West Virginia, statewide fence laws apply mainly to agricultural and livestock properties. If you’re building a fence around your residential property, you’ll likely be subject to more stringent local ordinances.
Today’s fence codes in the Mountain State are no surprise given the state’s history of farming and caring for livestock. Per state law, a fence is any structure that can effectively keep livestock from passing through.
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Basics of West Virginia fence laws
It is important to know that West Virginia's
fence lawsapply mostly to farmers or livestock owners. Codes for residential property can vary by municipality, so check with your local government for the most up-to-date residential codes.
Even so, the state requires the following criteria to be met for all legal fences:
- The structure must be effective atblocking any kind of livestockfrom passing through
- “Worm fences” (i.e., fences constructed from common rails) must stand four and a half feet high
- Fences must stand four feet tall if made from a combination of posts and rails, posts and plank, or pickets
- Stone fences have a minimum height requirement of three and a half feet tall with a two-foot-wide base
- Hedge fences must be at least four feet high
Rivers and streams as lawful fences
Don’t think that fences are only made of wood or steel—West Virginia state law also recognizes waterways as legal fences.
As with regular fences, there are a few things you need to do to get a river or stream approved. You must submit an application to the county court proving that the river or stream on your property keeps livestock from passing through.
From there, you’ll have to wait. The approval process takes at least a year from the date on which you applied. Once the order is approved, six months must pass before it actually takes effect.
Those hedges lining highways and roads aren’t just there for decoration. Categorized as “hedge fences,” plant material can also be used to line public roadways or mark property lines between neighboring properties.
Hedge fences must also comply with the state’s fence codes. This type of fence must be trimmed so that the branches do not extend into roads or neighboring properties.
Be sure to keep your hedges well-groomed—your neighbor can submit a written complaint to the county supervisor if you fail to do so.
If you do not trim your hedges to the legal length within ten days of the complaint, you can be charged with a misdemeanor. Additionally, a one dollar fine will be charged for every day the hedge fence goes without being trimmed.
Does West Virginia law require fences around pools?
The state does not mandate
fencesaround public or private pools. However, many local governments and municipalities have their own laws regarding pool fences.
Best practice is to visit your local government’s website to learn more about the guidelines required for your area.
How to legally build a fence in West Virginia
While the state may have requirements for how to legally build a fence, the guidelines only apply to owners of property used for agricultural, horticultural, or livestock under code §19-17-5.
For more info on residential fences, contact your local government or visit its website.
If you and your neighbor both own land that falls under West Virginia’s fence law, be prepared to split the costs. Owners of adjoining properties are responsible for contributing an equal share in constructing, repairing, and maintaining the fence.
Before you start buying materials for your future fence or your fence repairs, you’re legally required to provide a written notice to the adjoining landowner. This notice is intended to provide details on the building, maintenance, or repairs to be made, plus costs estimates.
The neighbor has ten days to review the notice and return a written answer. This formal response is an opportunity for the neighboring landowner to share any objections.
Key Takeaway If you’re building a fence, you must notify your neighbor via a written notice and wait ten days for a response before continuing with the project.
Does homeowners insurance cover fences?
In general, fences are grouped under the “other structures” coverage in your insurance plan, meaning that you’ll receive coverage for up to 10% of your dwelling coverage amount.
How to save money on homeowners insurance in West Virginia
Now that you know the ins and outs of fence laws, it’s time to make sure that you have the best insurance coverage for your needs. When it comes to homeowners insurance, West Virginia residents pay an average of $1,416 per year, exceeding the nation’s average cost of coverage (around $1,083 each year).
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Do I need a permit to build a fence in West Virginia?
The state does not require permits for building agricultural fences. However, it is best to check with your local government before dropping money on a new set of tools.
Can my neighbor make me pay for a fence in West Virginia?
Yes, but only if your fence falls on a property used for agriculture or livestock. State law requires that neighbors of the adjoining agricultural properties contribute their fair share to maintaining, repairing, and building fences.
For residential properties, you must consult their local government’s fence laws to determine whether a neighbor can make you pay for a fence.