Disputes with neighbours

Sometimes residents have disputes with neighbours about various things – for example – overhanging trees, fence boundaries, or paying for a new fence.  The local council does not have influence over these matters as they are a civil dispute.  Generally, you should exhaust every opportunity for a negotiated compromise with your neighbour before taking any further action.

Fences

Fences are dealt with by the Fences Act, Victoria. In short, to protect your interests, you should engage a qualified surveyor who will identify boundary lines of the property consistent with the titles registered in the Titles Office.  Once identified, the Fences Act requires that your neighbour contributes fifty percent of the cost of a standard fence.  You have a right to construct the fence and your neighbour has an obligation to meet half the cost.  This can be enforced through the Magistrates Court. Once your surveyor has prepared the report for you make it clear to your neighbour.  If the neighbour does not cooperate, you can go to court.

If the fence is dilapidated, then the neighbour can claim 50% of a reasonable cost of replacement at a VCAT hearing.

Troublesome neighbour in your street

If your neighbour is exhibiting anti-social behaviour

Police and authorities won’t do much without “hard” evidence. My advice:
1. Document incidents with photographs, audio recorded on your phone, short description, date and time.
2. You are allowed to install video cameras anywhere on your property. You can face them anywhere you like, eg his unit and the street. The cameras are relatively cheap. Try to get a camera where you can access the video from your phone (just makes it more convenient). If you need installation, AirTasker is the best way to go.

Regarding street lighting, the council has a recommended lux level, I haven’t heard of a council installing brighter street lights in trouble spots with only one antagonist. But if you believe the street light is particularly low where you need it, email the council with the details and copy in your ward councillors into the email. Council should then investigate it. In some cases I have put forward, additional street lighting has been put in, but I reiterate this will be where street lighting is below normal levels.

Fires are not allowed, however, this is rarely enforced. If there is a regular time/day when the fire is being lit, you could inform council and they may arrange a council officer to attend at this time. But council would need to know there is a good likelihood of the offence occurring when the officer attends – council wouldn’t inspect on the off-chance of the offence occurring.

Council generally can’t enforce against untidiness unless it is extreme and a fire hazard (eg long dry grass in summer).

It’s worth a try to email councillors if you have a number of incidents well documented. Another way of drawing attention is to ask a question at a public council meeting.

You could try a petition, but naturally many people may be reluctant to sign for fear of antagonising the individual against them.

Generally

Council doesn’t mediate these types of disputes.  Council doesn’t have standing regarding disputes amongst neighbours on private land. It’s much easier for neighbours to resolve it amongst themselves, otherwise, it can get messy, time-consuming and costly. I suggest this as a process:

  1. First, document the situation as much as possible with photo and video.
  2. Send a letter (preferably a registered letter) with an expected 30-day timeframe. In the letter, state that if it’s not done, then a contractor will do it & the neighbours will be expected to pay the bill.
  3. If the neighbours don’t pay the bill, it would need to go to mediation or a tribunal which is a big hassle, because I think there’s a filing fee and you have to spend time arguing the case in a semi-legal environment.

 Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV)

Fences Amendment Act 2014

Fence disputes problems and regulations

Legal Aid