by The Findlaw Team

The ideal situation for most of us when moving into a property is that our neighbours will be wonderful people that we can invite over for a BBQ, and have a drink with.

Luckily for many of us, we will have a good relationship with our neighbours, however, issues may still occasionally arise, and one possible area where disagreements may occur is if work needs to be done to shared fencing. Some of the questions that may need to be asked in such a scenario are:

  • Who actually decides if fencing work needs to be done?
  • Also, if repairs do need to be done, what are the formalities?
  • And perhaps most importantly, how are the costs divided in relation to repairs?

There are a number of general things to be aware of when answering these questions.

What is a fence?

It might be a little inane to have legislation outlining what is a fence, but yes, such laws do exist, and it’s important that a definition of a dividing fence is outlined in statute.

The Fencing Act 1978 defines a fence as “a fence, whether or not continuous or extending along the whole boundary separating the lands of adjoining occupiers; and includes all gates, culverts, and channels that are part of or are incidental to a fence; and also includes any natural or artificial watercourse or live fence, or any ditch or channel or raised ground that serves as a dividing fence”.

An “adequate fence” is described as “a fence that, as to its nature, condition, and state of repair, is reasonably satisfactory for the purpose that it serves or is intended to serve”.

Who is responsible for the costs associated with the fence?

Generally, owners of adjoining land share the costs equally for an adequate dividing fence. Where one party has not or will not pay their share, the Fencing Act contains a procedure where one neighbour can give the other a notice to contribute to the cost of the fence. They get time to consider the notice and if they don’t object to the notice, the other person can start work on the fence. The person given the notice has 21 days to object to the work on a fence, if they want to.

Fencing agreements

The best situation is where neighbours enter into a written fencing agreement about repairs to an adjoining fence or building a new fence. This will lessen the risk of future problems and unnecessary costs.

Where this is no fencing agreement

Where there is no fencing agreement between neighbours, the law provides that:

  •  the fence must be on the boundary line;
  • the cost of repairs to a fence, or building a new fence is shared equally between neighbours;
  • procedures in the Fencing Act are available to compel your neighbour to contribute to the cost of an adjoining fence - but these procedures must be following before the fence is built.

Need help?

A lawyer can help if you run into problems with boundary fence matters. They can also help if you find your fencing issues are complex and you need some clear perspective and legal advice. Seeing a lawyer can save you hassle and money in the long term. For more information, contact a lawyer to discuss your matter further. You can find a lawyer with the relevant knowledge and who works in your area using the FindLaw NZ directory.

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