A homeowner with knowledge of South Carolina fence laws can better avoid disputes with neighbors and ensure their ongoing privacy. While South Carolina does not have laws on fences at the state level, there are municipal laws and regulations that vary from place to place.
Some cities also require property owners to get a permit and planning approval from a local government agency before erecting a fence.
What Fences Are Required In South Carolina?
Most homeowners don’t know exactly where their property ends and their neighbor’s begins, but if there is a dispute, this information can make all the difference. In the instance of a dispute regarding the property line of real estate or erecting a fence to create a boundary line, a survey is often necessary to establish the boundary.
While South Carolina doesn’t have a specific state law regarding fences, many municipalities do. The only type of residential fence required is a swimming pool fence, and South Carolina municipalities follow 2018 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code (ISPSC) regulations.
The ISPSC considers a swimming pool to be a body of water at least 24 inches high and states that a fence around a pool must be securely closed at all times, have a self-latching gate, and be at least 48 inches in height.
Is a Permit Needed to Build a Fence in South Carolina?
There are no laws in South Carolina requiring residents to have a permit when building a fence on their property. However municipalities, counties, or building and zoning departments may require them.
Homeowners should check with their local government agencies to see if they need planning approval and a permit before designing and building a fence.
Some South Carolina cities that require a permit to build a fence include Columbia, North Charleston and Spartanburg, while other municipalities, such as Greenville, do not require a permit but do require homeowners to submit their fence designs for planning approval and schedule an inspection to ensure Greenville’s building codes and standards are adhered to.
Additional Documents May Be Required
Homeowners may need to submit additional documents with their completed permit application. These can include the property’s plat with dimensions and boundaries, location details and fence design.
Replacing a Fence Without a Permit
If local regulations require a homeowner to have a permit to build a fence, they can’t replace it without one, as it is illegal to do so. A fence replacement must go through the same approval process as the original to ensure that it meets compliance with local building codes.
The majority of licensed contractors in South Carolina are knowledgeable about local building ordinances or regulations and can offer guidance to homeowners before they begin a fence-building project. They may also offer to process the permits needed before building a fence.
How to Get a Fencing Permit in South Carolina
Most municipalities have information online for getting a fencing permit, as well as the application; requirements and instructions. For example, for North Charleston, the application is located on its Contractors/Customer Permit portal on the city's website.
A homeowner or contractor will submit the completed building permit application to the city with a plot plan showing:
- Property line location.
- Proposed and existing
dwelling units and
structures on the property. Existing building setbacks. Trees at least 8 inch dbh (diameter at breast height) within the fence’s vicinity. Tree protection, if applicable. Proposed fence height and material type. If the fence is wood, the smooth, or finished, side must face outward. Existing easements and encroachment permits, if applicable. Approval letter from the homeowners’ association (HOA), civic league or architectural review board, if applicable.
The homeowner remits the paperwork to the city for review and issuance of the permit. North Charleston requires the homeowner to have a zoning inspection for which they will pay $50 and a fee of $75 each time a re-inspection occurs.
Estray Laws in South Carolina
State fencing laws are centered more around South Carolina’s agricultural history. For example, these laws deal with “estrays,” which are domestic or domesticated animals found wandering a property of someone who is not their owner.
A person who finds an animal on their property must let their local magistrate know of the animal if they have not located its owner or it has not been claimed within three days of its discovery. The magistrate will then sell the estray at a public sale after posting notice in three public places in the county for 10 days – one of these locations is the courthouse door.
Proceeds are applied to costs for the estray’s sale, care and feeding; whatever is left goes to the country treasury. A person violating this law by using or concealing an estray for their own purposes will be charged with a misdemeanor, which carries penalties of $100 or up to 30 days in jail per offense.
Tree Trimming Laws in South Carolina
Trees can also serve as boundaries between adjoining properties, and disagreements involving them are another common area of property disputes in residential areas. Often, branches of trees will extend onto someone's adjacent property from another property.
While South Carolina doesn't have a tree trimming law, damaging a tree is illegal in this state. Violations of this law can result in a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the extent of damage to the tree.
If the loss is $10,000 or more, it is a felony; between $2,000 and $10,000, the violation is a misdemeanor. Destroying or cutting down a boundary line tree in South Carolina is also a misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of a $100 fine or up to 30 days in jail.
- Find Law: Top 10 Reasons to Have Your Property Surveyed
- City of Aiken: City of Aiken Residential Swimming Pool Requirements
- 2018 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code: Home
- Get Jerry: A Guide to South Carolina Fence Laws
- North Charleston: Fence Permit
- SC Statehouse: Title 47 - Animals, Livestock and Poultry Chapter 7 Estrays; Livestock Trespassing or Running at Large Article 1 Estrays
- Find Law: Property Line and Fence Laws in South Carolina
- SC Statehouse: Title 16 - Crimes and Offenses CHAPTER 11 Offenses Against Property ARTICLE 1 General Provisions
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.