There is no general legal obligation to fence land or to repair an existing fence, however the Fences Act 1975 (SA) regulates the erection, replacement, maintenance and repair of fences in South Australia. All references in this section are to this Act unless stated otherwise.
The Fences Act 1975 (SA) provides a procedure for resolving fencing disputes and obtaining contributions from neighbours who benefit from a fence. The purpose of the Act isto:
- Provide for the erection, replacement, repair and maintenance of fences
- Ensure that a person seeking construction of a fence give ample opportunity for his/her neighbour to raise matters such as:
- the need for construction
- the nature of the construction
- the costs of construction, and
- to provide counter-proposals
Crown land and councils
The Fences Act 1975 (SA) does not apply to land:
- comprising a single parcel of more than one hectare in area; or
- in a public road or road reserve
- held by the Crown or any council for the purposes of controlling access to a road or proposed road from land abutting the road
- used by the Crown or any council solely or principally for the purpose of drainage
What is fencing work?
- The erection of a new fence
- Replacement, repair or maintenance work in relation to an existing fence — the replacement, repair or maintenance can be of the whole or any part of a fence and includes trimming or maintaining any vegetation that serves as a fence (eg hedge) and cleaning, deepening, straightening or altering any watercourse, ditch or channel or other geographical configuration that serves as a fence
Costs in relation to fencing work
Fencing work costs include:
- The cost of any survey reasonably required for the work to be carried out
- The cost of any work reasonably required to erect, maintain, replace or repair a fence
- Where an adjoining owner has done or proposes to do any of the work personally, a reasonable amount for his/her labour
Do I need my neighbour’s consent if I am prepared to pay for all costs myself?
Even if you want to erect a new fence at your own cost, you should still get the permission of your neighbour to remove any existing fence. This is because once a fence is erected, it is jointly owned by both neighbours and should not be damaged or removed without the consent of the other [Matthews v Christie  SADC 9].
You do not have the right to go onto your neighbour's property to do fencing work. You will either have to obtain permission or serve a notice on your neighbour, see Access to property. Even if one neighbour is proposing to pay the total cost any objection by adjoining owner should be dealt with by mediation or an application to the court.
For fencing industry information, see the website of the Fencing Construction Industry Network, Fencingonline.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.