Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Appearance, Maintenance, and Fence Restrictions

One of the great things about owning a home is customizing it. You can landscape, paint, and adorn it in your style. However, you may be subject to local laws, state laws, and homeowners' association (HOA) rules. These rules may create appearance, maintenance, and fence restrictions.

For example, many HOAs have rules limiting the colors you may paint your home. Meanwhile, municipalities and counties create local ordinances. They may require you to maintain a clear sidewalk path in front of your home. It's important to ensure you know what these restrictions and regulations are. These are important disclaimers before purchasing a home or renovating your residence.

This article provides a general overview of the types of restrictions a homeowner may encounter on:

  • Appearance
  • Maintenance
  • Fence

See Homeowners' Associations and Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions for additional articles and resources.

Appearance and Maintenance

Homeowners associations (HOAs) enforce rules through agreements (covenants) that a community must obey. A major covenant commonly addresses the appearance and maintenance of private properties. But not only HOA covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) affect residential areas. Local zoning laws and zoning districts also regulate many of these same issues.

Covenants are voluntary because they only apply when a purchaser buys real property. Property owners abide by covenants as a condition of voluntarily purchasing their homes. For this reason, covenants can impose more strict obligations on homeowners than those required under zoning ordinances.

For instance, some HOAs levy fines against residents who:

  • Leave their garbage cans on the curb for too long
  • Fail to keep their garage door shut

Others prohibit things like vegetable gardens and clotheslines. They may also require you to:

  • Provide easements (right-of-way access) for utilities and common areas
  • Regularly trim grass and other plant life
  • Conserve water
  • Maintain a clean front yard

In this regard, both HOAs and local ordinances can regulate the aesthetics of your home and its surrounding environment.

In addition to implementing appearance and maintenance regulations, HOAs and local ordinances may also restrict conduct. They can prohibit behavior that may endanger the neighborhood or cause a devaluation in local property prices. For example, rules against high noise levels or loitering may require residents to exercise greater restraint during late hours. Laws prohibiting illegal activity, such as drug use, may require residents to curb commercial activity on residential premises. Building permits may be required to conduct certain construction activities.


Local ordinances generally control fence heights. But they may also be a subject covered in neighborhood covenants. For example, fence laws and covenants can restrict fence heights to:

  • 6 feet in back yards and side yards
  • 3 to 4 feet in front yards

Height restrictions can vary across HOAs and different localities. Height limitations generally promote uniformity, safety, and beauty in the neighborhood.

A good fence can set clear boundary lines to separate land use between good neighbors. For example, a chain link fence may separate adjacent property from a single-family home. A neighbor's fence can also protect retaining walls, acting as an enclosure. Occupants can agree (or may be required) to split the costs of erecting different types of fences suitable for their neighborhood.

Natural fences are more burdensome. Bushes or trees may be used as natural borders or be deemed boundary fences. But they become overgrown and tend to encroach on neighbors' properties, causing fence disputes. Encroachment, or intrusion across property lines, may constitute a trespass. But overgrown natural fences also tend to obstruct views, possibly violating another covenant. Your local fire department may also enforce fire safety ordinances that require removing or trimming this form of natural growth.

I'm Having Problems With My Neighbor!

Perhaps you are experiencing an ordinance or HOA-related dispute in your current residence. Or maybe you're in the market for a new property. There are many frequently asked questions (FAQ) that may arise. Consider talking to a real estate attorney regarding legal action, local laws, and zoning regulations.

Was this helpful?

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps

Contact a qualified real estate attorney to help you navigate issues relating to home ownership.

Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Help Me Find a Do-It-Yourself Solution

Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options