Property Disputes – Boundary Fences

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There is a common myth that neighbours must pay half the costs of a new boundary fence or the sharing of costs of repairs to an existing boundary fence. It is very easy to get into a dispute with your neighbour if you haven’t followed the correct procedure.

The very first thing that you must do is to talk to your neighbour and come to an agreement with them about the fence. You will need to reach an agreement on how high the fence should be, what materials will be used, the design of the fence and how much to spend.

Once you come to an agreement with your neighbour it is preferable to write the agreement down for you both to consider. This will ensure that there is no misunderstanding between you and the agreement can be referred to if needed in the future.  It is important to note that if you change your original plan for the boundary fence that you consult further with your neighbour to ensure that they agree.  If your neighbour sells their property before the agreed fence work begins you will need to make a new agreement with the new neighbour.

If you put up a fence without consulting your neighbour then you will need to ensure that the fence is within your property and that the fence complies with the local council regulations. You will not be able to look to your neighbour for any costs associated with the building of the fence. If you build a fence close to the boundary your neighbour can take the matter to the District Court for the Court to decide if you were attempting to avoid your responsibilities under the Fencing Act 1978. The end result could be that the Court may order you to demolish your fence.

The Fencing Act 1978 provides for neighbours that do not have an adequate fence to contribute equally to the costs of a fence. If there is no fence or you think that the existing fence is inadequate or it needs repairing, then you can expect that your neighbour will share the costs of getting the fence built or repaired, however you can agree to an unequal sharing of costs.

If your neighbour won’t talk to you, or if you can’t agree on your proposal, then the Fencing Act requires that you give notice by way of a Fencing Notice to your neighbour before you commence any work. If you don’t give the correct notice, you may find that your neighbour may not be required to contribute to half the costs and could take action against you to have the fence removed.

A Fencing Notice is a formal proposal to your neighbour. The Fencing Notice will set out the work you would like completed and who is to contribute to the costs. The Fencing Notice has to be specific and you must also advise your neighbour that they have 21 days to object. If your neighbour does not agree with your proposal then they will give you a Cross Notice. The Cross Notice should outline their objections and offer any counter proposal. If you and your neighbour can still not agree within 21 days of the Cross Notice then you apply to have a decision made by the Disputes Tribunal or District Court.

If you receive a Fencing Notice from your neighbour it is important that you don’t just ignore it as this implies that you agree with what your neighbour proposes.

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