Dealing with fencing disputes
Did you know that one of the most common causes of disagreements between neighbours is over fences? We get asked quite a bit about how to navigate any fencing issues that arise when you’re looking to do some work on your fence.
Owners of adjoining properties may be equally responsible for the construction and repair of their shared fence. There’s a couple things that are case specific that can change the responsibility for reconstructing or building a fence. If you’ve damaged the fence and it needs to be fixed, you might think that you’ll just book in to get it fixed and that should all be fine. But with all joint fencing ventures, it’s really important to make sure that you run everything past your neighbour to avoid any unnecessary disagreements.
How to navigate the process:
If you’re looking to undertake a fencing venture, we always recommend having a chat to your neighbour in person. There is of course a series of notices: (https://www.publications.qld.gov.au/dataset/notices-to-neighbours) that you can send to your neighbour detailing the need for urgent work, notice to contribute to fencing work and notice for the removal or particular branches that are over a fencing line. But we always err on the side of friendliness! It’s always better to have a chat in person to let someone know that a notice is coming, or even chat to them before you draft the notice, so that they can feel as though they’re not being blindsided. It’s always best to go into the conversations looking for a solution that fits you both in the timeframe you want and at the right cost.
If you’re looking to build a new fence or upgrade your fence and you’re hoping to get your neighbour to chip in, it’s best to involve them as soon as possible in this process. Involve them in picking out your new fence and also in finding a solution that is at a reasonable cost for you both and that doesn’t negatively impact the quality of living for the other. It could be a good idea to work out a plan of attack with your neighbour and figure out where responsibility and time frames lie so that you both know what your options are.
Once decisions have been made and quotes obtained, it can be a really good idea to get details popped down in writing. And when we say the details, we mean all of the details. Everything from the obvious stuff like agreed contractor, price, materials to the specifics like what materials should be used, what colour the fence can be, which neighbour is responsible for organising the time and date for the contractor to arrive. In the event of a disagreement, it can be really helpful to have these pieces of information handy so that you can trace back where responsibility was for each of the tasks and figure out a solution.
It’s also useful to have information about your property boundaries handy so you can refer to these if any disputes ever do arise. In the event that a dispute arises, the next step would be to involve QCAT. Disputes around fencing can include a neighbour refusing to contribute to the cost of building or repairing the fence, prior to the fence bing constructed, challenges to the cost of the build or repair, dispute about the type of fence to be build or repaired, disputes around the alignment of the fence, removal of fence without proper permission or damages to the dividing fence with attachments like washing lines.
There can also be a lot of questions around who owns a dividing fence and where the responsibility of this lies. A dividing fence is generally constructed on the boundary of adjoining land rather than just on one person’s property, however if this is the case then your instance might be a bit different. If there is a fence or part fence built on one neighbours land, then that neighbour owns that fence of part thereof. This is even the case if the other neighbour has contributed financially to that section.
Generally neighbours should contribute equally to maintaining and building a dividing fence. It’s also very important for those who do have a fence dividing the end of their property, that they don’t do anything to intentionally or unintentionally damage the fence. This can include attaching clothes lines, basketball hoops or anything else that is attached to the fence. It may seem a bit extreme, but these attachments can damage the integrity of the fence, and if there’s ever a dispute, it could be used against you.
Importantly, if there is a dispute regarding the future maintenance or construction of a fence, then it’s imperative that you don’t build the fence before the issue is resolved. Although this will get you a nice new or repaired fence, it can actually cause more issues than it resolves in the new one. That’s why we’ll always advocate for you to resolve any escalated issues with QCAT.
If you have any questions about disputes or resolutions for fencing disputes we’re happy to help where we can, give us a call and we’ll be able to give you any quotes that you need and refer you to where you need to go.