How to avoid a fence dispute with your neighbours!

Published On: 27 April 2023
Talk to your neighbour first!

Having a good relationship with your neighbours is important – a good understanding of fences can help keep you on good terms with them.

Always talk to your neighbours first – whatever you want to do with your fences will directly affect them.

If you are buying a new property, you need to be aware of any encroachments of fencing and/or the buildings on your land or on the adjoining land. It is also a good idea to chat to your potential new neighbours about your plans before you purchase the property.

Get the help of your Conveyancer early in the potential purchase, they can ensure that any fencing requirements are a condition in the Contract of Sale.

Do I need my neighbour’s consent?

You should think of your fences as a joint asset that you share with your neighbours.

Even if your neighbour has not paid for the fence, they are still a joint owner because a fence on the boundary is legally considered to be part of the land on each side.

If you intend to remove or alter an existing fence, you should ask for your neighbour’s permission.

If you want to put up a fence where there hasn’t been one before, your neighbour has a right to object. It makes no difference if you intend to pay the total cost.

Your neighbours do not have to pay anything towards the fencing work unless:

  • they have agreed to, or
  • the proper procedure has been followed, or
  • a court orders them to.
Must I have a fence?

No, you don’t have to have a fence between neighbours; most people simply

agree to have one.

However, a fence can be legally required if:

  • your housing development has a covenant requiring a fence,
  • you have a swimming pool,
  • you have a dog – owners must stop their dogs wandering, so if you have a dog that is outside, you must fence your yard,
  • fencing is a condition of council planning approval.

 

Where should the fence be?

The fence should be on the property boundary, but in practice, many fences are not precisely on the boundary.

Wide masonry fences should be on the land of the person who wants it, with the

outer face on the boundary.

A property boundary can only be determined by a licensed Surveyor. A fence shouldn’t be relied upon as an accurate representation of the boundary line, as it doesn’t alter the actual boundary or who really owns the land.

If there is a dispute about where a fence should go, get a Surveyor to determine exactly where the boundary is. If both neighbours want the survey, you can agree to share the cost, but if not, the person who arranges the survey will have to pay for it.

Who owns the fence?

The fence is jointly owned by you and your neighbour, even if it is determined that it’s not precisely on the boundary.

If you decide to pay for the entire cost of a new fence, you must get the consent of any neighbours to remove, repair or build a new fence or enter onto their land to carry out that work.

How is the cost of fencing shared?

Usually, the cost is shared half each, though you can agree on another arrangement.  Whoever orders the fence is responsible for paying the contractor in full. This person then collects the agreed contribution from their neighbour.

If you have gone ahead without an agreement, then you pay the full cost.

Where one neighbour wants a better fence – for example, a high fence where a lower fence would do, or a brush fence where steel sheeting is adequate, they should pay the extra cost.

If you and your neighbour agree on the work and the cost-sharing it’s a good idea to have a written agreement, signed by both of you. It should state clearly what work is to be done, what materials will be used, what quotes have been accepted, and how the cost will be shared.

What if we can’t agree?

If you can’t agree, try mediation first. This can be cheaper and quicker than court,

and can help preserve a good neighbour relationship. If this does not work, or your neighbour will not take part, you will need to follow the Fences Act 1975 (SA) procedure, unless you decide to abandon the fencing work, or to pay for it all yourself.

For any further information about fencing and boundaries or if you would like a Surveyors details, please contact Strathalbyn Conveyancing.