Well, that depends on a number of things but the general rule is:
Where there is no sufficient dividing fence your neighbour must contribute to the carrying out of fencing work that results in a dividing fence of a standard not greater than the standard for a sufficient dividing fence.
That's classic legal speak from the Act but what it means is that where the existing fence is inadequate you (or your neighbour) generally must contribute equally to the cost of the fence that is reasonable in the circumstances. What is reasonable? The key here is what the court will consider to be a sufficient dividing fence.
The court will take into account all the circumstances of the case when determining what constitutes a sufficient dividing fence. Some considerations are:
- the existing dividing fence (if any),
- the purposes for which the adjoining lands are used or intended to be used,
- the privacy or other concerns of the adjoining land owners,
- the kind of dividing fence usual in the locality, or
- any policy or code relating to dividing fences adopted by your local council.
In a recent example while building a new duplex a developer knocked down an old (dilapidated) wooden fence to provide ease of access for earthworks. Once the earthworks were complete the developer built a tall, double brick wall along the boundary line for privacy (other nearby properties used standard 1.8m high Colorbond fences). The owners of the adjoining property were shocked to receive a bill in the mail for more than $6,000 from the developer (being half the cost of the new brick wall). After some discussion with the developer (and their solicitor), the developer dropped the claim and settled for half the cost of a standard Colorbond fence, saving the neighbour in this case more than $5,000.
This is just one example in which knowing your rights and speaking with a competent lawyer in this area can be worthwhile. Disputes over fences are common and, if not handled carefully can turn once friendly relations between neighbours into awkward silences, steely glares and hostile territory.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.