Fences and gates

Timber fence and blue sky

Find out if you need approval for a new fence and what rules are in place for boundary fences and dividing fences.

Read about resolving fencing disputes.

Approval to build a new fence or gate

Whether you're building a garden fence or gate, or installing swimming pool fencing, you need to understand the rules and restrictions.

The type of fencing you can construct on your property is determined by the land zoning

You will not need approval if the fence or gate meets all of the relevant development standards for exempt development.

Legal requirements for different types of fencing in different zones:

Some properties have restrictions on the type of fencing in the 88B Instrument. The 88B instrument is owned by NSW Land Registry Services (LRS). Should you wish to obtain a copy of your 88B instrument the LRS have a list of Authorised Information Brokers.

If the proposal doesn't qualify as exempt development, you may be able to apply for a Complying Development Certificate or a Development Application.

Do I qualify for a Complying Development Certificate?

Complying Development approval may be issued for your fence for land zoned Zone R1, R2, R3 or RU5, if the proposal meets all of the relevant development standards. 

You can use the Housing Code Part 3, Division 4, Subdivision 4, Clause 3.29 to check whether your proposal is a complying development. The individual clause should be read in conjunction with all of Part 3.

If your proposal does not meet all of the standards you must lodge a Development Application.

I need a DA, what do I do next?

If your proposal does not qualify as Complying Development, you will need to lodge a Development Application. Find out more about the design requirements in the Development Control Plan:

The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has a useful guide to the DA process.

Boundary fencing

State Government Planning controls provide for boundary fencing standards, see State Environmental Planning Policy.

Fences include all built vertical landscaping elements designed to define boundaries between one space and the next or to accommodate a change of level.

The design of fences and walls has an impact on the real and perceived safety and security of residents as well as on the amenity of the public domain and the streetscape character. The visual impact, scale and design of fences all need to be carefully considered.

Design requirements for front, side and rear boundary fencing can be found in Council's Development Control Plan Section A1 Part A(PDF, 5MB).

Side and rear boundary fences

Fencing behind the front building line can be erected to a height of 1.8 metres without Council approval as long as they comply with the guidelines set out in the State Environmental Planning Policy.

An exception to this rule however does apply to fence structures of pre-cast concrete or masonry in excess of 1.2 metres in height which require approval prior to erection. If your land has frontage to a canal the height of the fence within the canal building line is restricted to 1.2 metres and as these canal building lines can vary in different areas it is suggested that you first contact Council to discuss the setback requirements.

Generally, if a fence proposal does not comply with the State Environmental Planning Policy, it will need development consent from Council. Council's design control requirements for boundary fencing are set out in the Development Control Plan Section A1 Part A(PDF, 5MB). The specific requirements are set out under Ancillary Development No 6.1.

If you have frontage to a canal it will be necessary to comply with the requirements of Design Control C22 of the Development Control Plan Section A1, Part A which has specific requirements in relation to canal setbacks and the maximum heights permitted to ensure that the visual amenity of these areas are maintained.

Dividing fences

A dividing fence is a fence that separates the lands of adjoining owners. The fence may be a structure of any material, a ditch, an embankment or a vegetative barrier (e.g. hedge). It does not include a retaining wall or the wall of a building.

If you are proposing to build a new dividing fence or a front boundary fence you should contact Council to determine if prior approval is required and if there are any specific requirements in respect of fencing heights, designs or construction methods.

The design control requirements for dividing fences can be found in Council's Development Control Plan Section A1 Part A(PDF, 5MB)

Costs of a dividing fence

The cost of a dividing fence includes the cost of all related fencing work, such as preparation of the land, as well as the design, construction, replacement, repair and maintenance of the fence.

Adjoining landowners are liable to share equally the cost of fencing work that will result in a sufficient dividing fence, except that:

  • An owner must pay the additional cost if they want a fence of a higher standard than is required for a sufficient dividing fence.
  • An owner will have to pay the full cost if the existing fence is damaged, either deliberately or negligently, by the owner or by someone else with the owner's permission. If the fence is damaged by a tenant, the owner must pay for the work even if they plan to claim the cost from the tenant

It should be noted that public authorities, which includes councils that have control over Crown lands, parks, reserves etc, do not have to contribute to fencing costs.

Common trusts are subject to the Dividing Fences Act 1991, and are liable for contributions to fencing.

A sufficient dividing fence is defined as a fence which separates the properties, for example a paling fence in a residential area, or a wire and steel star post fence in a rural area.

If a court or land board needs to decide what is a sufficient dividing fence between adjoining owners, it will consider matters such as any existing dividing fence, the uses of the lands, privacy or other concerns of the owners, the usual kind of fence in the locality, or any relevant local council policy.

If one owner wants a fence of a higher standard than a sufficient dividing fence then that owner is liable to pay the difference in the cost between that fence and a sufficient dividing fence.

If an existing dividing fence is damaged or destroyed by one owner or someone on the owner’s land, that owner is liable to pay up to the whole cost of restoring the dividing fence.

Serving a Fencing Notice

An owner wanting an adjoining owner to contribute to the cost of a dividing fence must first serve a Fencing notice(PDF, 19KB) on that adjoining owner (personally or by post).

Owners are liable to contribute to the cost once agreement is reached. A Community Justice Centre may be able to help if adjoining owners have difficulty reaching agreement.

If an agreement is not reached within 1 month of the Notice being served, either owner may apply to a Local Court or Local Land Board to have the matter decided.

How can I access details of owners of properties?

In accordance with the Government Information (Public Access) Act, details of owners of properties are not publicly available.

Council will apply the Public Interest Test in releasing detail of property owners only to adjacent owners for fencing or maintenance of property purposes.

Property owners seeking this information are required to lodge an Informal Information Access Request Form(PDF, 308KB). For further information on releasing information see Access to information.

Resolving fencing disputes

The Local Court or Department of Lands is the authority charged with the administration of the Dividing Fences Act 1991, however advice relating to fencing disputes should be sought from other sources including Legal Aid Services, Community Justice Centres or private lawyers.

For more information on dividing fences and dispute resolution, please see the Legal Aid NSW website.

If you are in any doubt as to whether or not your proposal requires Council approval or whether your proposal will meet the requirements prescribed under Council's Development Control Plan, please do not hesitate to contact us on 02 6670 2400.

Read more about dealing with neighbours and property maintenance.

Frequently asked questions

Can Council assist me with a fencing dispute with my neighbour?

Neighbourhood fencing issues are a civil matter. Council does not get involved in such matters. lf you are concerned about a fencing matter on a neighbouring property the best way to resolve the issue is to discuss it with your neighbour. Your neighbour may not be aware that there is an issue and, in most cases, will be willing to help you resolve your concerns. You should clearly outline your concerns regarding the fencing issue with your neighbour and propose an option for addressing the issue.

lf talking to your neighbour does not result in an agreeable solution for both parties, please contact one of the below organisations for assistance:

  • The Community Justice Centre (CJC). The CJC provides a mediating service to assist you in coming to an agreement with your neighbour. lt is not mandatory for your neighbour to attend the CJC, but most people are willing to discuss the issue with a neutral facilitator to resolve problems and prevent them from escalating any further. Contact 1800 990 777 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays) to discuss your situation with the CJC or alternatively visit www.cjc.nsw.gov.au
  • The Legal Answers website has a tool kit that has helpful information in regards to neighbourhood issues including fencing disputes. Phone 1300 888 529.

Where can I find legal information about fencing?

See Law Assist for advice and information