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What are your rights and obligations when it comes to fencing?

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Ben Coleman
Property Law

If you wish to construct a new fence or upgrade an existing inadequate fence on a common boundary that you share with your neighbour, you are entitled to expect that your neighbour will contribute evenly to the cost of the project. Section 9 of the Fencing Act 1978 is the relevant legislation which states that neighbours are liable to contribute in equal proportions to work on a fence.


The most appropriate way to begin the project would be to speak to your neighbour and agree on what is to be done. However if you are not able to reach an agreement, or your neighbour simply refuses to contribute to the cost of the project, you may serve a Fencing Notice on your neighbour. The Notice must specify the boundary to be fenced; the type of fence; the method of construction; the estimated total cost; how materials will be purchased or supplied and how they will be paid for; the date for commencement of work; that the neighbour has twenty one days to respond with a counter proposal if they do not agree, and finally, that if no response is received within twenty one days they will be deemed to have accepted the proposal.


Your neighbour then has the opportunity to serve a Cross-Notice on you. The Cross-Notice must give particulars of why your proposal is objected to and offer a counter-proposal. If you are still unable to reach an agreement with your neighbour, then your options for resolving the dispute are mediation, arbitration and litigation in the Disputes Tribunal or in the District Court.


In terms of materials, the fence only needs to be “adequate” to suit its purpose. For a simple dividing fence between residential neighbours a paling, close boarded or panel fence is likely to suffice, however in rural neighbourhoods where wandering stock may be an issue, a galvanised wire fence will need to be erected with durable timber, metal or reinforced concrete posts and possibly a barb wire or a hot wire.


If a Fencing Covenant is registered against the title to your neighbour’s property saying that the owner does not need to contribute to the cost of erection of a fence, then the provisions of the Fencing Act do not apply. However, Fencing Covenants usually only exist for the benefit of the originating owner of the property and do not run with the land.