Nothing stirs up a passionate debate like a boundary issue between neighbours. From a regulatory perspective, a fence does not have to be a traditional fence with wooden posts or panels it can be anything that borders your property and encloses a piece of land e.g. a wall or any structure that may also include gates. The one exception to this is if the wall is part of a building. In this circumstance, the boundary wall will always remain the sole property of the property owner and will not be able to be dealt with under any specialist fencing regulation or legislation. Retaining walls are also not classed as fences under legislation as their purpose is not to divide a property, but to support built-up or excavated earth.
If you are buying a property, it is always a good idea to have a survey done to establish exactly where your property boundary is. The fact that a fence exists and appears to indicate the edge of the garden cannot be taken that it is actually yours or even on your property, even if the Seller has evidence of having paid for it. Many a Buyer has found out too late that their property boundary extends beyond the fence line or that the fence that they think is theirs is in their neighbour’s property. If the fence is not on your land, then it is not yours – even if you have helped pay for it! So – lesson number one – if you are going to erect a fence, or go halves with a neighbour – make sure that it is either completely on your land, or right on the border.
There is no legal requirement to have a dividing fence up between properties if you and your neighbour mutually agree that you do not want, or need one.
If you do want to replace an existing fence or build a new one you should provide written notice to your neighbour, in a form prescribed under fencing legislation, advising them of the type of fence you are proposing, the materials that will be used, when it will be built and the estimated cost. If you are asking them to make a contribution, it would be beneficial to gain a number of quotes. Mutual agreement and fair-mindedness is key to ensuring a smooth process and avoiding issues in the future. If one neighbour needs a specific fencing requirement – e.g. extra height to keep a dog contained, then it would be fair and reasonable to expect them to foot the bill for any cost differentiation. You may decide to split the bill evenly if you think that the type of fence will in fact add value to your property even if you don’t specifically need it.
When determining what type of fence you are going to erect – think about the style of properties on both sides of the fence and try and find something that will complement both. Check your council regulations on heights of fences and any other restrictions that may apply. Choosing a fence that has a railing might cause arguments regarding what side of the boundary the railings will face. If you are paying for the fence and it sits within your property boundary, then having the railings face your neighbour will not be an issue providing the fence complies with all council regulations. However – if it is going to cause problems, it might be easier to opt for a style of fence without railings.
Communication, Collaboration and Compromise will go a long way to stop your fence becoming a major and costly issue in the future!