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Must a tenant pay for fence repairs?

Information about how cost of fence repairs may be divided between neighbours.

In most cases renters will not be liable to contribute to the cost of a fence. Contributions may not be sought from:

  • renters who have a lease under a Residential Tenancies Act agreement or
  • a lessee under a Retail Lease Act agreement, or
  • any another kind of lease where the parties have agreed about when a renter may have to contribute towards the cost of a fence are exempt from the contribution obligations set out in the Fences Act 1968 (Vic).

See s. 10(3)—Fences Act 1968 (Vic).

In other lease arrangements, (such a commercial leases) renter may asked to contribute to the cost of a new fence or a fence repair if the renter has a long unexpired lease of at least 5 years.

It does not matter how long the renter has been renting at the property, it is the length of unexpired lease that matters. Time is calculated from the date that the owner gives or receives a fencing notice.

A renter's contribution is worked as follows:

  • renter has less than 5 years left on their lease agreement—the owner is liable for entire cost of fence
  • renter has 5 years but less than 10 years left on their lease agreement—the tenant liable for 50% of cost
  • renter has 10 years or more left on their lease agreement—the renter liable for entire cost of fence.

Renter must be properly notified

Even if the renter has a long and unexpired lease they do not have to contribute unless they are properly notified and if the owner issues them with a fencing notice. This gives the renter the right to negotiate and try to reach an agreement with the owner(s). That is, they have a say in the kind of fence that will be built.

See s. 10—Fences Act 1968 (Vic).

If the rental provider (landlord/owner) wants the renter to contribute to the cost of a new or repaired fence, the owner has to notify the renter on the same day that they send a fencing notice to the owner of the adjoining property.

The notice must ask for the renter to agree to the proposed fencing works set out in the notice and to contributing to the cost. The owner must set out the estimated cost of this contribution. The owner who has a long term renter must also let the other owner know that they have sent a notice to their long term renter, requiring them to contribute.

See s. 15—Fences Act 1968 (Vic).

If renter does not agree

If after 30 days, renter has not agreed to contribute, the owner or the renter can apply to the Magistrates' Court seeking an order. They do this by filing a complaint form. The magistrate may order what the proportion (if any) the renter should contribute. This may depend on whether any party has deliberately or negligently contributed to damage to the fence.

See ss. 18, 30D—Fences Act 1968 (Vic).

If the renter does not respond

The owner has to wait 30 days for the renter to respond to a fencing notice. If they do not respond, the owner can go ahead and build or repair the fence and then try to recover the money owed by filing a complaint to the Maistrates' Court.

See ss. 22, 30C—Fences Act 1968 (Vic).

If renter caused the damage to a fence

This may be a breach of the renter's rental agreement and the owner may be able to recover the cost of the damage from the renter under the Residential Tenancy Act.

See Repairs to property and Breach of duty notice.

More information

Legislation

Fences Act 1968 (Vic)

  • s. 10—circumstances where long term tenants may be liable to contribute to the cost of a fence
  • s. 15—additional notices where a long term tenant may be liable to contribute
  • s. 18—procedure if tenant does not agree
  • s. 20—procedure if tenant has not responded
  • s. 22—how to recover contributions from long term tenant
  • s. 30C—orders about fencing works
  • s. 30D—orders about fencing works for long term tenant

See Fences Act 1968 (Vic).

Updated