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Fences & Retaining Walls

 

Important terms

Fence: a structure used to prevent or restrict passage, provide visual screening, reduce sound, decorate a yard, deter dust or the elements or mark a boundary.

Retaining wall: a structure constructed to withstand lateral pressure and to hold back earth, loose rock or similar materials.

Before you start

Fences and retaining walls on residential property are the responsibility of the property owner. Fences located on a shared property line are the responsibility of both property owners. Any cost for construction or maintenance of the fence is a private issue between neighbours. Fences and retaining walls must be located on or within the property boundaries and follow the rules of the Land Use Bylaw.

Retaining walls do not have any setback requirements from a property line. They can be built right to the property line or run along the property line, but may not encroach onto any utility right-of-way, overland drainage right-of-way or City-owned land.

What permits do I need?

The scope of work being performed will dictate what permits are required. If a development permit is required, this must be applied for and approved prior to building permit and trade permit applications.

When is a development permit required?

Fences

A development permit is required if the following fence rules are not met:

  • 1.2 m maximum height for any portion of a fence that extends between the foremost front facade of the house and the front property line.
  • 2.5 m maximum height at the highest point of a gate that is not more than 2.5 m in length. 
  • When located in a corner visibility triangle, fences must not exceed the lowest elevation of the street by more than 0.5 m.
  • 2.0 m maximum height in all other cases.
Corner visibility triangle
Corner visibility triangle
Fence height
Fence height

Retaining walls

You will require a development permit if the following retaining wall rules are not met:

  • A minimum horizontal separation of 1.0 m between retaining walls on the same property.
  • When a retaining wall retains more than 1.0 m or more of soil.

When is a building permit required?

If a retaining wall is over 1.0 m, plans must be stamped by a practising Alberta Professional Engineer.

Note: If the fence and retaining wall height and location follow the rules mentioned above, no permit is required prior to construction.

When is a trade permit required?

As the homeowner, you are able to obtain homeowner’s plumbing, electrical and gas fireplace installation permits. To apply for a homeowner’s trade permit, you must be performing the work yourself, you must own the home with proof of ownership (in cases where the property has been purchased recently) and live in the home. If you are hiring a contractor, they must have a valid City of Calgary business licence and obtain the proper permits. It is the homeowner’s responsibility to ensure these permits have been obtained.

You cannot apply for a trade permit on behalf of a contractor. If your contractor is performing the work, they must apply for the applicable trade permit.

Risks when a permit is not obtained

If you, as a homeowner or contractor, do not have permits for work that has been started or completed, there could be consequences if you do not take action to correct the situation, such as:

  • Enforcement action issued by a City inspector.
  • A fine for building without a permit.
  • Having to undo work that has been completed.
  • Future legal and financial issues when selling your property or making an insurance claim.
  • Having to do more work than was originally planned and budgeted.

Note: As a homeowner, you are responsible for paying any penalties, even if you hired a contractor who assured you permits were not needed. If you are unsure if you need a permit, call the Planning Services Centre at 403-268-5311. Find out if your contractor has a City of Calgary business license with our Licensed Trade Contractor List.

Existing structures requiring relaxation

If a structure has already been built and does not comply with the rules of the Land Use Bylaw, a relaxation application is required. You apply for a development permit to allow for The City to weigh the impacts of the non-compliant structure and evaluate whether a relaxation is appropriate. When making this type of application, use the requirements list for Relaxation of an Existing Structure.

Timelines

Development permit timelines vary, based on the type of application and the impacts to the community.

Most building permits for home improvement projects can be issued the same day as the application. However, sometimes a plans examiner will require a more in-depth examination of the application and the building permit is generally issued within a week.

Bylaw and code considerations

Inquiries about building, plumbing, gas, electrical or heating, ventilation and air conditioning code or construction methods, building safety and fire regulations, please contact the Technical Assistance Centre​. For all other inquiries (i.e. Land Use Bylaw), please call 403-268-5311.

Note: It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that the work being carried out conforms to any restrictive covenants, caveats or other restrictions that are registered on the land title.

Fences located on top of a retaining wall

When a fence is located on top of a retaining wall, the height of the fence is measured from the upper grade level. Apply the 1.0 m height rule to the retaining wall and the 2.0 m/1.2 m height rule to a fence that is located on top of the retaining wall.

Fence located on top of retaining wall showing depths
Fence located on top of retaining wall showing depths

Derelict or run down fences

Fences on private property that are in poor condition are handled by the Community Standards Bylaw. Contact 311 for more information.

Developer fences

In most situations where a fence has been built by a developer, a restrictive covenant is registered on the land title, outlining the property owner’s rights. Developer fences older than two years are no longer the responsibility of the developer. To see who is responsible after the developer, refer to your caveat.

For any questions regarded fences off roadways, parks and pathways, contact 311.

Encroachment guidelines

New fence construction is not permitted to extend onto City of Calgary property. Visit the encroachments page for more information.

What documents do I need?

Where you live and the type of property you have will determine which requirement list you need to apply for a permit. Please read the content carefully and bring your completed documents, with drawings to the Planning Services Centre.

Sample drawings for building permits and development permits for fences and retaining walls.

Inspections

Book your inspections by contacting 311 and providing them with your permit number. Generally, your project will require a rough-in and a final inspection for each building and trade permit pulled, though additional inspections may be required. You can contact 311 on the morning of your inspection to find out if it will be in the morning or afternoon.

A development completion permit inspection may be required if a development permit is involved in your project. Call our Planning Services Centre at 403-268-5311 to determine if a development completion permit is required.

Call before you dig

Always call Alberta One Call before you dig: 1-800-242-3447. For more information or to submit a locate request, visit Alberta One-Call.

Disclaimer: This information has no legal status and cannot be used as an official interpretation of the various bylaws, codes and regulations currently in effect. The City of Calgary accepts no responsibility to persons relying solely on this information. Web pages are updated periodically.​​​​​​