Saturday, 31 March 2018

Fences - Sigh!

Hi Everyone,

You can tell we are on holidays as I finally have the time to update the blog on all that has been happening with the build.

One of the difficulties we have encountered is the replacement of the boundary fences.  Unfortunately, our block of land had post and wire fences to two and half sides.  As you can imagine, they don't provide you with much privacy or security.  Considering we need to contain three children and hopefully soon, our new golden retriever puppy, fences are a priority.

Our neighbours to all three sides have lived in the area for decades and were happy to build new fences, but not happy to pay for half of them...sigh!  One neighbour was happy to have a fence, so long as it was lower than 1.4 meters high to allow him to continue to look in to our front yard from his kitchen window....yes, seriously!!

Fortunately, the Victorian Fencing Act was updated in 2014 to require that boundary fences must be sufficient to meet reasonable privacy and security concerns of all neighbours.  That means if you are living next to retirees like we are, they cannot say that because their grey, nomadic lifestyle means that they don't have pets or children, they don't need a fence better than a post and wire fence!    Furthermore, it is now mandatory that neighbours contribute equally to the construction of a sufficient boundary fence.  A sufficient boundary fence is generally a timber paling fence, 1.8 meters in height.  If you want a standard of fence that exceeds a basic timber paling fence, of course you have to pay the total of the difference if your neighbour doesn't agree.

When you start discussing fences, you certainly get a good picture of who the people are that you are living next to...which has been quite confronting and disappointing.  Let's just say that it is unlikely that we will have the neighbours over for drinks when we move in!!  Unfortunately, we have had to issue fencing notices to our neighbours in order to comply with the law and force them to take responsibility for their fencing obligations.

There is also this scary little law which allows your neighbours to take your land if the boundary fence has been incorrectly placed and the neighbours have used this land as if it was their own for at least 15 years and 1 day.  This law is called Adverse Possession and it is a doozy!  Of course, as luck would have it, our neighbours to both sides have been living there for decades so this has been an interesting one to negotiate.  When we bought the block, we did measure the block and the measurements were correct - that was because we have lost some of our land to the West side and taken some land to the East side boundary which isn't ours.  This 'clandestine' land taking has been happening unbeknown to any of us.  You would think it would be a simple process of having the land surveyed and re-establishing the boundary - think again!!  When one neighbour has the opportunity to get land for free in Lower Plenty, then it is on for young and old, literally speaking.

Fortunately, the fact that we had lost land and gained land through the poor fencing,  helped us when negotiating with the neighbours.  Our neighbour to our east side (who from now on shall be known as scary, grumpy old man) wanted his land back.  We were of course happy to oblige so long as we got our land back to the west boundary from "sometimes nice, sometimes horrible grumpy old man".  Basically that meant that the situation became "the battle of the boundaries" between two grumpy old men. 

In our case, the lost land was the least of our worries.  The impact the lost land had on our house design was far worse.  You see our house has been designed in accordance with minimum set back requirements from boundaries, in our case, 1 meter on the west side. Because the fence wasn't on the boundary, if the neighbour to our west side was to claim adverse possession of that 30cm of our land it would mean that our set back would not meet regulations and we would have to redesign or shrink up our entire house in order for it to be compliant.  You read right!! That would mean a third trip around the council merry go round!!  Not only can your neighbour claim (steal) your land, they don't have to pay you a cent for it either.  A very outdated law that needs to be changed - that's my next pet project!!

If you want to know more about the rules that apply to boundary fencing in Victoria, check out this link below and remember, I am no expert, so always get your own advice.

Thanks for stopping by.

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