The Great Divide

Posted on 15 August 2011

We’ve all heard of friends and family that have had issues with neighbours around fencing the backyard. To try and avoid the similar disputes and problems it is recommended that you have a general understanding of fencing laws and also good communication with your neighbours.

Essentially, fences are a ‘joint-building project’ that require communication, and often negotiation between neighbours, who may have had nothing to do with each other previously. A fence not only provides a boundary between two properties, it can also assist to maintain privacy, ensure security and reduce noise between properties. You will often find that the two different neighbours will obtain different types of benefits from the same fence, and will also have different expectations around paying for a fence.

Under the Dividing Fences Act 1991 (NSW), “adjoining owners are liable to contribute in equal proportions to the carrying our of fencing work in respect of a dividing fence of a standard not greater than the standard for a sufficient dividing fence.” This means that “an adjoining owner who desires to carry out fencing work involving a dividing fence of a standard greater than the standard for a sufficient dividing fence is liable for the fencing work to the extent to which it exceeds the standard for a sufficient dividing fence”. Disputes can often arise as to what constitutes “the standard for a sufficient dividing fence”. To avoid such disputes, however, many problems can be avoided if you take a flexible and fair approach in your discussions with your neighbours, and come to an agreement which you can both live with, prior to commencing work on any new fence.

If you are needing/wanting to replace an existing fence, you are best to start by obtaining a number of quotes from fencing contractors and then approaching your neighbour and having a sensible discussion about the options. Once you are able to decide how to proceed, it’s a good idea to record your agreement in writing, setting out details of the fence, the cost, how the costs will be shared and who is going to manage the project.

If you and your neighbour can't agree on how to resolve the issue, seek legal advice as to how to proceed further.