How Close Can I Build To My Property Line?

How Close Can I Build To My Property Line

Property lines are lines that show the boundary of your property from that of your neighbor. The land survey usually indicates the extent of your property line. You can also get a surveyor to mark out the lines for you if you find the survey report complex to understand.

The question is, how close can I build to my property line?

The authorities usually have a required distance in which a building has to be away from the property line. The minimum distance from a building to the property line is called a setback. The distance is specified to secure roads, rivers, and highways. To answer the question, how close can I build to my property line, it is essential to note that the requirement varies in the different states and counties. It also differs according to the nature of the structure that the authorities seek to protect.

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How To Determine Your Property Line?

Determining your property line is essential as you seek to erect structures on your land. If your property line is not clearly defined, how will you know where your property starts from and avoid encroaching on your neighbor’s property.

There are various ways to determine where your property starts and ends. One way is by consulting the documents relating to the purchase of the property, like the deed. A deed describes the property referred to and specifies how far the land stretches.

You can also determine the property line by consulting with a surveyor. The surveyor should be able to provide the plat map. It is the plat map that shows the report of the survey carried out by the surveyor. In the plat map, the survey defines the boundaries or property lines of the property in question.

Another way to determine the property line of your property is to look out for the permanent markers placed on the property. It is usually a metal bar buried below the ground. With this method, you do not need the services of a surveyor to determine your property line. To make it easier to discover these property lines using this method, you can use a metal detector that automatically detects the presence of such in the ground.

What Rules Apply To The Property Line?

The rules applicable to the property line usually vary from one zone to another. The rule also depends on the public facility or property that the rule seeks to secure. The setback required to secure a road might not necessarily be the same in case of a highway, a river, railway line, septic tank, etc. It is essential to understand what is obtainable in your local area when you are buying a property, so as not to violate existing property line rules.

The rules that exist could restrict building in setbacks. It will also require you to obtain permits for structures that exceed certain limits. There are also specified limits for fences and other structures. Thus, you must understand the zoning code applicable in your area.

Setback rules change from time to time. Thus, what might be the setback requirement at a particular time is bound to change as time goes on. However, you should note that these setback rules usually apply to new buildings that are about to be set up and does not affect existing buildings and structures. However, the setback requirement might apply where you intend to reconfigure the building and add extensions to it.

Penalties For Violating Rules Relating To The Property Line

Penalties For Violating Rules Relating To The Property Line

The violations of setbacks attract penalties that one cannot take lightly. The violations of these rules could attract civil and criminal penalties and make the violator incur additional costs. The person who suffers as a result of these violations is also entitled to remedies.

Where the property is already in its finished state, it might be challenging to bring it down because of issues relating to the setback. In such circumstances, the authorities will award damages against the party that violates the setback. The essence of the costs is to compensate for the other party. The compensation is for the loss incurred as a result of the violation.

Where the violation is not a severe one, adjustments are made to the property line to accommodate the required setback.

A party that violates setback requirements could also receive injunctions to stop his building operations. He could also be required to take down and move back structures like a fence that violates the setback requirement.

Who Determines The Setback?

Setbacks are determined by the zoning authorities and specified in building codes created by the local government. It does this through zoning regulations.

Zoning regulations seek to separate the various uses of land from each other. They divide lands into commercial, residential, and industrial zones. It specifies its restrictions according to the various zones.

Also, the restrictions extend to the type of buildings allowed in a particular zone. It does not only cover for the use of land, but it also extends to the future use of lands.

How Setbacks Are Measured

The measurement of a setback starts from the closest part of the structure or building to the property line. In measuring a setback, the front, side, and rear are all considered. However, there are usually some minor structures on a property that the authorities can exempt when measuring setback. These structures could be mailboxes, flagpoles, signs, and other structures used for recreational purposes like treehouses and swings.

Setbacks are more critical in the denser part of the town. It is put in place to permit a light angle of about 30 degrees. The essence is to provide enough ventilation and avoid a situation where there is overcrowding in that environment.

The general setback for the front of a property is 10 feet, 10 feet for the rear, and 4 feet on the sides, although it varies according to the various zones. There are different rules for roads and other structures. Different rules apply to congested areas.

Most times, you cannot build over public utilities like water, power, telecommunications, etc. without obtaining written approval from the authorities.

The Purpose Of Setbacks

The purpose of setbacks is to create a safe space between properties used for different purposes. The purpose of a setback is to protect the various land uses. It does this by separating the various lands from each other. It also ensures that the construction of houses is in ways that they are not too close to one another.

Where the use for each land is not compatible with the other, adequate setback requirements have to be put in place to secure the usage for each of the lands. Facilities, where the production and storage of hazardous substances take place, have to be at a reasonable distance from residential quarters.

Setbacks are also designed to widened streets and help deal with the problem of congestion in a densely populated town. The streets on the roads have setbacks to ensure that the way is wide enough to accommodate the teeming population.

It is a convenient way to treat the issue of ventilation and lighting. It regulates the space between buildings. It is in such a way that buildings do not obstruct one another. It also prevents the obstruction of your neighbor’s access to his building.

Can Setbacks Be Removed?

When the zoning authorities impose setbacks, it is difficult to remove them. When you buy a property that already has setback restrictions, you are bound to abide by those restrictions.

There are instances where property owners want to move back the property line to accommodate a new structure or include a building. In such circumstances, you have to apply and obtain a permit that allows you to adjust the property line.

There are also circumstances where a property owner can request a variance of the setback requirement. A variance is a means, by which the authorities permit the exemption from the requirements of the zoning codes,

Problems With Imposing Setbacks   

You can blame setbacks for reducing the size of the space available for the use of landowners. It is said to have an economic impact on society. It is because lands that should be useful for several purposes amounts to a waste. With setbacks, an owner of property uses up more land than is needed.

Another problem with setbacks is that it places a limit or restriction of the landowner concerning how much of his land he can use. Thus, it amounts to a limitation on one’s property rights.


Property lines and setbacks are essential facts that one has to clearly define as part of the plans for developing real property. Setbacks are to improve the living condition of the people within the zone. Thus, all persons are to adhere to it. The issue of how close can I build to my property line depends on each area. Therefore, you must not make assumptions based on what is applicable in other zones. Instead, you should seek information on what applies in your zone. It will properly guide you in the development of your property.

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