Boundaries and fences

Take these steps if you disagree with your neighbour about your boundary and fences.

Solving disputes over fences and boundaries

Property boundaries

A property boundary defines legal ownership of land and its position can only be determined by a licensed surveyor.

You can hire a licensed surveyor to physically mark the boundary if you and your neighbour don't agree with the boundary location. By law, you cannot move or remove a survey mark made by a licenced surveyor.

Encroaching a boundary

An encroachment is when a structure intrudes onto another person's land, crossing the legal boundary. It can include buildings, driveways, eaves and balconies.

Find out your options when an encroachment has occurred

Boundary fences

Fences between neighbouring properties should be located on a property boundary - many existing fences are not. The fence's existing  location does not change:

  • the legal boundary
  • who legally owns the land
  • who owns the fence.

Your fence is jointly owned by you and your neighbour - the property owners. Your neighbour could be a private owner, landlord, community organisation or a government department such as Housing SA.

The boundary can only be determined by a licensed surveyor.

Before you begin work

You must get consent from the owner of any neighbouring land to:

  • remove an existing fence
  • repair or maintain an existing fence
  • build a new fence
  • enter a neighbouring property to work on the fence.

Giving notice for fencing work

Urgent repairs – you do not have to give written notice to your neighbour but try to give as much notice as possible.

New fences – notice of intention to erect a fence (30.0 KB DOC).

Repair, replace or maintain – notice of intention to replace, repair or maintain a fence (29.5 KB DOC).

These notices can be delivered to your neighbour personally or sent through registered post. Your neighbour has 30 days to give you a cross-notice (page 17 of the Fences and the Law Handbook PDF 514KB) if they object to your proposal. You cannot start work until the 30 days have passed or you have received written notice from them consenting to the work.

When Housing SA owns the neighbouring property

Consent can be assumed if you haven't received a written objection within 30 days.

Your neighbour doesn't have to state why they object or give an alternative option in the cross-notice. But, if the matter goes to court they will have to give a good reason as to why they object.

This same process applies if your neighbour is a tenant in public housing.

For an alternative version of these documents contact the Legal Services Commission of South Australia.

Paying for the fence

By law, you or your neighbour do not have to contribute to the cost of repairing, maintaining or erecting a fence unless at least one of these apply:

  • you have both agreed to the cost
  • the proper notices have been given
  • a court orders payment.

Council approvals

You should check with your local council about fences that need development approval or any other legal requirements you must meet before you begin work.

Restrictions apply for:

  • masonry - stone, brick or concrete - fences higher than 1 metre
  • any other kind of fence higher than 2 metres
  • fences higher than 1 metre and less than 6 metres from a road intersection
  • brush fences.

Finding the owner of neighbouring land

Contact your local council or access SAILIS if you don’t know the owner of the land.

If you still cannot find the owner you can prominently display the notice on their land. You can assume they consent if you haven't received a written objection to your proposal within 30 days.

Brush fences

A brush fence is a fence or gate that is primarily constructed of material such as broom brush.

Brush fences that are close to dwellings are fire hazards and can risk the safety of people living or working there.

Fire safety

These safety requirements are for dwellings located within 3 metres of a brush fence to help prevent the spread of a brush fire to a home:

  • A new dwelling - or an addition - must be constructed using appropriate fire resistance measures.
  • New and rebuilt fences cannot be erected unless the dwelling has appropriate fire resistance measures.

Read the fire resistance measures for buildings in the Building Code of Australia.

Brush fences could require development approval. Contact your local council for development advice.

Existing brush fences

The above safety requirements don’t affect existing brush fences or dwellings if no changes are being made to the fence or dwelling.

Brush fences can be repaired but not replaced with another brush fence unless the fire resistance measures of the building are appropriate.


Related information

On this website

Resolving a boundary dispute

Other websites

About fences - Legal Services Commission

Rectification of boundaries guidance note - Land Services SA


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Page last updated 11 July 2022

Provided by:
Attorney-General's Department
URL:
https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/housing/owning-a-property/boundaries-fences
Last Updated:
11/07/22
Printed on:
13/08/22
Copyright statement:
SA.GOV.AU is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Licence. © Copyright 2022
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