If you're trying to create a boundary around your property, you may be interested in erecting a new fence. Alternatively, an existing fence may be in considerable disarray and you feel it is time to take action. Yet how is your neighbour involved in all of this? The situation can be confusing, but it is best to know where you stand to avoid any potential confrontations. Legally, what do you need to know about fencing your property?
The Fences Act
While there is no actual obligation as such for you to fence your land, or indeed to repair that ramshackle structure already in place, there are specific laws governing fences. For full information, you should consult the documentation on the Fences Act 1975, or speak to your legal services representative. However, these laws control what you can do in terms of erecting, replacing, maintaining or repairing fences in Australia.
It's important to note as well that within these regulations you'll find procedures for how to resolve any disputes arise from fencing issues. You'll also find out how to assess contributions that should be sought from neighbours, if they benefit from the fence.
At the core of the Fences Act is a requirement that an individual who is thinking of building a fence gives enough opportunity for any neighbours to engage in the process. Issues that need to be discussed include the need to build a fence, the type of fence in prospect, and the costs involved. The opportunity should be given for the neighbour to provide alternatives, if practical.
Widening the Definition
In referring to a "fence," the law is also meant to cover any element that effectively serves as a fence (like a hedge), or work to deepen, clean or alter a body of water, such as a stream.
What about the Cost?
Typically, the cost involved in fencing from a legal perspective includes money spent on surveying where reasonable, and the actual cost involved in erecting, maintaining, repairing or replacing the fence. Also, a "reasonable" amount is allowed for the labour put in by a neighbour, if applicable.
Do I Have To Get Permission?
Some people believe that if they are going to undertake all the work themselves and pay all costs involved that they do not need to consult with the neighbour at all. However, it's important to talk the entire project over with them, especially if you are replacing an existing fence. The law dictates that a fence in place is jointly owned by both of the neighbours and cannot be modified without the other's consent.
Also, you may find it necessary to step onto the neighbour's property in order to erect the fence in the first place. For this, you need permission or in certain cases can serve an official notice that you're going to do so. In sensitive cases like the latter, you certainly need to seek competent legal advice first.