Who is responsible for paying for a new boundary or dividing fence?

The most common civil disputes in Australia are over neighbourhood fences and who pays. Broadly speaking, neighbours must contribute 50/50 for the construction and maintenance of a boundary or dividing fence. This is because the fence provides benefit to both parties. 

Things can get tricky when neighbours do not agree on a fence type or want a more expensive fence. In these cases, the party who wants the more expensive options needs to pay the difference. An exception to the rule is when a neighbour damages the fence. In that case, the person who caused the damage is fully responsible for the cost of repair or replacement. 

It is best to approach the situation in an informal manner. If your neighbour feels consulted, it may help you reach a mutual agreement more quickly.  


Once you have had a chat, you can send a ‘Notice of intention to repair, replace or maintain a fence’, which sets out a proposal for the construction or repair of a dividing fence. Lawyers recommend you post the document, for evidence of when the notice was served. 

Your neighbour then has 30 days to give you a ‘cross-notice’ if they object to your proposal. You cannot start work on the fence until the 30 days have passed or you have received written consent from your neighbour. If you have not received a written objection within 30 days, you can assume they consent to your proposal. 

Hopefully, your neighbour agrees to the proposal immediately and you can book in the work. If not, then some diplomacy and negotiation skills will need to be brought into play. Ask your neighbour over for a coffee (or a beer!) where you discuss your options and agreed budget. If that does not result in agreement, the matter can be taken to mediation, but obviously as a last resort.