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Do I need Council approval to build a fence?

Standard 1800mm (1.8 metre) timber or colour-bonded metal dividing fences generally do not require Council approval.

Subdivision 17, 18 and 19 of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development) Code establish development standards that permit certain fencing to be erected without the need to obtain an approval.  Fencing that does not meet the development standards will require Council approval. 

Read the Code 

Dividing Fence Legislation

Dividing fences are a matter between adjoining landowners and not within Council's jurisdiction.

The State Government's Dividing Fences Act 1991 addresses how the cost of a dividing fence is shared between adjoining land owners, where an owner wants to erect a dividing fence or wants work done on an existing dividing fence.

The Act also sets out the procedure for resolving disputes involving the cost, type and position of a fence.

The Crown Lands Division is the State Government department charged with the administration of the Dividing Fences Act 1991. However, their responsibility is limited to administration matters.  It does not include the provision of advice relating to fencing disputes nor does it include providing specific legal advice relating to the provisions of the Act. This advice should be sought from other sources including Legal Aid services, chamber magistrates at the local court, LawAccess NSW, Community Justice Centres or private lawyers.

Dividing Fences Act 1991

Crown Lands Division

Does my neighbour have to contribute to the cost of a dividing fence?

YES - Adjoining owners must share the cost of the fence, except that:

  • An owner must pay the additional cost if they want a fence of a higher standard than is required for a sufficient dividing fence;
  • An owner will have to pay the full cost if the existing fence is damaged, either deliberately or negligently, by the owner or by someone else with the owner's permission. If the fence is damaged by a tenant, the owner must pay for the work even if they plan to claim the cost from the tenant;
  • Public authorities (including Council) with control over Crown lands, parks, reserves etc do not have to contribute to fencing costs. However people living next to such properties may be able to negotiate with that authority for a contribution.
  • Common trusts are subject to the Dividing Fences Act 1991, and are liable for contributions to fencing.

How do I ask my neighbour to share the cost of a Dividing Fence?

An owner wanting an adjoining owner to share in the cost of a dividing fence must first serve a Fencing Notice on that adjoining owner (personally or by post). Unless urgent fencing work is required, no fencing work for which a land owner seeks a contribution from an adjoining owner should be done until agreement is reached or an order is made by the local land board or local court.

Fencing Notices

Can Council give me the contact details of my neighbour so I can serve a Fencing Notice?

- Property ownership details are held on Council's Rates Register. This register is not a public register and ownership details are used for the purpose of issuing rates and charges pursuant to the Local Government Act.

However, to assist property owner's contact their adjoining neighbours, who do not reside on their property or whereby the property is vacant land, Council will forward their completed Fencing Notice on their behalf.

If I pay all costs for constructing the fence, do I need my neighbour's permission?

- You do not need your neighbour's permission to build a new fence either on your land or on the boundary, but it would be good for neighbourly relations to let your neighbours know of your intention to build a fence.  Letters in this regard may also be sent on your behalf via Council to your neighbour.

Information contained herein is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Advice from a professional adviser (such as a solicitor) should be sought if there is doubt as to the applicability of this information to individual circumstances.

Coffs Harbour City Council