Fence disputes are among the most common causes of disagreements between neighbours. In fact, the Dispute Settlement Centre in Victoria reported an increase of more than 5% in the total number of cases of fence disputes, with almost 20,000 Victorian property owners seeking advice on settling their fencing issues with their neighbours. The disagreements over fences often involve the location of the fence or whether it is necessary; who should shoulder the expenses; which neighbour should do the work; who should maintain it; and even what type of fence should be built.
According to the Fences Act 1968 of Victoria, neighbours are jointly responsible for the construction and maintenance cost of fences. Each neighbour is required by law to cover half of the cost associated to the fence. However, the Act also allows property owners to contribute in varied proportion in various circumstances. If you have a fence dispute with your neighbour, you should try to resolve the issue by agreement instead of allowing it to escalate into a costly and ongoing issue between you and your neighbour.
As a general rule, both neighbours are responsible for building and maintaining the fence. In case, you’re planning to build, repair or replace a fence, you need to discuss it first with your neighbour. Make sure that you agree on how you will divide the costs, the style and design of the fence, height, location, materials, where to get fencing supplies in Melbourne, colours, how long it will take to build, replace or repair, who will get quotes and hire contractors. If you’re planning to build timber fences, you may also want to discuss who gets to choose the “flat side” of it.
It is important to get one or two written quotations from fencing contractors. Discuss this with your neighbour and try to reach an agreement. To prevent later arguments, once you have reached an agreement it is important to put it in writing. You can do this by giving each party a copy of the written quotation with the amount each agrees to pay. Both neighbours should sign the quotation. Make sure that the document is appropriately detailed.
In case, you cannot reach a proper agreement, serve a Notice to Fence to the other party. This is a formal notice under s.6 of the Fencing Act which demands you or your neighbour to contribute to the expenses involved in fencing the boundary line of your adjoining lots.