A Guide to Massachusetts Fence Laws

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Massachusetts’s fence laws deem fences four feet high and made of rails, timber, boards, iron or stone, or any equivalent material legal. If a fence exceeds six feet and is constructed under malicious intent, it is considered a private nuisance and could result in a right of action.  
An often overlooked but important facet to consider when owning a home is your state’s fence laws. Whether you currently have a fence or are hoping to build one, knowing the ins and outs of these laws can save you time and money. 
With car and home insurance super app Jerry, staying informed on your state’s specific fence laws is simple and easy. In this article, we’ll focus on fence laws in the Bay State, covering everything from how to avoid disputes to proper maintenance. Keep reading to learn more. 
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Massachusetts fence laws at a glance

Under Chapter 49 of Massachusetts’ General Laws, fences that are considered legal and sufficient are four feet in height and are constructed of rails, timber, boards, iron or stone, or any equivalent material
If a fence exceeds six feet and is built with malicious intent, or is maintained to annoy occupants of an adjoining property, the act is considered a private nuisance (commonly referred to as a spite fence) and could result in a right of action.
The most common type of fence in Massachusetts is a partition fence. A partition fence sits on the dividing line between your property and your neighbors’ property. Both parties are required, by law, to make improvements and maintain the fence equally, unless you both come to some other agreement. 

Massachusetts fence viewers

As outlined in Chapter 49, Section 4, failure to properly maintain your share of the partition fence could result in fines and mean trouble with the Massachusetts fence viewers.
A fence viewer is an appointed city official who oversees and handles issues related to fencing in your city or town. They can determine anything from if a partition fence should be erected to what constitutes a fence according to the law. Here are some reasons why you should contact your local fence viewer:  
  • A person fails to properly maintain their share of a partition fence
  • Collecting remedy funds from a person for the repair of a deficient fence
  • A dispute arises over who should repair a shared part of a partition fence
  • A person refuses to repair their share of a designated partition fence
  • A person refuses to erect a partition fence on land divided by a river, brook, pond, or creek (a fence viewer will determine if the river, brook, pond, or creek is sufficient as a fence)
  • You desire to erect a partition fence on shared land
  • Boundary disputes
Essentially, most issues concerning fences should be worked out by you and your neighbor. But if you can’t come to an agreement, a fence viewer should be contacted since they have the power to determine when a partition fence should be erected. 

Swimming pools and fence laws

Under Massachusetts state law, outdoor and indoor swimming pools are subject to certain fencing requirements
For outdoor swimming pools, the year the pool was built will determine the fencing requirements. Pools built before October 1975 must be enclosed by a fence that is at least four feet high. The fence must also have a self-latching gate, and the latch must be at least four feet from the ground. 
Pools built after October 1975 must be enclosed by a fence that is at least six feet high and has a self-latching gate that is at least four feet from the ground. The fence may also not have any openings larger than three inches in width. 
Indoor swimming pools must be surrounded by a barrier at least four feet in height and can’t have any openings wider than three inches. A self-latching or self-closing gate must also be used and must be at least four feet from the ground.
Residential pools must follow the requirements listed in Appendix G in the 2009 International Residential Code. Massachusetts can make amendments to the International Building Code on a local level.  

Does Massachusetts law require fences?

Homeowners in Massachusetts are required to have a fence around their residential pool. The fence must meet the following standards for outdoor and indoor pools: 
  • At least 4 feet high, with the bottom of the fence no more than 2 inches above the ground
  • No openings or spacing larger than 4 inches
  • If the tops of horizontal members are less than 45 inches apart, they must be located on the pool side of fence, and vertical members must be 1.75 inches or less in width
  • If tops of horizontal members are more than 45 inches apart, vertical member spacing must be 4 inches or less, and decorative cutout spacing must be 1.75 inches or less
  • Chain link mesh must be 2.25 square inches if used
  • Diagonal members shouldn’t have openings greater than 1.75 inches

Does homeowners insurance cover fences?

Under your homeowners insurance policy, fences are considered to be “other structures'' and usually covers up to 10% of your home’s coverage limit. When it comes to unforeseen circumstances, you can expect to find similar coverage for your fence as you do on your home. This includes damages caused by things like lightning, fire, and vandalism. 
If your fence is damaged by a natural disaster, storm, or by a neighbor, be sure to review your insurance policy—if you’re covered, doing so could save you money. We suggest you take photos of the damage to substantiate your claim and make the process easier.

How to save money on homeowners insurance in Massachusetts

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FAQs

While you don’t need a permit to build a fence in Massachusetts, you will need to adhere to certain fencing requirements. Fences that are four feet high and constructed of rails, timber, boards, iron or stone, or any equivalent material, are considered legal.
The short answer: yes. If you and your neighbor share a partition fence, you are required to properly maintain and repair your share of the fence. If you occupy common land with another person, and they request a fence be erected, a fence viewer can step in to determine if the request is legal. Whether or not you will have to pay for a fence will be determined on a case-by-case basis by a local fence viewer.
Height restrictions will differ depending on where you live in Massachusetts. With that being said, Massachusetts state regulation mandates that residential fences be no higher than six feet in height. We suggest contacting your local district to learn what permits are necessary if you want to go over the state limitations.

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