may want so long as it adheres to all relevant city and county laws, and all other laws in the state of Texas.
If your neighbor hates it, too bad for them. Of course, I’m not advocating that you ever do this because it is a great way to make enemies for life, but they cannot stop you from putting up a fence they don’t like, arbitrarily, either.
Does Building a Fence Make You Liable for Anything in Texas?
Generally not, but you are liable for any damages that your fence causes directly and sometimes indirectly.
For instance, if you cut through the buttress roots of a mature tree when putting up your fence and it caused that tree to become sick and die, you can be held liable.
What Happens if a Neighbor’s Fence is Actually on My Property?
If your neighbor’s fence is proven to actually be on your property, or too close to your property in defiance of building codes and other relevant laws, you can force them to move it or take it down assuming they cannot make a case to leave the fence up due to adverse possession.
Adverse possession is a concept where someone can actually take your land, or infringe on your property rights, legally if they have been allowed to do so, uncontested, for a certain period of time.
It’s very similar to squatters rights, but assuming you aren’t moving on to a mature property that has had that fence in that spot for a couple of decades at least you’ll have a case to make them remove it.
In the case of legacy adverse possession, you probably won’t be able to do anything about it.
HOA Requirements and Local or County Ordinances Will Still Apply
As I mentioned above a couple of times, do keep in mind that your local city and county ordinances and laws will in all likelihood be significantly stricter than the state laws concerning fencing.
On top of this, you’ll have HOA requirements and sometimes neighborhood-level covenants, conditions, and restrictions that regulate fencing also…
Just because the state government is unconcerned with how tall your fence is or how it is constructed does not mean your municipal government likewise it does not care.
Always do your due diligence, and always check every applicable level of laws before you build a fence on your property.
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.