Building & Zoning Permits Series

Do I Need a Permit to Install a Fence in NJ?

Understanding the difference between a building permit and a zoning permit, what it means to your project and how to obtain one….


By Forever Green Landscape Construction & Design – Bergen County NJ

Fences & Permits in NJ

We are often asked by customers; “Do I need a building permit to put up a fence in NJ?”. The answer is no for a building permit.The installation of a fence does not require a building permit under the New Jersey Uniform Construction Code. However a fence installation will almost always fall under your town’s zoning laws thus requiring a “zoning permit”

6' Solid Privacy Grey Lyndhurst,NJ 07071
6' Solid Privacy Fence Secaucus,NJ 07094

What is the difference between a building permit and a zoning permit?

A building permit incorporates the relationship between the contractor and the state of New Jersey as administered by each individual municipal construction code office. A building permit represents parameters under which a structure must be constructed. If a contractor fails to construct a structure by specifications listed in the New Jersey Uniform Construction Code, they will fail inspection. Only those structures that are constructed to proper specification will pass inspection. 

In most cases homeowners can pull their own building permit even if they are utilizing a registered or licensed contractor. They simply become responsible for the inspection and finished product in lieu of the contractor. 

A zoning permit however, has to do with the relationship between the town and the homeowner. In the case of a zoning permit the town decides what the homeowner can and cannot build, construct or install in relations to established zoning laws.

6' Wood fence Board on Board Maywood, Nj 07607
6' Solid Privacy White Vinyl Fence w Landscaping_Contractor Install_ East Rutherford, NJ 07073

 It is always best and recommended that homeowners pull their own zoning permits. Towns who decide unfavorably and or unreasonably against common home improvement projects such as fencing are forced to explain their findings to the tax payer. Our contracts are written upon the premise that the homeowner has satisfactorily obtained zoning approval for their respective project.

 Some zoning permit denials are reasonable and sensible and fall into the towns legitimate interest to prohibit. No one wants to see a neighbor with a 6’ solid privacy fence on their front lawn leaving their house to look like a fortress disrupting the look and feel of the block and neighborhood. That’s fair.

6' Solid Privacy Khaki North Arlington, NJ 07031

There is a legitimate purpose to zoning laws. However, we have seen many zoning permit denials that aren’t sensible and don’t seem to support any rational goal or interest of the town. This is particularly true where a side of homeowners yard abuts a busy street. Absent a solid privacy fence the yard is a fishbowl to onlooking traffic and severely lacks privacy where one would expect it. Despite this fact, some town zoning laws indicate that a solid privacy fence can only begin at the rear of the house thus any deviation would require a variance. IN a case like that the homeowners side yard, which realistically serves as their backyard is devoid of privacy via a bad read or application of zoning law.There are many interpretations of that and each scenario is contingent upon each individual municipal construction office and whether or not they have a favorable or unfavorable read to the zoning law. 

- Installed by Forever Green Landsape Construction & Design

How do I fill out a zoning permit?

An application for zoning permit is usually a very easy lift. It typically requires knowing the block and lot number of the house which can be found on a tax statement along with a copy of the property survey. Most towns will typically ask the applicant to mark where on the survey their project is being proposed. 

In the case of a fence install you can mark out the fence using a solid line while utilizing squares for the corners. It is beneficial to indicate key measurements on the survey such as the distance from a structure, like a garage, or the distance from the neighbor’s property line. You will also want to differentiate on the survey the different heights of fence ( if there are any) and where the heights begin and end. This is important as it directly correlates to the zoning law.

While not required it is also helpful to bring in pictures of the areas along with pictures of the materials being proposed to be installed.  It is a great idea to “superimpose” a sketch-up of the work over the picture to illustrate your proposed project leaving no doubts to the zoning official, the parameters of the project you are seeking approval for.

Failure to apply for a zoning permit may give grounds to the zoning official to request the structures removal. This could lead to unnecessary court appearances and potential litigation.

6' Solid Privacy White Vinyl Fence w Landscaping_Contractor Install_ Kearny,NJ 07032
4' Scalloped Picket Clifton, NJ 07013

What if my zoning permit gets denied?

As with any legal matter there is always an appellate review process. Homeowners should always ask beforehand what the appellate process is and where it can be found. If you are denied for valid reasons you can seek a variance, which is a concerted effort to gain a consensus between people who would be affected by the abatement of the zoning law and yourself, along with the town who would overhear the matter. There is no guarantee the variance will be granted but in many cases it is worth the effort.

Scalloped Picket_Clifton, NJ 07011

Typical Legal Recourse

Defective on Face – a facial argument means that the law as written is improper or even unconstitutional as it seeks to regulate or restrict an action that is legally unsupported or legally defective. 

As Applied – an “as applied” argument indicates that the law on its face is valid but it is being misapplied for a number of different reasons. Perhaps the property doesn’t qualify to the property stated in the law or the restrictions do not apply to the type of fence but rather only to masonry walls. In a case like that the law would be improper, unconstitutional or defective “as applied”.