Can you ask a neighbour to contribute to the cost of a new fence?
Yes. Generally, if you want to build a fence on a common boundary with your neighbour, or upgrade an existing one, you can expect the neighbour to go halves on the bill for the fence. That is, one that is "reasonably satisfactory" for the purpose it is intended to serve.
You should discuss your plans with your neighbour before you start putting in the fence-posts though, and keep the proposal reasonable. They are entitled to object if they disagree about what is appropriate.
If you can not reach an agreement, or your neighbour refuses to pay half, there is a formal process you can follow. First, you must serve your neighbour with a "fencing notice".
What should the "fencing notice" say?
The notice should state that it is served under the Fencing Act 1978 and contain the names and addresses of both you and your neighbour. It must describe:
- The boundary to be fenced.
- The type of fence to be built.
- Who will build the fence.
- The estimated total cost.
- How materials are to be purchased.
- The start date for work.
The notice must also say that if your neighbour makes no communication within 21 days, they will be deemed to have agreed to the proposals and will have to share the cost. Remember to sign and date the notice, and keep a copy for yourself. You can deliver it by registered letter or in person.
You can find a sample noice in the Fencing Act to help you with this.
What if you or your neighbour doesn't want a new fence at all?
If your neighbour objects to the new fence or if you have received a fencing notice and do not agree with it then it should be responded to with a cross-notice. They can object to part or all of the proposal if they believe the existing fence is adequate, or think your proposal is excessive. They can also object to being asked to pay if they don't own the property.
What should a cross-notice say?
This cross-notice must be served in person or sent by registered mail and must be received within 21 days. It should detail your neighbour's objection and any counter proposals. It should also state that it is served under the Fencing Act. There is also sample cross-notice is included in the schedules to the Act.
What happens next?
If you can't agree between you, your options to resolve the dispute include mediation, arbitration, a Disputes Tribunal or a District Court. If you can't agree on the type of fence you can also get this issue resolved durning mediation but your neighbour doesn't have to pay any more than half the cost of an "adequate" fence.
My neighbour still objects to the fence and won't let the builder cross the boundary line while building the fence. Can they do this?
Yes. But if it happens, you can seek an order from a District Court or Disputes Tribunal to allow anyone building the fence to enter your neighbour's property at reasonable times and do whatever is reasonably required to build the fence. It is a good idea to raise this issue in your fencing notice. This way, at the initial hearing the court or tribunal can authorise you, or anyone employed by you to build the fence, to enter your neighbour's property.
Exactly where should the fence go?
The fenceposts should be placed right on the boundary line or as near to it as practicable. If there are no posts, the middle of the fence should be on the boundary line.
My neighbour destroyed our fence and now they want me to help pay for a new one. Do I have to?
No. They were responsible for the damage and they have to pay.
The fence has been destroyed in a storm, but my neighbour is overseas and I need to get it repaired quickly. Can I ask them to help with the cost when they get home?
Yes. If your neighbours are away, and a fence needs immediate repairs, you can do the work and recover half the costs from the other owner.
If the fence requires replacing, you should replace it with a comparable fence. But you can't upgrade the fence without your neighbour's agreement.
How high can my fence be?
You can usually build up to 2 metres in height without getting planning consent from the local council.
However, you should always check with the council to make sure. It may be that you live in a special heritage area or are affected by rules in the district plan that mean you cannot build your fence this high.
For more information on fencing law and your rights you can use the following resources: