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The terms “permit” and “variance” can be confusing, as they’re sometimes used interchangeably. Both refer to wanting to make a change to your property outside of the standard building or zoning code. In general, getting a permit is usually a slightly simpler and more standard procedure than getting a variance. Let’s take a look at each.

Fence Permits

The term “permits” refers to many things you could do to your property. But at Buzz Custom Fence, we’re most interested in fence permits. You need a fence permit if you want to build a fence exceeding the standard height limit. Getting a fence permit is generally fairly straightforward. For instance, Dallas residents complete an application and submit it –along with 100 dollars — to the city’s building inspection department. If you go in person, you might even be issued your permit on the spot. If you’re applying for a fence permit within a historic district, planned development district or conservation district, expect a longer wait, because the Landmark Commission must first review your permit.


Getting a variance means you’re legally able to change something about your property despite the law. A variance can provide for a different use, such as operating a childcare center in a residential area, or a physical alteration, such as adding a second story to your house or building an unusual fence. Instead of simply filling out an application form, getting a variance often requires a hearing with your local zoning board. Part of the process may include input from your neighbors or other community members. If they’re worried that your new project will decrease their property values, this is the time they’ll speak up.

General Guidelines

Rules affecting both permits and variances differ from one city to another. In general, a property owner seeking a variance must demonstrate that he or she suffers from unreasonable restrictions on their property. The property might also have unusual characteristics, such as a stream crossing it or very narrow portions that render standard building guidelines unfeasible. You’ll need to prove that your desired change to your property will not adversely affect the property or lifestyle of your neighbors.
If you’re seeking a permit or variance, it’s vital to document your efforts. Keep copies of your correspondence and all documents from officials.

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That New Fence Feeling

Whether your dream fence requires a permit or variance or not, your friends at Buzz want to help you capture that new fence feeling. Call us to brainstorm ideas for that new fence.
Photo courtesy of Marc on flickr