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Does my Neighbour Need to Pay for Half the Boundary Fence?

Boundary fencing between neighbouring properties is a common issue that we come across, with it not always being clear what is required by each neighbour and it can sometimes lead to frustrating disputes. One of the key questions that often arises is whether you are obligated to share the cost of a boundary fence with your neighbour. The simple answers is ‘yes, usually’. But like with many laws there are exceptions to this. Understanding the laws and regulations surrounding this matter is essential to navigate any potential conflicts smoothly. It’s something we do come across all the time and while we can’t offer legal advice or mediate with a neighbour we can give you guidance as to what the law says and also - probably more importantly and also more valuable - what we’ve seen work in our 20 years of experience to get a resolution with the minimum amount of conflict or frustration. 

What the Law Says

In Victoria, the laws regarding boundary fencing are primarily governed by the Fences Act 1968. According to this legislation, property owners are typically responsible for contributing to the cost of constructing or repairing a "sufficient" dividing fence between their properties. The term "sufficient" is crucial here, as it implies that the fence should be adequate for the purpose it serves, which is often to separate the properties and provide privacy as well as security.

Determining Responsibility

The responsibility for sharing the cost of a boundary fence is generally divided equally between neighbouring property owners. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, if one party wishes to construct a fence that is more expensive or elaborate than what is considered reasonable, they may be required to bear the additional cost themselves.

Additionally, if one party desires a particular type of fence that exceeds the standards of what is considered "sufficient," they may be responsible for covering the extra expenses. In our experience it’s always best to communicate with your neighbour early and clearly and reach an agreement on the type and cost of the fence before proceeding with any construction. While we do our best to ensure the ‘commissioning’ client has made everyone aware of what is happening there have been rare occasions where we have turned up on site and a neighbour has blocked access due to not being in agreement. In this circumstance a fencing contractor is not able to intervene or make a determination and so it’s always best to make sure you’re all on the same page first to avoid unnecessary costs and delays. 

Disputes and Resolutions

Disputes regarding boundary fencing can arise for various reasons, such as disagreements over the type of fence, the cost, or the condition of an existing fence in need of repair. When disputes occur, it's advisable for both parties to attempt to resolve the issue amicably through negotiation and discussion. 

If an agreement cannot be reached, either party can seek assistance from the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV) or other mediation services. These organizations offer mediation services to help neighbours come to a mutually acceptable resolution. If mediation fails, legal action through the Magistrates' Court may be necessary to resolve the matter.

Exceptions and Special Circumstances

Certain situations may exempt property owners from sharing the cost of a boundary fence equally. For instance, if one property owner has a substantial financial advantage over the other, such as a larger or more valuable property, they may be required to contribute more to the cost of the fence.

Additionally, if one property owner wishes to construct a fence for their exclusive benefit, such as enclosing a swimming pool or protecting valuable assets, they may be responsible for covering the entire cost themselves.

So what’s the upshot?

In Victoria, Australia, the responsibility for sharing the cost of a boundary fence with your neighbour is typically divided equally, unless there are specific circumstances that warrant a different arrangement. Understanding your rights and obligations under the Fences Act 1968 is essential for maintaining positive relationships with your neighbours and avoiding potential disputes.

Communication and cooperation are key when it comes to resolving issues related to boundary fencing. By engaging in open dialogue and seeking mediation if necessary, you can often find a satisfactory solution that benefits both parties involved. If you speak to Mornington Peninsula Fences first we can help you understand yours and your neighbours obligations and guide you to find a resolution that everyone will be happy with.


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