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Who is responsible for work on fences?

Fencing Act 1978, ss 2, 4, 9, 17

The occupiers of adjoining properties must share the cost of work on boundary fences equally, unless:

  • there is a fencing covenant, contract or agreement to the contrary (these are common in the case of subdivisions), or
  • the parties agree that their contributions will not be equal, or
  • one of the property occupiers damages or destroys a fence, in which case that person must pay the whole cost of repairs.

An occupier is the owner of the property or someone occupying the property who is not the owner but who has a tenancy of at least 10 years.

Note: “Work” on a fence includes erecting, replacing, repairing and maintaining a fence, including site preparation and any necessary survey.

How do I get my neighbour to contribute to the costs of a fence?

Fencing Act 1978, s 10

You should first talk to your neighbour and see if the two of you can agree about sharing the costs of the work.

If the neighbour will not agree to pay, you can follow a formal process to require your neighbour to contribute. You can start this process by giving your neighbour a fencing notice.

What about fencing covenants and agreements?

Some properties have fencing covenants or agreements registered against them, which prevents or restricts you from claiming fencing costs from the neighbour.

What is a “fencing notice”?

Fencing Act 1978, s 10

A fencing notice sets out the work one person wants to have carried out on the fence and the contribution they are seeking from their neighbour (see the sample notice below). It must state:

  • the boundary along which the fencing work is to be done
  • the work to be carried out and the materials to be used
  • the consequences if the neighbour does not comply with the notice
  • an estimate of the cost of the work
  • how the cost will be shared (if the costs are not to be shared equally).

What if the neighbour objects to the proposed fence?

Fencing Act 1978, s 11

If the neighbour objects to all, or any, of the proposals in the fencing notice, they have 21 days to give a “cross-notice,” explaining their objection and making any counter-proposals. They may think, for example, that the existing fence is adequate or that the proposed fence is too expensive. The cross-notice must be the same as or similar to that set out in this chapter.

Sample Fencing Notice

Fencing Act 1978, Schedule 1, Form 1

To [owner or occupier, of (address)].

Please take notice that I desire that a/the fence be erected/repaired between your property and my adjoining property at [address] in accordance with the following particulars:

  • Further description of the boundary to be fenced.
  • Type of fence (if desired, specify one of the specimen fences in the Second Schedule to the Fencing Act 1978, or specify any other type desired).
  • Method of construction (for example, by a contractor, or by one or both neighbours).
  • Estimated total cost (to be shared half each, or, if different shares are proposed, specify those shares).
  • How the materials are to be bought or supplied, and how they are to be paid for.
  • Date when the work is to start.

Within 21 days after the date you receive this notice, you may object to any of the above particulars and make your counter-proposals.

Within the same time period, if you claim that you are not liable to pay for fencing, you may notify me accordingly and supply the name and address of the person who is liable for fencing in connection with your property.

If no objection is received, I will proceed with the fencing in accordance with this notice, and you will be deemed to have agreed to the proposals set out in this notice and will be liable to share the cost accordingly.

This notice is given under the Fencing Act 1978.

Dated this …… day of ……………… 20 …

Signed …………………………………

Sample Cross-Notice

Fencing Act 1978, Schedule 1, Form 2

To [the giver of the original notice]

Please take notice that I object to your fencing notice dated the … day of …………… 20 …

The particulars of my objection are as follows: [set out the proposals to which you object. If you object to all the proposals, a statement to this effect will do].

*I make the following counter-proposals: [set out any counter-proposals in the same way as is required for a fencing notice].

This notice is given under the Fencing Act 1978 which provides that, if we are unable to agree regarding the particulars to which objection is taken by this cross-notice and to the counter-proposals that are made by this cross-notice, the matter in dispute may be determined by a Disputes Tribunal or District Court.

Dated this …… day of ……………… 20 …

Signed …………………………………

[* delete if no counter-proposals are proposed]

What happens if the neighbour responds with a cross-notice?

Fencing Act 1978, s 13

If both neighbours can’t agree on how to deal with the costs of the fence within 21 days of the cross-notice, either neighbour can take the dispute to the Disputes Tribunal or the District Court (see: “The Disputes Tribunal”).

What if the neighbour does not reply to the fencing notice?

Fencing Act 1978, ss 11, 14

If the neighbour who receives a fencing notice does not send a cross-notice within 21 days, they will be considered to have agreed with the proposals set out in the fencing notice. The other person can begin work on the fence and recover the costs from the neighbour as set out in the fencing notice.

When can work on a fence begin?

Fencing Act 1978, s 14

Work can begin on a fence:

  • 21 days after the fencing notice was given, or
  • if a cross-notice is given, as soon as the differences are resolved by agreement or by the Disputes Tribunal or the District Court.

A neighbour does not have to contribute to the cost of any work that has been carried out before this time.

What if a fence needs to be re-built or repaired immediately?

Fencing Act 1978, ss 16, 19

If a fence is damaged or destroyed by a sudden accident or other cause and needs immediate work, either neighbour can do the necessary work without any notice and then recover half the cost of the work from the other neighbour, unless one of them caused the damage and is responsible for the cost of the repairs.

Building Act 2004, Schedule 1

In general, a building consent is not required for a fence if it is less than two metres high.

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Dunedin Night Shelter provides emergency accommodation and a transitional housing programme in Dunedin.

Email: info@dunedinnightshelter
Phone: 0800 745 569

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