Significant changes to the Fences Act 1968 (VIC) came into operation on 22 September 2014. The amendments provide greater certainty for adjoining property owners and more detailed procedures for undertaking fencing works.
The principal changes include:
- setting out factors for determining what is a ‘sufficient dividing fence’ to which adjoining owners must, generally speaking, contribute in equal proportions
- making an owner pay any additional cost if they want a fence that is of a standard greater than a sufficient dividing fence unless the other owner agrees otherwise
- setting out procedures for negotiating fencing works between adjoining owners
- providing a process for resolving disputes about the common boundary
- clarifying the powers of the Magistrates’ Court to make orders in fencing disputes that involve adverse possession.
Application to government and local government landholders
The amendments to the Fences Act have not changed the position that particular types of Crown land are exempted from contributions under the Fences Act. The government may choose to contribute in some circumstances, but this is not required by the Fences Act.
The Fences Act also provides that, where a municipal council or other body or person owns or manages land for the purposes of a public park or reserve, then they are not considered to be an ‘owner’ under the Fences Act and so do not have to contribute to fencing works for a dividing fence between that land and privately owned land.
Importantly the amendments do not affect the operation of other laws such as clause 4 of Schedule 5 to the Road Management Act 2004 which provides that neither the Crown nor road authorities (such as Councils) are required to fence or contribute to fencing of roads.