A Guide to Illinois Fence Laws

Illinois’s fence laws rest on the idea that shared fences benefit neighbors equally—so the costs should be shared equally, too.
Written by Annette Maxon
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Updated on Jul 08, 2022
Fences are a shared responsibility in
. State law requires both parties to pay for the maintenance of fences shared between neighbors.
Let’s face it: you probably haven’t given much thought to your fences—but they make a big visual and physical impact on the properties on either side. Disputes about fences aren’t uncommon, so make sure you’re familiar with your local and state regulations before proceeding.
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Basics of Illinois fence laws

Originally created to settle disputes for farm owners or rural residents with long stretches of land, the Illinois Fence Act is broad enough that it applies to residential neighborhoods as well. 
The act defines a legal fence as one that successfully encloses livestock on a defined piece of land. 
In residential neighborhoods under one million residents, fence maintenance is the shared responsibility of all residents whose property is bordered by the fence.

How to legally build a fence in Illinois

Illinois gives the responsibility of building, maintaining, and paying for the upkeep of a fence to the residents who share the fence line. To comply with the law, your fence must:
  • Stand four and a half feet high
  • Be in good and structurally sound condition
  • Be constructed from materials that are appropriate to your neighborhood or town. These materials might be rails, timber boards, stone, hedges, barb wire, or woven wire
  • Be able to effectively keep livestock from entering the neighboring properties
If your property shares a border with two or more neighbors, then your fence will be classified as a “
division fence
” and will come with its own set of limitations. State law requires that every neighbor with land touching the fence be responsible for an equal portion of the fence’s upkeep. Division fences must be less than five feet high.

Spite fences

As their name suggests, spite fences are defined as fences built with malicious intent. While some states penalize the construction of spite fences, Illinois state law does not specifically address them
However, if you suspect that you are the victim of a spite fence, your case can be addressed under the state’s
nuisance law principles
These principles require a test to compare the effects of the fence on your use and enjoyment of your property against the benefits gained by the fence owner. 

Pool fencing

Anyone with a pool is required to have a fence, but the requirements differ depending on whether your pool is public or private. 
Illinois requires all
public pools
to be enclosed by a fence that meets the following criteria:
  • Stands four feet tall
  • Cannot be climbed
  • The bottom edge must be no higher than four inches off the ground
  • Fence rails must be no larger than four inches in width or height
  • Entrances to the pool must have secure and self-closing doors or gates
If you have a
pool in your backyard
, the fencing criteria are slightly different. The pool must:
  • Stand at least three and a half feet tall
  • Have a barrier (i.e., a fence) that completely surrounds the pool
Cook County residents have their own
set of requirements for private pools
, including that the pool:
  • Stands at least four feet tall
  • Cannot be climbed
  • Must be self-closing and self-latching
  • The latch must be at least four feet above the fence’s bottom edge
  • Above-ground pools must have ladders or steps that are at least three inches wide and have handrails

Does homeowners insurance cover fences?

In general, your homeowners insurance will categorize fences under “other structures” and cover them for up to 10% of your home’s coverage limit. 
Insurance will typically pay for repairs to your fence if the damage resulted from a named peril listed in the policy. Common examples are vandalism, hail, lightning, and fire. 

How to save money on homeowners insurance in Illinois

Even if it’s not required, home insurance is highly recommended for all Illinois homeowners. But we get it, coverage isn’t cheap—in Illinois, a standard policy can set you back an average of $1,445 a year for a $250,000 home. 
If you own a home, you’re going to want homeowners insurance—but choosing the correct coverage can be overwhelming. That’s where Jerry can help!
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