Know your fencing rights
A big backyard with plenty of grassy space is a Kiwi dream, especially for those with kids or pets who can enjoy playing outdoors. Often, this includes a fence for privacy, security, and protection from neighbourhood noise.
Whether you have an existing fence you’re looking to replace or upgrade, or you’re planning to build a new fence from scratch, it is important to first understand your rights and obligations. Fencing rights in New Zealand outline how neighbours should work together to make fencing decisions and come to an agreement when the fence is located along the adjoining property line.
New Zealand fencing rights – and exemptions
The key fencing right to remember is that the cost of building or upgrading any fence on a shared property boundary must be paid for equally by the occupiers of those properties.
However, there are some exemptions from this rule.
The first is that costs do not have to be shared when there is a written agreement or contract stating so. This is the most common in the case of subdivisions, and you will be able to find details on your initial property paperwork.
Another exemption is if both parties agree to pay different amounts. Perhaps you would like to build a fence and are happy to pay for the entire cost, whereas a neighbour is indifferent and not able to contribute financially. Should you both agree to you covering the full cost, you can move ahead with your build.
Finally, the last exemption for shared fencing costs is if one neighbour damages or destroys the fence. It is then up to that neighbour to pay for the repairs or replacement.
Creating a fencing notice
Once you understand your fencing rights and are ready to move ahead with your projects, there are a few steps you’ll need to take. The first is to create a fencing notice for your neighbour.
To start, this notice must include both of your names and addresses. It must also clearly outline:
- The shared boundary on which you wish to build a fence
- The type of fence you’re planning
- The estimated total cost
- Who will do the building work
- How the materials will be attained
- When work will begin
You must sign and date the notice, and keep a copy for yourself. This notice must also make it clear that your neighbour has 21 days to either accept the project, or submit an objection. If they do not respond or accept within that time, they will be deemed as accepting the proposal, and will be required to pay half the cost.
What is a cross-notice?
If your neighbour does not want a new fence or upgrades, they can serve you with a cross-notice objecting to your proposal. This can also be because they think your proposal is excessive or unnecessary in some way.
Keep in mind, your neighbour is only obligated to pay for half of an ‘adequate’ fence. If you decide to build a fence made from pure gold, your neighbour will still only have to pay for half of what a simple wooden fence would cost.
Should the two of you not be able to come to an agreement, you will need to seek arbitration, mediation, or help from a Distributes Tribunal. Fortunately, most neighbours can come to some sort of agreement without requiring third party assistance.
Be sure to view the Fencing Act of 1978 for further details.
If you are looking to create a fencing notice and need a quote for the work, Maintain Your Property can help to provide details around costs, materials, and work start dates. We work locally in the Wellington and Hutt Valley area, and offer free quotes to help you get started.