Avoiding disputes about fences
Dividing fences are a common cause of disputes between neighbours. By following some key steps, you can ensure you and your neighbour are happy with the construction and maintenance of your dividing fence, work through problems together, and avoid legal disputes.
It is always best to work through any problems over your fence directly with your neighbour. This will be quicker, cheaper and less stressful than taking legal action.
Whenever possible, resolve any issues before they damage your relationship with your neighbour. Our step by step guide for resolving disputes can help.
To avoid fence disputes:
- keep on good terms with you neighbour and resolve any potential fence issues between you before they get out of hand
- consult your neighbour before you do any work that could alter or damage a dividing fence—that includes attaching anything to it
- know your legal responsibilities over a dividing fence
- act quickly and seek help to resolve disputes that may arise.
Keep on good terms with you neighbour
Being on good terms with your neighbour will make it easier to talk about problems and resolve any issues before they get out of hand.
It is always better to reach an agreement directly with your neighbour and avoid any possibility of a legal dispute.
Speak to your neighbour face-to-face; it’s more personal and will help the situation.
Consult your neighbour
The fence between your neighbour’s and your property is owned by both of you. If you want to build or replace a dividing fence, or you are planning to do any work that could alter or damage your existing dividing fence, you should consult your neighbour before you start.
You should get your neighbour’s written consent if you are going to attach anything to the fence, for example:
- shade sails
- lattice work
If you want to build a fence
If you want to build a fence between your property and your neighbour’s property, and you have consulted them about it face-to-face, you should give them a letter telling them about the fence, how it will be built and the estimated cost—including their contribution. This is called a notice to fence.
You must get a least one written quote, but as a matter of courtesy you should supply two.
If your neighbour thinks the quotes are too high, they can get their own quote.
Each neighbour is liable for half the cost of the fencing work. However, where one neighbour wants more work done than is necessary for a sufficient dividing fence, they can pay the extra cost.
Read about your responsibilities as a fence owner for the rules you should know before starting work.
Please note – work must not be commenced prior to an agreement being reached between the parties.
Know your legal responsibilities over dividing fences
Make sure you are familiar with your responsibilities under the law over dividing fences.
Dividing fences are covered by The Neighbourhood Disputes (Dividing Fences and Trees) Act 2011.
See your responsibilities as a fence owner for the basic rules you should know.
Act quickly and seek help
If a dispute over a fence develops with a neighbour you should aim to find a solution quickly, before the issue gets out of hand. If you allow the dispute to linger it will only get worse.
Talk to your neighbour about it and if necessary seek help to resolve the issue.
See resolving dividing fence disputes with QCAT for help.
- Examples of QCAT decisions about dividing fences disputes after 1 December 2009
- Dividing fence disputes
- Legal advice and representation