Self-help Law

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How to build a new fence and have your neighbour share the cost

Introduction

If your property and your neighbour's are not separated by an adequate fence, you can require your neighbour to contribute half of the cost of building an adequate fend. This general rule and the procedure for doing this are contained in the FENCING ACT 1978.

What is an "adequate fence"?

A fence is "adequate" under the FENCING ACT 1978 if its nature, condition and state of repair is reasonably satisfactory for the purpose it serves or is intended to serve. The Second Schedule of the Act sets out some specimen types of fences for urban and rural properties.

First, serve notice on your neighbour

If you have decided that a fence is necessary and that you want your neighbour to contribute to the cost, you must serve notice on the neighbour. The notice must state:

  • the boundary along which the work is to be done
  • the work to be carried out (the nature of the work and the materials to be used)
  • the consequences if the neighbour doesn't reply (see below)
  • an estimate of the cost of the work

Guidelines on the form and contents of the notice are contained in the First Schedule of the FENCING ACT 1978.

What can the neighbour do after receiving the notice?

The neighbour then has 21 days to do either of the following:

  • confirm that he or she will contribute half of the cost of the fence, or
  • dispute your proposal by serving a cross-notice on you (this sets out objections and makes counter-proposals)

If the neighbour doesn't respond within 21 days, the law treats the neighbour as having agreed to the proposal.

Guidelines on the form and contents of the cross-notice are contained in the First Schedule of the FENCING ACT 1978.

How can I resolve a dispute with my neighbour?

If you and your neighbour cannot agree on a proposal for a fence, the dispute may be resolved through the Disputes Tribunal (for disputed amounts up to $7,500) or the District Court.

What if immediate work is required?

If a fence is damaged or destroyed and requires immediate work, either your or your neighbour may do the work and recover half the cost from the other.

What about swimming pool fences?

If you're required to build a fence under the FENCING OF SWIMMING POOLS ACT 1987, the extra work that is required by that Act over and above what would otherwise by required is your responsibility as the pool owner.

Cautionary notes
  • Special rules must be followed if the ownership of the neighbouring property changes after you've served a notice and before the issue is settled.
  • You may also need to check the property title to work out exactly where the boundary line is, or to see if there are any special conditions concerning your neighbour's obligations to contribute to boundary work.

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