Guide to dividing fences
NSW LawAssist (Department of Justice) offers information about what a dividing fence is, the law governing dividing fences and building, fixing or replacing a dividing fence. It also explains how you can identify where the common boundary is between two properties.
Steps to building or replacing a dividing fence
If you need to construct or replace a fence that divides two or more properties, follow these simple steps:
Step 1 - Check if you need development approval
The Dividing Fences Act 1991 outlines the rights and responsibilities of property owners for building a dividing fence.
The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 outlines whether building a fence requires development approval or not.
Not all fences require development approval before you can build. First refer to the NSW Planning Portal - Fences under Exempt to see if you can build your fence without council permission ('exempt development'). If your fence is not exempt, you may be able to get development approval by applying for a Complying Development Certificate (CDC) or lodging a Development Application (DA).
Step 2 - Cost sharing
In certain situations you may be able to share the cost of a dividing fence with your neighbour if you follow the right processes. NSW LawAssist offers information about cost sharing under the Dividing Fences Act 1991.
You may need to obtain legal advice to assist with identifying your rights and responsibilities under this Act.
Dividing Fences Act 1991
Step 3 - Serve a fence notice
If the Dividing Fences Act 1991 requires you to serve a fencing notice to your neighbour, use our Fencing Notice Form as a template.
Fencing Notice Form.pdf (pdf. 7KB)
Resolving fencing disputes
The Community Justice Centre and NSW LawAssist provide information about resolving fencing disputes between neighbours.
Community Justice Centre
Is your property next to Council land? Does Council contribute towards dividing fences?
Council owned land that is not eligible for Council contribution towards dividing fences adjoining private properties:
Under Section 25 of the Dividing Fences Act 1991, Council is exempt from contributing to the cost of dividing fences being constructed on the common boundaries where the land held by Council is for the purposes of a public road, public park or public reserve including most drainage reserves by reason of Section 49 and Section 50 of the Local Government Act 1993 and most public garden and recreation spaces unless there are special circumstances.
Special circumstances are limited to cases of demonstrated hardship and where it is deemed in Council's own interest to have a boundary fence.
Council owned land that is eligible for Council contribution towards dividing fences adjoining private properties:
Council generally will contribute up to 50% of the cost of a standard fence. This is applicable to the common boundary of Council’s other properties such as car parks, libraries, community centres and baby health centres unless the land on which the facility is located within is a public reserve as defined in the Local Government Act 1993. A sufficient dividing fence is considered a timber paling fence with a maximum height of 1.8 metres. Applicants may construct other more expensive fences. However, Council’s contribution will be limited to 50% of the cost of a standard fence. Applicants will be required to pay any additional costs.
Refer to Council's Fencing Policy for further information.
Fencing Policy (pdf. 31KB)
What is the process for requesting a contribution, for approval, for construction and for payment?
What is the process to request a claim for contribution?
Adjoining land owners (Applicants) are required to place their request in writing. Please supply a return address and/or email contact (if suitable). If eligible, Council staff will conduct an inspection to assess the condition of the fence and warrant for replacement within 5 working days of receipt of the application.
Council will reply advising the outcome of the inspection and request submission of three (3) written quotes from recognised fencing contractors for Council's consideration.
What construction approval process is required?
Council will confirm, in writing, the acceptance of a quotation. Only then can construction of the fence commence.
What if I require a fence of different standard?
Council will only contribute 50% of the cost of the lowest quote for a timber paling fence to a maximum height of 1.8 metre.
Should applicants select a different type of fencing, they will be required to pay any additional costs.
How is the contribution made, when will payment occur?
Applicants are required to notify Council of completed construction of the fence and arrange for an inspection.
Council will conduct an inspection of the fence to satisfy workmanship and compliance with works. This inspection may be conducted with the applicant on request.
The applicant is required to notify the contractor to split the invoice as per amounts indicated on the written acceptance from Council. For probity reasons, Council is not permitted to pay monies to the public or owner directly.
On satisfactory completion, the Applicant is responsible for payment to the contractor for their contribution. Council is responsible for payment of its agreed contribution directly to the Contractor.