Some people have very good relationships with their neighbours, and they want to fix their fence but they don't know where to start or what their rights are. Sometimes understanding your rights is the first step to reaching a meaningful agreement that both sides are happy with.
Most people who need to fix their boundary fences can simply talk to their neighbour, both sides agree to pay 50% of the cost, and both sides can agree on a style, supplier, and the timing of the changes.
Where can I find information?
When you don't have a good relationship with your neighbour however, a boundary fence in need of some attention can be a particularly difficult thing.
The State Library of New South Wales has some helpful information available on their website to guide you through the process of dealing with a Fencing Dispute yourself.
What is the law?
This area is covered by a piece of legislation called the Dividing Fences Act 1991 which basically provides that adjoining owners have to contribute equally to the construction of a fence that meets a sufficient standard. So if the existing fence meets the sufficient standard then neither side can be required to pay to fix it, if the fence doesn't meet standards or there is no fence, then generally speaking both sides have to contribute equally.
If the two parties can't simply agree to this then the Act provides for one owner to serve a Notice on the other, and if the owner doesn't comply, then to participate in mediation or a Tribunal.
The Act does not apply to government authorities. If you share a boundary with a park or other government property, you cannot force the government to contribute to the cost of the dividing fence using this Act. This may be something to take into account when you are purchasing a property, if that property shares a boundary with government land.
Who resolves disputes?
If the parties cannot agree, then they can access mediation and failing that, apply to have a Tribunal make a decision. Information about this process is available on the State Library page. There is also information on the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal Page but this is more to do with apply for the Tribunal to hear the matter, the State Library information is a bit more helpful if you want to understand your rights before you speak to your neighbour to try and settle the matter amicably.
If you cannot fix the problem yourself you can make an appointment to speak with Bruce Coode about the matter but, quite frankly, these Tribunals can be so time consuming that it is cheaper to pay the whole cost of the fence than it is to pay someone to fight with your neighbour. The Tribunal does not typically award legal costs because they want parties to settle the matter without using the Tribunal or lawyers.
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