A Guide to Rhode Island Fence Laws

Rhode Island Fence laws mean fences on property lines are owned equally by neighbors who are responsible for splitting upkeep.
Written by Nick Kunze
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
In Rhode Island, a fence on the property line is equally owned by both homeowners. This also includes splitting the work of the fence’s upkeep. For disputes involving your fence, you’ll need to turn to a fence viewer.
Since your fence can impact other property owners, fence laws can be dense and complicated. However, that doesn’t mean you need to be intimidated. With this guide, created by homeowners and
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, you can learn the ins and outs of Rhode Island’s fence laws.
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What are the Rhode Island fence laws?

Chapter 34-10
of the Rhode Island General Laws lays out all the important information regarding the legal placement of fences.
For fences dividing two properties, the fence must be placed on the dividing line that separates the two properties. This fence is equally owned by the two neighbors. The fence must be kept in good condition, with one-half being maintained by each homeowner unless both property owners agree to not maintain the fence. 
You must receive consent in writing from your neighbor if you plan to build a barbed-wire fence along the property.

Disputes involving fences in Rhode Island

If you don’t want a fence (but they do), you can register a separate agreement between you and your neighbor through your town’s clerk’s office.
If fence issues are not being resolved amicably, you may need to involve a fence viewer. A fence viewer will come to the property to handle fence disputes between neighbors. This practice has been in effect since the 1800s.
Here are a few times it makes sense to call a fence viewer:
  • You think your neighbor is taking some of your property space with the proposed fence line
  • One neighbor is violating an agreement to contribute to fence upkeep or building

Spite fences

In Rhode Island law, there is special mention of fences “maliciously erected or maintained for the purpose of annoying the owners or occupants of adjoining property.” These spite fences can be deemed a private nuisance by the neighbor if they are placed in danger by the fence, are injured by the fence, or their ability to enjoy their property is hampered by the fence.
Key Takeaway Fences must be maintained by both neighbors in Rhode Island.

Does Rhode Island law require fences?

The only required fence in Rhode Island is a pool fence. This is an important safety feature that is common across the United States. 
Any outdoor swimming pool (including in-ground, above-ground, and on-ground pools, along with any hot tubs) must have a fence that is at least four feet high. The spacing between fence slats cannot be greater than 4-inches.
Any gate or door leading to the pool must have a lock. Plus, if a dwelling wall is part of the fencing, the pool is required to have a cover.
Stay compliant with these pool rules to avoid any legal trouble!
MORE: Does my home insurance cover earthquake damage

How to legally build a fence in Rhode Island

By Rhode Island law, you do not need a permit to build a fence under six feet in height.
Here is a list of what is considered a lawful fence in Rhode Island:
  • A hedge with a ditch must be three feet high upon the bank of the ditch.
  • A hedge without a ditch must be four feet high.
  • A post-and-rail fence on the bank of a ditch must be four rails high and not less than four feet and a half high.
  • A stone wall fence must be four feet high.
  • A stone wall fence without flat stone, rails, or posts on the top must be four and a half feet high.
  • All other fences not described must be at least four and a half feet tall.
Be warned—fences that unnecessarily exceed six feet can be deemed a nuisance. 

Does homeowners insurance cover fences?

Fences are covered by homeowners insurance. 
Fences fall under the “other structures” section of a homeowners insurance policy. “Other structures” are structures on your property that are not the main housing unit. This includes fences, sheds, pools, and more. However, these structures will likely only be covered for up to 10% of your coverage limit.
However, to be covered, the damage to your fence must be due to a namedperil, which includes sudden, unexpected damage. Common named perils include fires, storms, and theft. When filing a claim, be sure to take plenty of photographs and send a detailed report to your insurance company.
If your fence is damaged due to wear and tear, aging, or poor upkeep, it will not be covered by your homeowners policy.
If you have any more questions, check your homeowners insurance policy or reach out to an agent. 

How to save money on homeowners insurance in Rhode Island

If you want to keep your home (and fence!) protected against damage, you need to invest in a good homeowners insurance policy. To find great coverage at a low price, you should download the
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No, you do not need a permit to build a fence in Rhode Island if the fence is under six feet. However, fencing can be determined on a town-to-town basis, so check with your local government to see what their fencing laws are.
You’ll need a permit to build a six-foot wall in Rhode Island. Fences over six feet tall on private property may also be considered a spite fence and be declared a private nuisance.
Yes! Fences are covered under the “other structures” section of a homeowners insurance policy. This also protects sheds, pools, and other structures that are not your home.
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