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Recovering fencing costs from neighbours

By 6 April 2014 27

I have a situation whereby a fence needs to be replaced urgently, its too old and in such a state that repair is not an option.

Having done my research the situation I find myself in is one in which I am entitled to replace the fence immediately without consultation with the neighbours and still recover costs from them. For example the simple fact of pets escaping is one that would be considered requiring an emergency replacement without requiring agreement from neighbours. My situation is worse than that as the neighbours dogs keep getting into my yard and attacking my own pet plus being a big nuisance to me. I have tried talking to the neighbours on many occasions about the fence replacement and have been very patient and understanding. They kept agreeing that the fence needed replacement and said they were going to organise quotes. Having got fed up with their promises I organised a fencer to quote myself who told me that he couldn’t split the bill with them as they had not paid for previous work he had done for them. Now here I get really p*^%@d off as when these problems with old/dodgy fences first started to occur various neighbours got together and they all (including my neighbour who won’t cough up) wanted colourbond fencing in place of timber. I agreed only to keep things friendly and simple and because I didn’t want inconsistent fencing. So now I have paid for a section of fencing in colourbond with another neighbour that I only did due to the various neighbours requests and now there is so much colourbond fencing around that it may be considered the norm. So the quote I have got that I am trying to recover from them is for colourbond fences the same as that which have recently been replaced in my yard, as well in the non-paying neighbours yard and in various other neighbours fences. I have given the dodgy neighbours a copy of a fencing quote which I have asked them to sign and return, they have ignored me.

I know that I can apply to ACAT to recover the cost but from what I understand the ACAT fee is $130 which I can’t recover from the neighbour, I also understand that I may have to take some time off work to attend ACAT (although neighbour is also employed so may not want to do the same as well). I feel very strongly that I would win given that my pets are being attacked in my own yard and the fence is beyond repair, however wonder how much that would mean if an order is made to pay which the neighbour simply ignores. I figure if there is no enforcement then there is no point. I also wonder if the neighbour would try to pull the “I’m only entitled to half of the cost of a basic timber fence”. I don’t agree that is the case given that we all discussed colourbond fencing and we and our neighbours have both had new colourbond fencing in our backyard installed recently (the bad neighbour just decided that they didn’t want to pay for it). In addition due to the aggressive behaviour of the neighbours dogs, there is a lot of fence barking going on that would probably be relieved by a colourbond fence (as our dogs wouldn’t be able to see each other). However the law may see different regarding the timber/colourbond fence situation. Any advice would be welcomed.

Please do not make any suggestions that would involve any form of potential harm to the neighbours pets. That is not something I would do. Their dogs are only being aggressive to my dog because the neighbour didn’t bother to desex them. They are actually very lovely dogs which makes the situation even harder as I would not want them put down when they only need to be desexed.

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27 Responses to Recovering fencing costs from neighbours
#1
Mike Crowther7:21 pm, 06 Apr 14

I don’t know your capacity to pay, or your physical ability so I can only tell you what I would do. If your major concern is their dogs entering, consider a cheap chain link fence. 2nd hand timber posts (available from places like the Mitchell re-cycle) are fine. *Don’t concrete them in, you or the contractor will need to remove them at some point. They don’t have to last for years and just nail the fencing to the posts (bend the nails over the wire with a few careless taps of the hammer). It can be as jerry-built as you like as its purpose is only to secure the yard. Don’t forget to bury a good 6 inches of it in case their dogs dig. You will have an unsightly fence which will keep their dogs out until the neighbors either relent or move. If they do relent, get a quote and get get the money off them before you engage the fencer. Because it sounds to me like they’re welchers. Good luck.

#2
Felix the Cat7:23 pm, 06 Apr 14

So you have already gone ahead and replaced the fence? Sounds like you will have virtually no chance of recovering any money from them as they are unemployed, plus appear to have a history of not paying for other fencing jobs. You really should of got some sort of written agreement agreeing to go halves in payment the fence signed by them before getting the fence replaced.

Even if they do play the “I only have to pay for a wooden fence” card, there’s not alot of difference in the price between colorbond and wood, just take what you can get and put it down to experience.

You sound like you don’t really like colorbond. I reckon it’s great. Don’t need to repaint it every year or so like you need to with wood and it doesn’t rot, so no maintainece and should outolast wood by many years. Only downside with colorbond is it can be noisier when rain hits it and can be damaged more easily if kids kick balls against it.

A few months ago I got a colorbond fence installed and had a verbal agreement with the neighbour before we started for him to pay half and luckily he paid me the day after the fence was installed – before I had actually paid for the fence mysel!

#3
Sandman8:10 pm, 06 Apr 14

My advice would be to put the fence up, pay for it, and get on with life. No point being aggravated over $500. Enjoy your new fence and the security it provides for your pet. A vet bill for a good scratch will probably cost you more.

#4
poppy9:40 pm, 06 Apr 14

Felix the Cat said :

So you have already gone ahead and replaced the fence? Sounds like you will have virtually no chance of recovering any money from them as they are unemployed, plus appear to have a history of not paying for other fencing jobs. You really should of got some sort of written agreement agreeing to go halves in payment the fence signed by them before getting the fence replaced.

No I have not already gone ahead and replaced the fence. And they are not unemployed as far as I know. I have attempted to get a written agreement from them, that has failed. I have arranged for a fencer to carry out the work given the situation has become so difficult for me however the work has not occurred yet. Legally, given the situation where their dogs are entering my property and attacking my dog, I am quite within my rights to replace the fence and recover the cost from them regardless of written agreements. The simple fact of pets escaping from a property allow a neighbour to replace the fence without consultation.

Sandman, it is more than $500. I don’t know where you got that figure from.

I could take their dogs to the pound next time they entered my property and that would provide a solution as these bogans would not bother to even drive there to collect their dogs let alone pay a fine to get them back. However I do not want to take the problem out on their dogs who are also the victims in this situation and do not deserve a death sentence.

#5
toriness10:44 pm, 06 Apr 14

Take photos of fence clearing showing it is beyond repair. Get 3 quotes including wood vs colourbond (from what others have told me, there is scant difference). get fence replaced. Lodge ACAT application for half fence cost PLUS ACAT fee, including full statement of facts ie fence falling down forever, dogs entering your property, attempts to be reasonable with neighbour re mutual repair/mitigating ongoing damage. attach photos as evidence. Spineless lazy neighbour will probably fold like a dodgy pack of cards once they get served, as most people don’t want a public record of them being an a$!hole. I feel your pain.

#6
toriness10:52 pm, 06 Apr 14

toriness said :

Take photos of fence clearing showing it is beyond repair. Get 3 quotes including wood vs colourbond (from what others have told me, there is scant difference). get fence replaced. Lodge ACAT application for half fence cost PLUS ACAT fee, including full statement of facts ie fence falling down forever, dogs entering your property, attempts to be reasonable with neighbour re mutual repair/mitigating ongoing damage. attach photos as evidence. Spineless lazy neighbour will probably fold like a dodgy pack of cards once they get served, as most people don’t want a public record of them being an a$!hole. I feel your pain.

I would advise also outline in an email/letter that this is what you intend to do and give it to them as final warning before you proceed. This demonstrates to ACAT you have been more than reasonable every step of the way. The law is clear re fences, it’s 50-50 reasonable costs. I imagine ACAT would look kindly on you even if colourbond was slightly higher given 1. more the norm (photos of neighborhood fences perhaps? ) & 2. it’s more hard wearing & 3. neighbors have been uncooperative bastards (if what you say is true!)

#7
scorpio6311:09 pm, 06 Apr 14

Been there done that and I know many other friends of mine who have been in the same boat over 30 years!

I paid, never complained; in the end, Loving Thy Neighbour literally will reward your soul in your next Life eternally.

You see, what goes around comes around in this life.

I paid out for a fence in full way back in 1989 at my first property; the neighbours could not afford it and years later I fully understood their situation given that when I purchased a home again 20 years later, I was in a similar position to what my first neighbours experienced; battling their mortgage.

With another property years later, I was not in the position to pay for half the colourbond fence that the woman next door wanted prior to selling her home. She informed me of her intentions the day I was moving in! I said that is great if its what you require, however I would not be in a position to pay for any of the fence. The original fence was erect, sturdy, and not in need of any repairs.

I discovered later it was a cosmetic choice for the forthcoming sale of her home; the original fence was in actual fact perfect, considering the weathered age of it.

My parents had a neighbour once (with excellent incomes) who did not bother paying for a colourbond fence in a new estate area. After moving, they landed up with the best neighbours of their lives interstate; a whole street of the most kind hearted people/neighbours any one could have; they all meet for social bbqs several times a year, support one another when they all go away ie collect their mail papers, feed their animals, do the neighbourhood watch bizzo, share their papers if someone has missed out; assist with tip trips/shared costs, furniture assistance; the blokes all get on extremely well and it has now been over 15 years! When one is sick, the others visit and help out without living in one another’s pockets or affairs if that makes sense.

This is not Canberra though; this is a beautiful country city where I grew up; and despite the changes with the rapid growing population and farming communities; the people are still the most beautiful kind hearted people and neighbours any city could ever have!

Love Thy Neighbour; watch out for your Neighbours; one of them may just return the favour down the track to you one day!

#8
scorpio6311:19 pm, 06 Apr 14

100 points to Mike Crowther for his advice in relation to the problem with your neighbour’s dogs getting into your yard.

That way, it removes any hostility between your Neighbours and self for the future.

Best wishes

#9
Leon8:51 am, 07 Apr 14

Sandman said :

My advice would be to put the fence up, pay for it, and get on with life. No point being aggravated over $500. Enjoy your new fence and the security it provides for your pet. A vet bill for a good scratch will probably cost you more.

Well said, Sandman. Unless you can’t afford the cost of the new fence, this option will save you a lot of worry, and will give you exactly the fence you want.

#10
Rangi10:27 am, 07 Apr 14

Get your fencer to take off the cost of removal of the old fence, then on your side get them to build the new one as close as possible to the old one, dosen’t matter if the old one is damaged in the process, so you can get it pretty damn close, and you won’t lose to much land, then let the bad nieghbours deal with the old fence, as you won’t be able to see it.

#11
dungfungus10:49 am, 07 Apr 14

Rangi said :

Get your fencer to take off the cost of removal of the old fence, then on your side get them to build the new one as close as possible to the old one, dosen’t matter if the old one is damaged in the process, so you can get it pretty damn close, and you won’t lose to much land, then let the bad nieghbours deal with the old fence, as you won’t be able to see it.

My kind of lateral thinking too.

#12
Genie11:05 am, 07 Apr 14

Personally – if they dogs were continually getting into your yard. I would take them to the pound. If you have continually spoken to them and they do nothing, your next step is to take things further.

The downside of doing this is they will get a nice big fine as they arent desexed, the pound will also likely desex them and then charge your neighbour the fees. Which would probably be equivilant to what you’re trying to get out of them for the fence.

I do feel your pain but.. I’m moving into my new place on the weekend and 2/3 neighbours flat out refuse to have the fence INSTALLED !! One neighbour has been living in their house for around 6 months and hasn’t installed the fence, despite my builder trying to install it, he gets nothing but backlash from them. My rear neighbour has only just commenced building and doesn’t want the fence installed until he completes the house.

Trying to get my fences up and proven more frustrating than the whole building process. I can’t move my pets with me until my fences go up. I wonder if I could claim boarding fees if it comes to that.

#13
niftydog11:15 am, 07 Apr 14

Rangi said :

Get your fencer to take off the cost of removal of the old fence, then on your side get them to build the new one…

My old neighbours would have then ripped down the old fence, stacked it against the new one, set fire to the pile, then started shooting through the fire at the new fence with a pellet gun.

#14
Felix the Cat1:58 pm, 07 Apr 14

Sorry I misread your original post and read “employed” as “unemployed”. My bad.

You are best to try and negotiate a soloution amicably, rather than getting authorities involved and taking their dogs to the pound. I know it doesn’t sound like the neighbours are being very amicable but if the “dispute” escalates then you run the risk of viglante action happening and property of your being molested/damaged or stolen.

So think about how badly you really want the money from them and think about what property of yours could be molested/damaged or stolen and how much it is worth. Not to mention the general agro that could ensue. Not saying it will, just that it’s possible. Your pets could possibly be harmed, as it doesn’t sound like they care too much about their own so they would care even less about yours.

Perhaps try and arrange to have a face to face meeting with them to discuss the fence, show them the quote(s) and try to negotiate payment arrangements. Even if you can get them to agree to pay $10 a week it’s better than nothing. Explain the advantages to them of having a new fence; keeps their lovely doggies safe, privacy and house value is bound to rise.

To quote a couple of old chestnuts – “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar” and “make love not war”. I think you just need to foot the bill yourself if they won’t pay..

#15
eatthatfrog2:20 pm, 07 Apr 14

Hi OP.

I feel your pain. We had a fence situation that unnecessarily degraded. We had dogs escaping, and the fence was rotted through in several areas.
Our neighbour claimed they couldn’t afford the replacement (but could afford overseas trups) and our landlord wouldn’t pay for the fence. We would have taken them to ACAT but we ended up moving before it happened.

Do you know if the property is ACT Housing? If so, you’re in with a better shot.

The Common Boundaries Act is the relevant law.

First off, the bad news, based on our dealings with ACTPLA 18 months ago:

No matter if you feel you’re entitled to half the cost of a colourbond fence. They are only liable for half of the cost of a 1.5 m hardwood paling timber fence.The extenuating circumstances don’t matter.

You may have to go to the Conflict Resolution Service before you go to ACAT. ACT CouncilGov deliberately make it hard to go to ACAT, because they don’t want to clog up the system.

However, in better news, if you get to ACAT, you can claim “reasonable costs” which should also include your time in resolving the matter.

This and this should be a great guide in these matters.

But seriously? Don’t assume anything. Approach them first. Give them a chance to be unreasonable rather than acting they already are. It will help your peace of mind.

If approaching them doesn’t work, then try a letter explaining the situation by registered post. It’s one thing to know your options, but I can see from your distress that there is a risk of making this an unneccessarily combative situation. Approach this with a clear head and calmness.

And seriously weigh up exactly how much distress this is worth to you. The hardest thing to deal with is that, at the end of the day, you may not be able to control the outcome even if you go to ACAT.

If you can afford it, it’s not about what they “should” do. It’s about the peace of mind you’re buying for animals. And at circa $600, that’s peace of mind that less than a few weeks of their food.

Our situation ended up escalating to the point that we could have gone to court over an civil battery charge (them against us). But we moved elsewhere in the same street, and decided taking people to court who we will most likely have to see for a good period of time was a bad idea and not worth the time.

And the steps I’m suggesting can hopefully avoid you being in the same situation

Best of luck.

#16
poppy5:29 pm, 07 Apr 14

Thanks for everyone’s suggestions

I do hear what some people are saying about just suck it up and pay for the whole thing. It is hard to do though when you feel you are being conned and strung along (as they clearly did with the other neighbours). Even just saying outright that they didn’t want to pay for any of it for no particular reason is better than lies (they have never even hinted that they can’t afford it or don’t want to do it they just keep saying they are going to organise it). I will sleep on it a few days

#17
Sandman4:30 pm, 08 Apr 14

poppy said :

Sandman, it is more than $500. I don’t know where you got that figure from.

That was based on the 27 metres of colourmax I just bought (still sitting on the back of my truck.)
$960 for all the materials to do a back and side fence, couple of days to dig a few holes, run a few string lines, and screw it all together. Then halve it.

How much is the neighbors share, total length of the fence, and what material?

#18
Spherical5:40 pm, 08 Apr 14

Hi,
Fence is 40 years old. I used thin wire to wrap / sew / tie the weathered and rotted palings in their place.
Where it needed it I used a couple of steel posts I banged in on my side and wired them into place too. 10 years on and it is still up.
Neighbour on the other side held fence together by screwing on a metal building strap (perforated with holes along its length). Its good too.

#19
Captain RAAF12:55 pm, 09 Apr 14

Step 1: Catch the neighbours dogs once they are in your yard, remove their collars (place in bin far from home) and drop the dog/s off at the pound. The owner, assuming the mutts are microchipped, will get hit with a fine for have an unregistered, uncollared and entire dog. Will cost a bomb!

Do this each and every time they get into your yard. He’ll either get rid of his dogs or come knocking on your door asking for a fence.

If he asks for a timber fence, and that’s all he’s going to pay for then just take it on the chin and pay the extra yourself for colorbond. If you can’t afford colorbond and have to go timber paling, make sure it is nailed in from your side so that you can remove the odd paling in the middle of the night so his dogs enter your yard (they must have pushed the paling off those pesky mutts!!!!) and repeat step 1….again and again and again. Until he pony’s up the cash for colorbond.

Don’t proceed with any work until he has paid you the 50% of the quote he agrees to.

If you go for colourbond, pay the extra and get the treated pine sleeper at the bottom, it usually ends up with you getting a fence that is a little taller than the 1800mm max. Every little bit counts!

#20
Mess2:14 pm, 09 Apr 14

We had the same problem when we moved into our place with our neighbour over the back. That house is a rental and it is pretty clear by the state of the house that they guy wanted to spend as little money on the house as possible. We eventually got him to pay for half of a standard 1.5m wooden fence and we paid the extra for a 1.8m fence ourselves.

#21
Elf7:34 pm, 09 Apr 14

Trap the dogs and call the rangers next time they get in. The rangers will deal with your neighbours and paying for a new fence might seem like the best option for them.

#22
Felix the Cat9:10 am, 10 Apr 14

Sandman said :

poppy said :

Sandman, it is more than $500. I don’t know where you got that figure from.

That was based on the 27 metres of colourmax I just bought (still sitting on the back of my truck.)
$960 for all the materials to do a back and side fence, couple of days to dig a few holes, run a few string lines, and screw it all together. Then halve it.

How much is the neighbors share, total length of the fence, and what material?

I had a new colorbond fence installed a few months ago (repalcing an old paling fence),13.5m x 1800h Colorbond Fence + Lattice + demolish/remove old fence and total cost was $1755. I think it was Lysaght brand.

I have a quote for the other fence in my yard that is currently on my wish list and it is a longer span, 25.4m x 1800h Colorbond Fence + Lattice + demolish/remove old fence $3302.

The lattice does add a fair bit of cost, but it’s just an option. A quote my neighbour got from the same fence guy for 3.8m x 1800h Colorbond Fence Without Lattice 3.8m x 1800h + demolish/remove old fence $361; with lattice $494.

As with everything, there are different brands and different qualities.

#23
BerraBoy686:59 pm, 10 Apr 14

We’re on the other side of the fence (not yours, someone else’s!). My mothers new neighbour’s are harrassing her (banging on her door, yelling abuse etc.) in an effort to make her to pay half for a new colorbond fence, even though the existing wooden fence is strong as nails. I’ve taken loads of photo’s and video of the fence to prove to anyone that asks that it doesn’t need replacing. They’re main claims for a new fence are that 1) the wooden one isn’t as visually appealing to them as a colorbond would be, 2) the wooden fence doesn’t match the colorbond one they have on the other side of their property, 3) they want a higher fence for more privacy, and 4) they might hit the concrete supports in their car as they traverse their driveway. None of these are my mothers issue so she’s not paying. We’ve told them they can replace the fence with whatever they want (height, color, etc.) and my mother won’t stand in their way, as long as they pay for it themselves.

#24
jasmine6:09 pm, 03 May 14

We have a similar situation with our neighbours who keep agreeing the fence needs fixing but they are too lazy to remove or cut back shrubs and other structures hanging off the fence to enable the work to be done. They keep pushing the ‘will do’ moment back for over a year now. Generally we get on well with them and they are not bad people but they are too busy. We are thinking of taking the advice above and just putting up the new fence on our side, at least for part of the length, and let them deal with the shabby remainder in their own time. Essentially it means they get a free fence but at the end of the day at least you can fix the problem. Yes it is unfair, but you still have a choice no matter how it may grate. We will be doing the same fairly soon.

#25
wildturkeycanoe3:24 pm, 04 May 14

jasmine said :

We have a similar situation with our neighbours who keep agreeing the fence needs fixing but they are too lazy to remove or cut back shrubs and other structures hanging off the fence to enable the work to be done. They keep pushing the ‘will do’ moment back for over a year now. Generally we get on well with them and they are not bad people but they are too busy. We are thinking of taking the advice above and just putting up the new fence on our side, at least for part of the length, and let them deal with the shabby remainder in their own time. Essentially it means they get a free fence but at the end of the day at least you can fix the problem. Yes it is unfair, but you still have a choice no matter how it may grate. We will be doing the same fairly soon.

Hasn’t anyone here seen the movie “Backyard Ashes”? Holes in the fence are what Aussie life is all about. Pets complicate things. Maybe backyard pets should be banned, they seem to cause an awful lot of problems in society.

#26
Maya1235:25 pm, 04 May 14

When I moved into my present house the back fence was falling down. Many of the boards were loose and leaning all ways, with many gaps as a result. All it took to get it straight was a drill and screws. You would hardly know it was the same fence. Now it’s straight and complete. Is your fence so rotten that it won’t hold screws? If it can hold screws it’s not a huge job to put it back together and screws hold better than nails. Replace any broken boards with new.
One of my side neighbours has been trying to get the hardwood fence replaced with colourbond fence for years. There is nothing wrong with the hardwood fence, except it doesn’t match their other colourbond fences. I have taken photographs to prove it. It’s straight and strong. A few boards were a little loose, but the drill and screws fixed that problem and I replaced three rotten boards with new. I’ve had builders doing work at my place and they agree the fence is sound.
Felix the Cat said a wooden fence needs painting. I have lived in several houses and none of the fences were ever painted, nor do I know any local fences that are painted. I lived in my last house for over twenty years and the wooden fences had never been painted and were still sound when I left. The boards were all reattached with screws though, as nails loosen and fall out.

#27
clipper11:15 pm, 04 May 14

jasmine said :

We have a similar situation with our neighbours who keep agreeing the fence needs fixing but they are too lazy to remove or cut back shrubs and other structures hanging off the fence to enable the work to be done. They keep pushing the ‘will do’ moment back for over a year now. Generally we get on well with them and they are not bad people but they are too busy. We are thinking of taking the advice above and just putting up the new fence on our side, at least for part of the length, and let them deal with the shabby remainder in their own time. Essentially it means they get a free fence but at the end of the day at least you can fix the problem. Yes it is unfair, but you still have a choice no matter how it may grate. We will be doing the same fairly soon.

Question…. If this were to happen and you put up a fence on your side, are they allowed to remove the old fence? Without consultation? If they did do this, it seems they would acquire a little more land (even if it is just a little bit…)

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