When you’re living in such close proximity, it’s not always easy to get along with neighbours. One common disagreement between neighbours is the sharing of boundaries. Differing opinions often arise over the maintenance of the fence, where the boundary lies, encroachment of tree branches and bushes and fences and retaining walls.
This article refers to the New South Wales legislation Dividing Fences Act.
Retaining Walls – Who’s Responsible?
Failure to maintain a retaining wall by one neighbour can make the structure potentially unsafe for not only themselves but for the other neighbour as well. Under the legislation, a retaining wall doesn’t fall under the category of a dividing fence, even if it is on the boundary point that separates the two properties. The Same rule applies to any type of wall that forms part of a house, garage or other buildings. The maintenance of the retaining walls is the responsibility of the owner of for a strata scheme; the responsibility lies with the owner corporation.
Strata Managed Buildings – Who Looks After What?
Take, for example, a townhouse situated within a strata scheme where the front and back fence of the property also marks the perimeter of the property. They would be the responsibility of the owner corporation to maintain. The property also has a fence separating the yard from the neighbours garden. Because this fence does not form part of the perimeter of the property, it is the joint responsibility of both neighbours to maintain this fence. Any cost regarding this fence, including any modifications, maintenance or repairs should be split equally between the two neighbours.
An exemption of this is when one neighbour wants to replace a shared fence where the other neighbour is happy with the existing one. If the fence is in reasonable condition, the adjoining neighbour is in no obligation to share the cost of replacement. In situations such as this, often the neighbour who wants the fence replaced is obliged to pay the full amount of the new fence.
What Else Should I Know About Fences and Retaining Walls?
If you are unfortunately having a dispute with a neighbour over the cost of fences and retaining walls, and you cannot achieve an agreement yourselves, you may have to resolve the matter in court. The same goes for any owed money regarding repairs or replacement.
Watch Out for Falling Trees!
In NSW, a neighbour whose fences and retaining walls have been damaged by a fallen branch or tree from your property can seek compensation to cover the cost of the damage.
Here is a related article by a Woolgoolga based solicitor: Neighbour disputes – who should pay for the fence?