Rules and procedures that govern boundary fences between neighbours in Victoria have been updated as of December 2013.
Under the changes, neighbours will generally be required to contribute equally to construction costs for a “sufficient” dividing fence (determined by the existence or otherwise of an existing fence, the type of fence usual in the neighbourhood and the purpose for which neighbours are using their land). Owners wanting a more expensive fence will have to meet extra costs.
Owners will have to seek agreement from their neighbours before building a fence, even if they intend to shoulder the cost themselves.
Neighbours who don’t comply may face a court order for their share of the costs, and local councils are permitted to give out resident contact details to allow the serving of notices.
If neighbours cannot agree formally about a new or replacement fence, the new rules allow one party to give notice to the other neighbour settings out details of a proposed fence type, location and estimated cost breakdown.
If the neighbours then can’t reach agreement, either owner will be able seek an order from the Magistrates’ Court specifying what fence should be built and how the costs should be shared.
Arguments over fences might seem a throwback from a bygone era, unless you’ve had one – and they’re more common that you might think. According to Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark over 6,000 residential fencing disputes were tabled in 2012/13 – the greatest number of calls of any dispute type.
The changes have been drawn from public discussion in 2012 around the issue.