Boundary Fences and Who Should Pay for Them According to Australian Law

Man building a dividing fence according to Australian laws.

Sooner or later all house owners face some problems with the dividing fences that separate theirs and their neighbours’ property. Depending on the type of fence that you’re going to erect, prices can go up to A$125 per square meter, or simply said – it’s not cheap, so it’s always best if you have a responsible neighbour with who you can share costs.

According to Australian laws, neighbours should share costs 50/50 when building a dividing fence between two properties. Of course, there are some exceptions as well, but in most cases, both property owners are responsible for the costs of erecting a dividing fence.

That’s why it’s important to know what you can and can’t do if your neighbour decides to bail and refuse to pay half of the expenses.

Table of Contents:

What is a dividing fence according to Australian laws?

In The Land Down Under a dividing fence is considered anything from wire and panels to creeks, embankment and even ditches. Dividing fences also include gates, cattle grids or any other parts that form and are a part of the enclosure.

Australian laws don’t require a structure to stretch along the whole length of the property in order to be considered a dividing fence.

Most commonly a border fence is built on the common line between the two properties, however, they can be built off the boundary line if physical features do not allow for construction.

There are also some conditions that you and your neighbour will have to agree upon. Some of them include the type of dividing fence that will be built (materials, height, length, time of work, cost, etc.), any requirements by your local council and also any user limits when the boundary fence is built.

Who should pay for a fence between your and your neighbour’s property?

Depending on the condition of the boundary fence, costs can be either split between both owners or covered just by one of the property owners.

If a sufficient dividing fence is present, but one of the property owners want to construct a new dividing fence, then they are responsible for covering the full cost of the fence.

If there are repairs that need to be done, both property owners are responsible to split the cost between them. If one property owner is responsible for the damage on the dividing fence, then they’re responsible to restore the structure to an acceptable state that separates both properties.

If you or your neighbour wants to erect a higher wall, you’ll have to make sure that the current boundary fence doesn’t cover the minimum fence height set by your local council. If it does meet the minimum height, then the cost of building a new (or higher) fence is a sole responsibility to the property owner who requested a higher fence. If the current dividing fence is lower than the height limit, then both, you and your neighbour are responsible for covering the costs of building the fence.

What is a sufficient dividing fence?

A lot of factors play a role when deciding if a dividing fence is sufficient or not. The main factor that will decide if a fence is sufficient or not is what you and your neighbour agree is a sufficient dividing fence.

If you or your neighbour can’t decide and can’t work out the problem by yourselves, you can request an inspection from your local council. Their inspection takes into account the fences that can be found in your neighbourhood and the height and materials that are set by the law.

According to Australian law, a sufficient dividing fence is between half a meter and 1.8 meters in height, it’s constructed of materials like wood, chain wire, metal panels, bricks, a hedge or concrete blocks.

What should be included in a fencing agreement?

If you’re planning to do any boundary fencing work you will need a fencing agreement between you and your neighbour. A fencing agreement should include each neighbours name and addresses, location and type of fence and who’s paying for the fence and the fencing work.

Download a standard Fencing Notice (PDF)

Download an urgent Fencing Notice (PDF)

When you should pay the full price of a fence?

Of course, if you’re the one demanding to build a new dividing fence or performing any restorations on an already existing one, and the current fence is sufficient – you’re the one responsible for covering all costs.

If the current fence is insufficient, and you plan on building a better boundary fence you can send a letter to your neighbour. Include your intention of constructing a new dividing fence, a quote for the construction and a timeframe for them to respond.

If they fail to respond and refuse to cover half of the costs mediation is a great option where you and your neighbours sit down and negotiate a fair solution for both of you with the help of an experienced mediator.

If they can’t cover the costs at that moment in time, you can always pay the full cost and request their share after. This would also allow you to create a payment method that is fair both for you and for them.

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Posted in Tips & Tricks

Last update: October 30, 2018

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