It's a simple questions, but a fair one at that and one that often leaves neighbours scratching their heads and left wondering who actually owns the fence that divides their properties.
The big question...who is responsible for pruning that out-of-control crawling ivy that's taking over the 50 year old falling down fence? And more importantly who should be reaching into their pockets to replace/repair the fence?
In NSW, if you and your neighbour are both owner-occupiers, you share equal responsibility for the dividing fence on your land. Split the bill...simple right?
Well it sounds simple but the law stipulates that each owner is to pay an equal share of the cost of a "sufficient fence" and as we know everyone definition of sufficient differs. In most states a sufficient fence cannot exceed 2 metres in height. If one neighbour wants a higher or more extravagant fence than their neighbour, they are usually responsible for making up the difference in costs.
Kyle Brand from George Brand Real Estate says, "If you're thinking along the lines of the standard colour bond fence whereas your neighbour is talking Great Wall of China style encrusted with gold and diamond, then reading the information on the NSW Government Justice Law Access may assist with the situation."
It's an all too common argument and you'd be surprised just how many disputes over fences there are each year across NSW. You know that creeping ivy we spoke about earlier, well that along with other vegetation and over hanging trees is the most common cause of dispute but simply maintaining your dividing fence can help eliminate issues.
Tips to stop neighbourly squabble
If you want a timber fence, make sure you have a good grade – Class One or Two and check that there are lots of knots in it
Don't attach a clothes line to a timber fence. A fully laden clothes line will assert pressure on your fence
Align your landscape designs with your fencing plans. Certain woods are not designed to hold moisture, so it's a bad idea to plant a garden bed next to this type of fence. Inform your fencing contractor of your landscape designs from the start
For minimum maintenance, Colorbond is a good option. There's no nails popping out, no shrinkage – the most that can happen is if the earth destabilises and the fence leans.
If you've got a retaining wall, inform your contractor. They should backfill it so you can allow it to compact. This will make for a sturdier fence.
If you can't agree on common boundary, get a land surveyor out and split the costs. This will likely be cheaper than court costs if the dispute escalates.
Remember it's a far better approach to try the personal approach first and talk fences over a cup of tea than before a magistrate.
SOURCE – Based on an article from realestate.com.au