- Fencing law in Victoria – Your rights and obligations
- Preparing to repair, replace or build a new fence
- Talking to your neighbours about a new fence
- Sending a Fencing Notice to your neighbour
- Going to court
When you need to replace, repair or build a new fence it’s important to:
understand your rights and obligations under fencing law in Victoria
try to reach an agreement with your neighbour
understand your options if you can’t agree with them.
On this page
Fencing law in Victoria – Your rights and obligations
Dividing fences are joint property
A dividing fence separates two pieces of land. It usually runs along the common boundary between the two properties.
Both neighbours have the same rights and obligations when it comes to building or repairing a dividing fence, even if it’s not located on the common boundary.
Fencing costs are shared equally between neighbours
But this will depend on whether:
the current fence needs to be repaired or replaced
one neighbour wants a different or more expensive fence
one neighbour has deliberately or negligently damaged the fence – they must pay for repairs.
You may also need to share the cost of more than just the fence itself. This can include things like:
clearing the land so a fence can be built or repaired
removing the existing fence
having the land surveyed to find the common boundary
using temporary barriers.
You must pay for a sufficient dividing fence
The law in Victoria doesn’t say how tall a fence should be or what it should be made from. It says that neighbours should contribute equally to a ‘sufficient dividing fence’ which depends on things like:
the style of the existing dividing fence (if there is one)
how you and your neighbours use the land
reasonable privacy and security concerns
the types of other fences used in your local area.
For residential properties, a sufficient dividing fence might be a 1.8 metre timber paling fence. For rural properties, a sufficient dividing fence might be a wire and post fence.
Preparing to repair, replace or build a new fence
Check council planning rules
Different council areas may have different rules and regulations. Check your local council’s website (External link) for information about fencing in your neighborhood.
Finding the owner’s contact details
If you don’t know who owns the neighbouring property:
if it’s a rental property, ask the current tenant for the property manager’s or owner’s details
call your local council (External link) and say you want to send the owner next door a Fencing Notice but don’t have their contact details
run a title search on the LANDATA website (External link) to find the owner’s details(Fees apply).
If you still can’t find the owner you should get legal advice. If you want the owner to contribute money you’ll need a Magistrates’ Court order before any work begins.
Typically, new fences are built the same as the old one
If you or your neighbour want something different like a higher fence or one made of more expensive materials, the person who wants this pays the difference in cost between a sufficient dividing fence and the higher standard. If you both agree, you can share the extra cost.
Positioning fence posts and rails
If you and your neighbour can agree on where the rails and framing of the fence should face, then you can build as agreed. If you can’t agree, the law says if the dividing fence is:
between two residential properties: the rails and framing should go on the same side as the existing dividing fence, if there is one
between residential land and commercial land: the rails and framing should face into the residential land
between residential or commercial land and land with public access: the rails and framing should face into the residential or commercial land.
If there’s no existing dividing fence, the rails and framing should go on the side least subject to weathering.
Talking to your neighbours about a new fence
It’s normal to feel nervous about approaching your neighbour, especially if you don’t have an existing relationship or you've had issues with them in the past. But it’s a very important step to resolve the issue.
You need to have your neighbour’s consent or to have followed the right legal process before any work starts. If you don’t, your neighbour is not legally obliged to pay anything.
If your neighbour avoids the conversation or ignores you
It can be frustrating if you’ve tried to approach your neighbour and they won’t engage with you.
Don’t assume that it means that they don’t want the problem solved. Your neighbour might have issues you’re not aware of. Try to think about it from their perspective:
Is the timing not right for them?
Do they not feel confident?
Do they need more information or advice?
Do they need someone to help them to have that conversation with you?
Think about what you could do differently to encourage them to talk, and what might help them to feel comfortable about talking to you.
If you and your neighbour don’t get along
If you have a history of difficulty with your neighbour, approaching them to talk about a new issue can feel difficult or overwhelming. Think about:
acknowledging or apologising for past issues. Try clearing the air with a note in their letterbox or a conversation if you feel comfortable
being as clear as you can about the issue and why it’s important to you. This will help them understand your point of view
staying calm and trying not to react to your neighbour, even if you think they’re being unreasonable.
If you’re concerned about your personal safety, using a neutral third party such as a mediation service can help you to have a conversation in a controlled environment.
Sending a Fencing Notice to your neighbour
A Fencing Notice is a formal document that outlines a proposal to repair, replace, or build a new fence.
Your neighbour has 30 days to respond from the day they receive the Fencing Notice. It’s a good idea to send it to them by registered post (External link) so there is proof that they have received it.
If they agree, you can build as per your proposal. If not, you’ll need to negotiate a solution.
Download the Fencing Notice form
Urgent fence repairs
If it’s urgent due to fire, flood, or damage, and you don’t have time to issue your neighbour a Fencing Notice, you can proceed with the works without giving notice and without their agreement. You should at least talk to them about what you’re going to do.
If you want your neighbour to contribute, you need to give them an Urgent Fencing Notice listing the type of fencing works done, the cost, and why it was urgent. That way your neighbour has an opportunity to have a say. If they don’t agree with what you did, you will have to go to the Magistrates’ Court to get payment.
Let your neighbour know you’ll be sending it
It’s a good idea to let them know about what you’d like to do with the fence before you send a Fencing Notice. That way it won’t be a surprise for them.
Ignoring a Fencing Notice
If a neighbour doesn’t respond to a Fencing Notice within 30 days, the fencing works can begin without their agreement.
You can take action in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria to recover their share of the costs.
You don’t have to use a Fencing Notice
If you agree on everything, many people just sign the agreed quote for the job to formalise the agreement.
But keep in mind that if you don’t use a Fencing Notice, it’s harder to prove there was an agreement if something goes wrong. Without a Fencing Notice any dispute will be settled under contract law and not the Fences Act. This will make it a lot harder to resolve a dispute.
Going to court
Going to court can be expensive and takes time. Talking to your neighbour is almost always cheaper, fairer and simpler than going to court. Court should be the last step that you take to resolve your issue.
Think about the potential damage that going to court could do to your relationship with your neighbour. Taking this issue to court may start a pattern of involving a third party in any future issues, big or small.
Do I have a good understanding of what’s important to them?
Have I been clear about what’s important to me?
Have I really listened to them and tried to come up with a solution?
What am I willing to negotiate over?
Is there a different way to resolve this?
If you and your neighbour still can’t agree, you can take it to your local Magistrates’ Court (External link). A magistrate will decide:
whether fencing works are needed or not
the type of fence to be built
the time frame for building the fence
who contributes what to the costs.
It’s important to know that the Magistrate’s role is to decide on the points of law about your fencing issue only, not any other issues surrounding it. Because the Magistrate may not address everything that’s important to you, you might not end up with the outcome that you want. This is why you’re much better off negotiating a solution with your neighbour.
For more information about the court process for fencing disputes visit the Magistrates’ Court website (External link).
For independent legal advice find your local community legal centre (External link) or visit the Law Institute of Victoria Website (External link).