Believe it or not, but fencing disputes are one of the most common types of civil disputes in Australia. Fighting with your neighbours is less than ideal and creates an uncomfortable environment for all those involved, so most of us would like to avoid neighbourhood conflict wherever possible. So what’s the best practice when it comes to dealing with fencing issues? How should you approach your neighbours when your dividing fence needs to be replaced or when a new one needs to be built? In this post, we’ve created a guide to help you navigate through these sticky situations with confidence.
Let’s get to the basics… what exactly is a dividing fence?
A dividing fence is a fence that separates two pieces of adjoining land, whether it be on the common boundary line of the adjoining lands or in a line outside of the common boundary. Dividing fences have different definitions under the law depending on which state you’re in, but generally speaking, a ‘sufficient’ dividing fence is one that adequately separates two properties from one another.
Who pays for a new fence between neighbours?
Generally speaking, neighbours must contribute 50/50 to the construction and maintenance of a boundary or dividing fence. This is because both parties derive benefit from its existence.
Things can get a little tricky when one neighbour wants a higher standard fence or a more extravagant fence than the other neighbour. In these cases, the neighbour with the greater list of requirements is responsible for making up the difference in costs.
Another exception to the 50/50 rule is if one neighbour damages the fence. In these situations, the neighbour who caused the damage to the fence is responsible for the entire costs of restoring the fence back to its former state.
Deciding who pays for what and how the costs should be split is where disputes commonly arise, so it’s best to approach the issue sensitively and with an open ear. People don’t like to feel cornered or attacked, so if you approach the matter calmly, you’re much more likely to come to a mutual agreement.
Approaching your neighbours: best practice guidelines
First thing’s first, start off by having an informal chat with your neighbour about your proposed plans to build or replace your dividing fence. Initiating the fencing conversation with your neighbour by having a casual and candid chat is ideal because it shows them that you’re taking their feelings into consideration and that you’re including them in the process.
Once you’ve had a casual preliminary conversation with your neighbour, you can send them a formal document called a ‘Notice to Fence’. This document looks slightly different state-to-state, but generally speaking, a fencing notice sets out a proposal for the construction or repair of a dividing fence. You can either pass this onto your neighbour in person or by post, but lawyers recommend sending this document by post so that you have written confirmation of the notice being posted on a certain time and day.
If your neighbour agrees to your proposal straight away, then happy days! If not, then you might have to reapproach your neighbour and commence some diplomatic negotiations. The issue can be taken to court or to mediation if a final decision cannot be reached, but for obvious reasons, this should be taken as a last resort.
Deciding what type of fence to build
There’s a plethora of fences available on the market, so choosing the right fencing for your property can be overwhelming. It becomes even more overwhelming when you need to get your neighbour’s approval on the fencing, too.
When it comes to choosing a fence, it’s helpful to keep in mind several points. First of all, what’s the purpose of the dividing fence? Is it simply to separate two blocks of land? Or is it to separate two blocks of land and add aesthetic value? Time and budget constraints are two other factors to consider. If you’re on a budget, you may just want a simple, no-fuss fence. It’s a good idea to come to an agreement with your neighbor about budgets before any works commence, so as to avoid an awkward situation down the road when the costs start mounting.
Once again, communication here is key, so turn on the kettle and invite your neighbour over for a cuppa and a chat. If you can’t agree on the style or type of fence, you can contact us at Jim’s Fencing and we’ll arrange to meet with both of you on-site to help you reach a mutual decision.
How much should I expect to pay for a new dividing fence?
The price of fencing varies drastically depending on the size of the fence, the length of the fence, and the materials used to build the fence. It can also depend on other factors, like the type of soil you’re working with or if there’s an old fence that needs to be removed.
For this reason, here at Jim’s Fencing, we chat with you directly to find out more about your needs so that we can price your quote accurately. We generally only provide price quotes once we’ve gone to your property. There’s nothing worse than being promised one price online or over the phone, then being hit with a much higher price later on.
If the time has come to install a new fence or to get an old fence repaired, reach out to us at Jim’s Fencing. Our skilled and experienced fencing experts will get the job done in no time. Give us a call on 131 546 today for an obligation-free quote.
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