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Fences, Easements and Right of Ways

Fences

Where should fences be located?

The Fencing Act 1978 requires that unless there is specific agreement between owners, fences must be on the boundary line. There is provision for give and take when the true boundary is difficult to fence. The Act also states minimum standards for urban and rural fences. A hedge qualifies as a ‘living fence’ in a rural area.

Who pays for a boundary fence?

In general, the owners of adjoining properties must share equally the cost of work on boundary fences. This includes the cost of site preparation, surveying, materials, construction, replacement, repairs and maintenance.

If you want to build or replace a fence, first talk to your neighbour to see if they will agree to share the cost of the work. Such agreement is best confirmed in writing.

If you fail to reach an agreement with your neighbour, there’s a process you can use set out in the Fencing Act 1978. To start this process, give your neighbour a ‘fencing notice’. If your neighbour does not agree, refer the situation to the Disputes Tribunal or the district court for a decision.

If a fence is accidentally damaged, the repairs should be met by the party who caused the damage. If the damage is caused by a natural event and needs immediate work, either you or your neighbour can carry out the work without giving notice to the other. The neighbour who does the work can then recover half the cost from the other.

Easements and right-of-ways

What is an easement?

There may be legal arrangements between your property and neighbouring properties relating to right-of-ways for access, drains or other matters. These arrangements may require you to do something (a positive easement) or require you to allow something to be done (a negative easement). Easement details are shown on documents held by Land Information NZ. Your solicitor may also hold a copy.

Do I have to pay towards right-of-way maintenance?

The law requires all occupiers of land who use a vehicular right-of-way to contribute to its cost, unless a contrary intention is expressed in the document creating the right of way. The courts have the power to decide issues and disputes in relation to easements and right-of-ways. The court may modify or extinguish them.