Things to consider when installing residential fencing.
What happens if your next-door neighbour approaches you about building a new fence, but you disagree because you think the existing fence is just fine?
Before you know it, a friendly disagreement quickly escalates into a more serious conflict that requires legal intervention. This is one of the most common scenarios involving neighbourly disputes.
One probable reason is that fencing disputes are 30% law and 70% emotion. Most of the time, they are taken way out of proportion and end up in court for a reasonable resolution. When attitudes get in the way, knowledge about property laws and homeowner rights and responsibilities gets thrown out the window.
Are you planning to build a new fence? Or your neighbour thinks it’s time for a fence replacement? Here’s everything you need to know about NSW’s residential fencing etiquette to keep you and your neighbours happy.
Dividing Fences Act 1991
First, let’s talk about the Dividing Fences Act of 1991. Australian standards for building and maintaining fences are set by state governments. In New South Wales, the Dividing Fences Act of 1991 regulates all dividing fences to inform homeowners of their responsibilities and help settle disputes without the need for escalation.
The Act defines a dividing fence as a fence that effectively separates adjoining properties. This fence may be made of any material. Ditches, embankments, and plant barriers such as hedges are also considered dividing fences.
According to the Dividing Fences Act, adjoining owners are required to contribute 50/50 to the cost of constructing, replacing, repairing, or maintaining a shared dividing fence.
If there is no fence or the existing fence is inadequate, adjoining owners must share the cost of putting up a new fence. If your neighbour wants a fence but you do not, you are still responsible for sharing the cost of building the fence. If a fence is damaged or destroyed and requires urgent work, you and your neighbour share the cost of replacement equally.
However, if the fence is damaged or destroyed because one of you were reckless, then the homeowner who is responsible for the damage should pay for the repair or replacement.
If you want to upgrade the fence to a higher standard than what is required by law, you must pay for the additional cost. For example, let’s say you want to build a higher fence to keep your dog from getting out. In that case, you will have to pay for the extra materials and additional labour to build the fence to the height you want.
Dividing Fence Height in NSW
In New South Wales, residential fences should not exceed 1.8m in height. Contact your local council to discuss their rules to ensure that your fence is compliant. If your boundary fence is too high, you must seek expert advice from a qualified New South Wales surveyor.
What if my neighbour builds a fence without my permission?
Adjoining homeowners must come to an agreement before any work is done, especially in instances when the cost is split evenly. Technically, your neighbour has every right to do whatever they want if the work is within their property boundary. This includes constructing a fence that meets fencing height standards. But if they fail to inform you, they cannot enter your property to carry out the fencing work. You could sue them for trespassing if they do this.
Building a new boundary fence
Before starting any fencing work, contact your local council and get approval for your new structure. You don’t want to spend time, money and effort on a fence that will be taken down later because it violates local fencing requirements.
Once you have council approval, it’s time to talk to your next-door neighbour. To avoid any trouble, you should both sign a written agreement detailing what you have discussed about these matters:
- Fence height
- Fence material
- Fence position and property boundary lines
- Fence colour
- Fence cost + any additional costs
- Fence removal arrangement (for old fencing)
After signing a written agreement, you need to serve your neighbour with a Notice to Fence. This document is a formal proposal to build, repair, or replace a fence.
From the day they receive the notice, your neighbour will have 30 days to respond.
Like any official document, the Notice to Fence must be delivered by registered post, so you have concrete proof that they received it. If they agree to your proposal, then you can start constructing your fence. If they disagree, you will need to get back to the drawing board and find an amicable solution. If your fence simply needs a repair or upgrade, send a price quotation to your neighbour while allowing them to come up with their own proposal.
Most people will just sign the agreed quote for the fencing job. But keep in mind that if you don’t have a Notice to Fence, it can be challenging to prove your point if something goes wrong.
In the absence of a Fencing Notice, boundary fencing disputes will fall under contract law and not the Dividing Fences Act. This could make it a lot harder to settle the dispute.
If you and your neighbour cannot reach an agreement, you can ask the Community Justice Centre to settle the dispute. If there is no resolution within 30 days, you can file an appeal at a local court or the Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
The best approach to building a new fence in NSW is to perform due diligence before starting any work on your project. Know your rights and obligations to save time and money in the long run.
What to do before installing a residential fence in NSW
Read the NSW fencing rules and regulations.
- Gates should open inwards.
- Fences built on bushfire-prone land should be made of non-combustible materials.
- Metal parts should be made of low-reflective, factory-coloured materials.
- Electrical fencing or barbed wire is NOT allowed in residential zones.
Read the fencing rules and regulations for your specific property zone
You can find your zone through the “Find a Property” tool on the NSW government website.
Read the NSW Dividing Fences Act 1991 to know your rights
Purchase fencing materials that meet the quality and workmanship standards of the Building Code of Australia (BCA).
Here at Chainwire Fencing Specialist, we help homeowners choose the right fencing style, materials, and installation techniques that comply with the Building Code of Australia. Contact us today on 02 4023 5416, and we’ll help build you a fence that keeps you and your neighbour happy.