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 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.
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:
- First, document the situation as much as possible with photo and video.
- 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.
- 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.