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City of Houston Fence Regulations

Micah Rubenstein

According to Peter Coy of BusinessWeek.com, "Houston is well known as the only major U.S. city with no formal zoning code." The few regulations that do exist primarily concern safety rather than aesthetics. Three of the four ordinances that exist concerning fences are articulated within Chapter 28 of the municipal code, "Miscellaneous Offense and Provision." The fourth ordinance is contained in the city's "Health and Safety Code."

The City of Houston, Texas, has only a few regulations concerning fences.

Prohibited Along Sidewalks

Unless a property owner obtains a zoning variance stating otherwise, Houston does not allow anyone within the city's limits to construct a fence or railing next to sidewalks or streets. This applies to both residential and commercial property.

Barbed Wire

Fences made entirely of barbed wire are not permitted at any time. However, fences made of other material that are at least 6 feet in height may have barbed wire on top of them. Barbed wire may not be used to enclose spaces of less than 1 acre in size and may never be used next to a sidewalk or path that is used by pedestrians for the same purpose as a sidewalk.

Electric

Electric fences are allowed within city limits but only with the following restrictions. The fence must be powered by a rechargeable 12-volt or less battery, and the battery must be recharged via solar panel. The output of the electric charge "shall not exceed energizer characteristics set forth in paragraph 22.108 and depicted in Figure 102 of International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Standard No. 60335-2-76, as such standard exists upon January 30, 2008."

Electric fences may be used as a perimeter fence, but they have to be completely enclosed by a non-electric fence or wall. This non-electric structure must be between 6 and 8 feet in height. There has to be at least 1 foot between the fences, but there may not be more than 5 feet between them, except where there are gate openings. The space between the two fences must be clear of any obstructions, including bushes or any kind of material. The bottom of the fence must follow the natural terrain of the land.

Electric fences may not be constructed "within 25 feet of any outdoor area utilized for the storage, use, or handling of hazardous materials," and must have clearly visible signage every 50 feet that says, "Warning -- Electric Fence."

Electric fences used for businesses may not be activated during the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. except when the business is closed. Electric fences must be registered with the City of Houston.

Lastly, provisions concerning electric fences do not apply to public zoos.

Abandoned Excavation

If a person excavates an opening "of any size" and then abandons the excavation, he must either fill in the excavation with sand or construct a chain link of masonry fence around the excavation. The fence must be at least 6 feet in height. Failure to comply with this regulation will result in a penalty of $100 to $2,000 per day.

Swimming Pools

In Houston, areas with swimming pools must be enclosed by a fence. Houston's Health and Safety Code stipulates a fence's requirements, which include at least 48 inches in height. Furthermore, if it is not a privacy fence, an opening in the structure may not be wide enough to permit a 4-in. "sphere," or ball, from passing through it, unless the fence is made out of chain-link material. In this case, the links must be tight enough that a sphere no larger than 2ΒΌ in. can pass through. Any gates must be latched and lockable.