Fences and retaining walls

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fence&retainingBuilding a fence or retaining wall without a permit can be costly and may force property owners to do more work than they planned, to fix deficiencies. The information on this page will help guide you through your residential fence or retaining wall project.

Remember, we are here to help! If you have questions, contact us:

Planning & Development Services
Second floor, City Hall
580 1st Street SE
Medicine Hat, AB  T1A 8E6
Ph. 403.529.8374


The type of fence or retaining wall being built will determine what permits you require. Height measurements indicated below must be made from grade (ground level).


When is a development permit required?

In residential areas, a development permit is required when:

  The height of the proposed fence is 2.0 meters (6'-6") or higher in a rear yard.

  The height of the proposed fence is 1.2 meters (4'-0") or higher in a front yard.

  The height of the proposed retaining wall is 0.6 meters (24") or higher.

  The proposed retaining wall is likely to alter the surface drainage of the lot, affecting adjacent properties.

If none of the above applies to your project, it is likely that a development permit is not required.


When is a building permit required?

Due to safety codes regulations, a building permit is required when:

  The height of the proposed retaining wall is 0.6 meters (24") or higher and will be located at or near the property boundary.

  The height of the proposed retaining wall is 1.2 meters (4') or higher. In this case, the design must be approved by a professional engineer.

If neither of the above applies to your project, it is likely that a building permit is not required.


Important rules:

Keep sight lines clear: It is not allowed to have a fence or other obstruction that is higher than 0.9 meters (2'-11") within a Corner Visibility Triangle.

corner_visibility_thmbClick for larger graphic: icon_PDFCorner Visibility Triangle

Encroachments: It is not allowed to encroach on neighbouring property with a fence, retaining wall or other development. This applies regardless of the ownership of the neighbouring property (private, City, government, etc).
  For more info, visit Building and property information.
  Also view: icon_PDFTips for Fence Builders  from the Alberta Land Surveyors Association.

Don't remove survey markers: Boundary markers are one-meter long metal pins inserted in the ground at the intersection of property lines. It is illegal to remove or tamper with these markers.
  For more info, view: icon_PDFGuide to Survey Markers

Special design considerations: A Safety Codes Officer may request a review by a professional engineer in situations regarding the structure of certain retaining wall designs.

Guard rails: In rare situations, it is necessary to install guards at the top of a retaining wall. Contact a Safety Codes Officer for more information, or refer to Section 9.8 of the Alberta Building Code.

Land owner consent: If you are not the registered owner of the property, or the property is part of a condominium, you must have authorized permission for any development, including a fence or retaining wall. Obtain the consent form below: How to apply.



Please review this user guide before you apply online:
icon_PDFUser Guide for ePermit (Development Permits)


In person

First, see above: What permits do I need?  You can print the application form you need from the list below, complete it and visit Planning & Development Services. Or just drop by and we will assist you.

A permit fee is payable when you apply. Therefore, applicants will typically pay in person at the counter of Planning & Development Services. The City accepts payments in cash, cheques and debit (not credit cards). See Fee Schedule.

Planning & Development Services
2nd floor, Medicine Hat City Hall
580 1st Street SE
Phone 403.529.8374


icon_PDFDevelopment Permit Application 

icon_PDFResidential Retaining Wall Checklist

icon_PDFBuilding Permit Application

icon_PDFLand owner consent (Building permits)


How long will it take to obtain my permits?

Development Permits: Timelines vary based on the type of application and the impacts to the community. Learn more >

Building Permits: Typically less than 6 business days, provided that an approved development permit (if required) has been released.



If a building permit was a requirement for your retaining wall project, then you must book an inspection with a City Safety Codes Officer. Most retain wall projects only require a rough-in inspection. The requirement for a final inspection may be waived at the discretion of the Safety Codes Officer.

Book inspection online


Please review this user guide before you book online:
icon_PDFUser Guide for ePermit (Inspections)


Book inspection by phone/fax

Phone 403.529.8208 (24 hrs)

OR download the icon_PDFinspection request fax sheet, and fax it to 403.502.8036.

For general inquiries, phone Planning & Development Services at 403.529.8374.

When planning your fence or retaining wall, it is important to learn where and what underground and overhead utilities are located on your property. Locates are done free of charge, but require a couple of days notice to obtain.

If applying for a building permit for your project, it is required that you also include utility locate slips. To obtain them, contact:

  Alberta One-Call (Electric, Gas, Water, Sewer, Telus) 1.800.242.3447

  Shaw 1-866-344-7429

Sample drawings are shown in the brochure below, along with additional information:

icon_PDFResidential Fences & Retaining Walls