Fencing Information and disputes
In Victoria, the Fences Act 1968 ("Fences Act") makes neighbours jointly responsible for the cost of construction, maintenance and repair of fences. In most fencing matters, each neighbour has responsibility to pay for half of the cost in relation to the fence.
So where do I start?
If you want to build, replace or repair a fence, the first thing you should do is to discuss it with your neighbour. You should attempt to reach agreement on:
- the type of fence (paling, picket, brick, lattice top etc)
- how much each of you will pay towards the costs;
- who will arrange for it to be built (getting and selecting quotes from contractors);
- timeframes for removal of the old fence and construction of the new fence; and
- other costs (tree removal, fence disposal etc).
What if I want a different or more expensive fence?
A normal fence reflects those commonly built in the neighbourhood, using the type of material ordinarily used, and the usual height.
If one neighbour wants a more expensive kind of fence than the other normal fences in the neighbourhood, then the person who doesn't want to pay for the more expensive fence should pay half the cost of building a normal fence. The person wanting the more expensive fence would have to pay the rest of the cost.
Can’t reach an agreement with your neighbour?
If you and your neighbour cannot agree, the Fences Act provides for a formal process involving a written notice (a Notice to Fence) to assist in resolving a fence dispute. This Notice to Fence is a legal document that formally advises your neighbour that you would like to build a new fence and that you would like your neighbour to share the cost.
Fence notices can be given personally to the neighbour, but it is advised to send the notice by registered post.
After one month from the date you provided the notice, if you have not heard from your neighbour, or you have not reached agreement on any or all of the details concerning the fence, legal proceedings can be initiated in the Magistrates' Court to resolve the deadlock.
Taking the matter before the court should be considered as a last resort.
The Magistrates' Court can make an order about:
- the type of fence to be built;
- how much you and your neighbour will each have to contribute to the cost of building the fence; and
- where the fence is to be built.
Be aware that if you have to involve lawyers in your dispute, the cost of going to court will probably exceed the amount you are trying to get from your neighbour. Therefore, it is best to reach some sort of agreement with your neighbour.