This video is about two neighbourhood issues where advice is often sought - fences and dogs.
Transcript of Video
Annalisa (Lawyer): Neighbours - they are a group that you can’t easily avoid. They can be great, or they can be problematic. All too often, there are a couple of situations that cause neighbourhood disputes. Today, we will talk about two issues where advice is often sought from Legal Aid - fences and dogs.
Mature male: As my old boundary fence has seen better days, I want to replace it. What do I need to do to keep it all on the straight and narrow, so to speak?
Annalisa: Well, first talk with your neighbour and tell them that you think the fence needs to be repaired or replaced. As it is a boundary fence, your neighbour is obligated to pay 50% of the cost, providing you follow the legal steps.
Mature male: Old Bob from next door and I don’t see eye to eye a lot of the time. Do I have to talk to him?
Annalisa: No. To make sure you are able to recover your neighbour’s share, you need to serve notice on your neighbour that you intend to replace or fix the fence and that you expect them to pay half. Legal Aid can provide you with the relevant forms you need to do this. Once you have filled out the form, you can hand it to your neighbour in person, or send it in the mail.
Mature male: Righto, sounds pretty straight forward, what happens next?
Annalisa: Your neighbour has 21 days to object to your proposal. They must do this in writing, stating their reasons for objecting. If, after 30 days, you haven’t received any objection, you can go ahead and erect, replace or repair the fence and recover half the cost from your neighbour.
Mature male: Gee. I don’t know if Bob will go for that! What if he objects and we can’t agree on the fence?
Annalisa: OK, this does happen from time to time. So then, both parties should meet with a mediator or a fencing arbitrator. Legal Aid can give you a list of approved mediators.
Mature female: Dogs!!!! People have moved in next door and they have two little dogs that yap all day. It’s driving me crazy, well what can I do?
Annalisa: As you can imagine, persistently barking dogs are cause for lots of complaints. To take action, you need to lodge a complaint form with your local council. There will be a fee to do this.
Mature female: What'll the council do after I lodge my complaint?
Annalisa: Your local council will investigate your complaint. If the inspectors feel there are grounds for your complaint they usually write a letter of warning. If the dogs persist, the council may issue an infringement notice to your neighbor, requiring them to pay a fine. If the issue still continues, your local council will advise what other options are available to you. If you live in a flat or a unit your body corporate may assist.
Mature female: In my street, there are two really vicious dogs that always get out and roam the neighbourhood. I’m scared they’ll attack my grand-daughter.
Annalisa: A dog is not permitted to roam the streets at any time and the owners can be charged with having a dog at large. The dog can then be seized by the council.
The local council also has the power to declare a dog to be dangerous, even if it hasn’t attacked anyone. If concerned, contact the dog control officer at your local council. If this happens, the dog owner must microchip the dog, make sure it wears a special collar, is muzzled in public, and is under the control of a person who is over 18 years old.
Mature female: What if those dogs attack someone or their pets in our street?
Annalisa: If a dog attacks or chases people, or other animals, the owner could be charged with an offence and their dog may be seized and in serious cases, could be destroyed. An owner whose dog attacks someone must report the incident to the local council within 24 hours.
Annalisa: Neighbourhood issues, such as dogs and boundary fences, are very common areas for disputes but there ARE legal options available to you. So, before you have a dispute with your neighbour that gets out of hand, check out Legal Aid’s website or contact the Legal Aid Advice line to find out how we can help.