Know Your Rights

It’s important to understand any laws, regulations or council local laws that might apply to your situation. This will help you in your discussions with your neighbour. There are different rules for different neighbourhood situations, however, it is useful to know that talking to the person you have an issue with will almost always need to occur. 

Check with your council for local laws

It’s worth checking with your local Council to find out whether there are any local laws or rules you have to comply with. If you’re not sure which council area you live in, use the Find your Local Council search at the Department of Planning and Community Development website. However, it is important to understand that your local Council will rarely get involved in a dispute between neighbours - it is usually up to them to resolve it themselves.

Legal information

For information about your rights in relation to neighbourhood problems and a practical guide to the law in Victoria, visit the Law Handbook Online.

Legal advice

Victorial Legal Aid (VLA) is a state-wide organisation that helps people with their legal problems. You can reach them by calling 1300 792 387, or visiting their website: www.legalaid.vic.gov.au

Federation of Community Legal Centres can be reached by calling (03) 9652 1500, or visiting their website: www.communitylaw.org.au

Fences

From 22 September 2014, the Fences Amendment Act 2014 introduced a number of changes to the Fences Act 1968. If you are a property owner, these new changes mean that you and your neighbour have equal responsibility for the dividing fence on your land.

The Fences Act contains rules about who pays for a dividing fence, the type of fence to be built, notices that neighbours need to give one another and how to resolve disputes that come up when discussing fencing works with your neighbour.

The Fences section of this website contains information on your responsibilities, the major changes to the Fences Act, and pro forma notices to download for your own use.

More information about fences

Trees

The Trees section of this website contains general information about trees, tips for resolving a dispute, further informtaion and resources, and tree FAQs.

There are no specific State or local laws relating to disputes between neighbours about trees. Disputes about trees are covered by the ‘common law’, which is law that has been developed by the courts over time.

Most disputes are to do with overhanging branches or roots encroaching on a neighbour’s property. You are entitled to cut off branches overhanging your property and to dig up roots on your property. However, this must be done in such a way that it doesn’t cause unnecessary damage to the tree. Also, you are not entitled to enter your neighbour’s property without permission.

Even if your neighbour’s tree is overhanging your property, you should tell your neighbour first before cutting branches as:

  • if you destabilise the tree this might cause problems with the neighbour
  • your neighbour might like to get involved
Tell your neighbour what you plan to do and ask what they’d like done with the branches or roots that you cut off, as, strictly speaking, these remain the property of the tree owner.
More information about trees

Law Handbook Online
Fences and Trees

Environment Defenders Office
www.envirolaw.org.au/resources/trees

Neighbours, the Law and You
www.victorialawfoundation.org.au/publications

Noise

The Environment Protection Act 1970 deals with ‘unreasonable noise’ coming from residential premises. Common noise problems include the use of lawn mowers, power tools, musical instruments, air conditioning units, radios, televisions and amplified music.

There are different rules about times when excessive noise is prohibited, depending on the source of the noise and the day of the week.

More information about noise

Law Handbook Online
Neighbours and noise

Environment Protection Authority
www.epa.vic.gov.au

Neighbours, the law and you
www.victorialawfoundation.org.au/publications

Animals

The law about domestic pets is contained in the Domestic (Feral and Nuisance) Animals Act 1994. Your Council may also have made local laws.

The law regulates matters such as dogs being on a lead, barking dogs, animals being allowed to wander and go onto other people's property, dog attacks, and how many cats or dogs can be kept on one property.

More information about animals

Law Handbook Online
Animals

Responsible Pet Ownership
new.dpi.vic.gov.au/pets/

Dogs, Cats, Neighbours and You
www.victorialawfoundation.org.au/publications