Building a Fence
Fencing can cause disputes between adjoining property owners. We hope this information provides some answers to typical questions. This page is a guide only and is not a legal document. When it comes to fencing - The Fencing Act 1978 sets out everyone’s rights and obligations. This is your reference before you take any action. The Act is administered by the Ministry of Justice, not this Council. If you have any questions, you should contact the Citizens Advice Bureau or a local law office.
If you want to build a fence or upgrade an existing fence on a common boundary with a neighbour, you can pay the total cost yourself. Alternatively, you can ask your neighbour to contribute half the cost of building an adequate fence. The Fencing Act sets out a procedure for requiring your neighbour to contribute towards the cost if you cannot come to some agreement.
How high can the fence be?
You can build a fence up to a maximum of 1.8 metres in height. If you want to build a fence that exceeds this height, you will need a building and/or planning consent from Council. Please discuss this with a Council planner.
What do I do first?
The best approach is to discuss the matter with your neighbour. Make sure your proposal is realistic. Your neighbour may not agree with you on what is appropriate. You want to avoid a fencing dispute getting out of hand and ending up in court.
If your neighbour does not agree with you when you discuss your proposal, you may need to follow a formal procedure. You must give your neighbour the details of your proposal in writing – this is called a ‘serving notice’ The ‘serving notice’ must state the following:
• That it is served under the Fencing Act 1978
• The names and addresses of both owners
• A description of the fence
• Where the fence will go
• How the fence will be built
• Estimated cost
• How the materials will be purchased
• A start date for the work
• The neighbours have 21 days to object to any aspect of the proposal and make alternative suggestions.
• You must inform neighbours, if there is no communication within 21 days, then it is regarded that they agree to both the proposal and the sharing of costs.
• Sign and date the notice
• You need to keep a copy of the notice.
• You cannot start work during the 21-day period while you wait for a reply
Can my neighbours refuse to pay?
If your neighbours do not own the property, perhaps they believe the existing fence is adequate or they think your proposal is excessive, they can serve you a cross notice.
This cross notice must:
• Reach you within the 21 days of your serving notice
• Set out their objection and alternative suggestions
• State that it is served under the Fencing Act 1978 and that any continuing dispute will have to be sorted out by the Courts or the Disputes Tribunal.
• Be signed and dated
What if we just can’t agree?
If you and your neighbours cannot agree, you can take the matter to the District Court of the Disputes Tribunal. For further advice, contact Citizens Advice Bureau or your solicitor
Can I build the fence on my own property?
If you and your neighbours cannot agree and you don’t wish to take the matter to court, you can build the fence inside the boundary on your property. You will have to pay the full cost of the fence yourself.