Process E: Repairing an existing fence where damage is caused by a natural act or by one owner’s actions

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Home buyer / ownerConsumer

Damage caused by one neighbour

Situations may arise where you consider that your neighbour or neighbours should be responsible for paying the entire repair of the fence because it has been damaged by their actions or inaction. 

The Act only recognises a limited set of circumstances where an adjoining owner or owners who are at ‘fault’ are bound to repair or renew a dividing fence at their cost. These are where the dividing fence is damaged or destroyed in whole or in part by fire, or by the falling of any tree (or portion thereof). An element of neglect on the part of the adjoining owner or owners from whose land the fire originated or the tree fell must also be evident. 

For all other fence damage, the adjoining owners are liable to join in and contribute in equal proportions to the repairs. If you feel your neighbour is responsible for the full amount of the repairs, you should obtain independent legal advice.

If your neighbours are bound to repair the dividing fence at their cost and fail to do so, you as the adjoining owner may repair or renew the fence and recover the whole cost of doing so by referring the matter to the Magistrates Court. 

Legal Aid’s website provides guidance on your rights and obligations regarding neighbourhood issues as well as information on negotiations, mediation and dispute resolution. 

Legal Aid website:

Natural event

In the event that a dividing fence or any part of the fence is damaged or destroyed by flood, fire, lightning, storm, or other natural accident, the owner of the adjoining land on either side of the fence may immediately repair it without providing any notice to the other owner. The owner who repairs the fence is then entitled to recover half of the expenses from the owner of the adjoining land.

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