Building a new fence on a shared boundary – What you need to know?

If you’re planning to build a new fence along a shared boundary there are some important things to consider. It’s essential to understand your rights and responsibilities as well as the possibility of sharing the costs with your neighbour. This article provides a general overview of what you should know when erecting a new fence and whether your neighbour can be asked to chip in.

Property Rights and Boundaries: Property boundaries are typically determined by title plans, surveys, or agreements between neighbours. It’s crucial to know the correct boundary line to ensure that your fence is built in the right place. If you’re not sure, check your property documents, consult your solicitor or consider consulting a surveyor. Also bear in mind the costs for surveying can also be shared as the definition of work on a fence under the Fencing Act includes any survey work necessary to determine that boundary. Based on this provision, the costs of a surveyor necessary to determine the boundary can be considered part of the “work” under the Fencing Act. Therefore, it is possible for the costs of a surveyor establishing the boundary to be included in the overall cost-sharing arrangements between adjoining property owners (as mentioned below).

Building a New Fence: Constructing a new fence on a shared boundary means you and your neighbour are both responsible. The Fencing Act 1978 sets out the rules and obligations for such situations. Using guidelines under the Fencing Act a “sufficient fence” should:

  • Separate the properties.
  • Mark the boundary.
  • Be functional and capable of fulfilling its purpose effectively.
  • Be in a reasonable condition and able to withstand expected use and normal weather conditions.

Consent and Communication: Before starting the fence project, it’s a good idea to talk to your neighbour about it. While you don’t legally need their permission, discussing your plans can help avoid conflicts and possibly find a way to share the costs. Open communication is key to maintaining a positive relationship with your neighbour.

Cost Sharing: When it comes to the financial side, the Fencing Act 1978 states that neighbours generally share the costs of building a “sufficient fence.” To initiate the cost-sharing process, you can serve a Fencing Act Notice to your neighbour.  These Notices provide a specific procedure for communication and agreement over your intention to build a fence.  So, what is needed there?

Fencing Act Notices:

  • A Notice has to include certain details including the estimated costs, proposed fence type, and the start date of the work.
  • Upon receiving the Fencing Act Notice, your neighbour has 21 days to respond. They can either agree to the proposal, propose alterations, or dispute the notice.

It is important a Fencing Act Notice includes sufficient information to meet Fencing Act requirements otherwise an issuing owner may miss out on rights and remedies available in seeking to enforce costs against the neighbour. Getting the Notice right is crucial.

Getting to Agreement on Cost Sharing: If a response to initiating communications or to a formal Fencing Act Notice is received then open and constructive communication is crucial during this stage to find common ground and negotiate the specifics of the fence construction and cost-sharing arrangements. Ideally, you and your neighbour will reach an agreement on sharing the costs of the fence. The Fencing Act does not prescribe a specific formula for dividing expenses. The arrangement can depend on factors such as:

  • Reasonableness: The cost should be reasonable based on the fence’s purpose, materials, and expected lifespan.
  • Contribution proportions: There’s no fixed rule for splitting the costs. Usually, an equal division is fair, but it can vary depending on factors like the condition of an existing fence, the financial circumstances of both parties, the specific needs of and benefits gained by each property.

While it’s best to reach an agreement with your neighbour on cost sharing. If you can’t agree, legal avenues including mediation, or bringing a claim in the Disputes Tribunal can help resolve the issue.

Disputes and Resolutions: Ultimately if you and your neighbour can’t agree on the cost sharing or any other fence-related matter, mediation or the Disputes Tribunal may resolve offering impartial platforms for negotiation to help find a fair resolution, otherwise seeking advice and action via your solicitor can be considered.  As noted above, it is important the correct procedure under the Fencing Act is followed if relying on the Fencing Act Notice procedure to give actionable rights.

Concluding Comments:
Keep in mind when erecting a new fence on a shared boundary it’s important to understand your rights, responsibilities, and the potential for sharing costs with your neighbour. By maintaining open communication, seeking agreement on cost sharing and/or utilising the Fencing Act Notice procedure utilising mediation if needed, you can build a “sufficient fence” while hopefully preserving a positive relationship with your neighbour.  An ongoing positive relationship can be an important factor since the other party usually lives next door!

If you would like any tailored advice from our legal team over any fencing issues or you have any other queries over any parts of this article, then please get in touch.  Our team is here, ready and willing to help out.

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