A dividing fence is a fence that separates the lands of adjoining owners.
The fence may be a structure of any material, a ditch, an embankment or a vegetative barrier (eg hedge). It does not include a retaining wall or the wall of a building.
The cost of a dividing fence includes the cost of all related fencing work, such as preparation of the land, as well as the design, construction, replacement, repair and maintenance of the fence.
Local Council approval
Where the fence is not identified as Exempt Development, an approval will be required. That approval could be Complying Development, if the fence meets the predefined criteria, alternatively a Development Application and Construction Certificate will be required to construct the fence. Application forms are available here.
Costs of a dividing fence
Adjoining owners must share the cost of the fence, except that:
An owner must pay the additional cost if they want a fence of a higher standard than is required for a sufﬁcient dividing fence;
An owner will have to pay the full cost if the existing fence is damaged, either deliberately or negligently, by the owner or by someone else with the owner’s permission. If the fence is damaged by a tenant, the owner must pay for the work even if they plan to claim the cost from the tenant;
Public authorities with control over Crown lands, parks, reserves etc do not have to contribute to fencing costs. However people living next to such properties may be able to negotiate with that authority for a contribution.
Common trusts are subject to the Dividing Fences Act 1991, and are liable for contributions to fencing.
A sufﬁcient dividing fence is defined as a fence which separates the properties, for example a paling fence in a residential area, or a wire and steel star post fence in a rural area. The owner who seeks a fence of a higher standard is liable to pay the difference in the cost between that fence and a sufficient dividing fence.
Resolving fencing disputes
The Department of Lands is the authority charged with the administration of the Dividing Fences Act 1991. The Department sets fees, makes appropriate regulations and arranges for any necessary amendments to the Act. Advice relating to fencing disputes should be sought from other sources including Legal Aid Services, Chamber Magistrates at the local court, LawAccess NSW, Community Justice Centres or private lawyers.
For more information on dividing fences and dispute resolution, please visit the Department of Lands website or visit the Law Assist website for assistance on:
Note: The information on this page has been obtained from the Department of Lands website.