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HG Alert: Neighbourhood Disputes Resolution Bill Introduced - 8 Jun 2010

The Queensland Government has introduced the Neighbourhood Disputes Resolution Bill 2010, with the aim of simplifying the way that neighbours handle and resolve disputes over trees and fences. The Bill has been released for public consultation.

The Bill, if enacted, will repeal the Dividing Fences Act 1953, which has been the statutory authority on dividing fences for almost 60 years. The Bill will not only update and modernise the rules about constructing and repairing dividing fences, and each neighbour’s responsibilities, but will also outline who will be responsible for the proper care and maintenance of trees.

Key changes proposed in the Bill include:

  • Clearer definitions of “sufficient dividing fence” and the type of tree disputes covered by the proposed new laws;
  • A framework for resolving disputes between neighbours over trees and fences, including the use of formal notices for contributing to and/or maintaining a dividing fence, and carrying out work to a tree (ie trimming or removing a tree);
  • Clarification of the responsibilities of a “tree keeper” (usually the tree’s owner) to ensure the tree does not cause injury or damage to people or to a neighbour’s property;
  • The use of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) to adjudicate disputes over dividing fences and trees;
  • Clarification that the ownership of a dividing fence on a common boundary is shared equally between neighbours; and
  • A clear distinction between a retaining wall and a fence.

If you are selling or buying property (whether or not it is a residential transaction) it will be important to note the following:

  • If you are a seller, then information regarding any application to or order made by QCAT about trees must be provided to potential buyers. If this is not done, the buyer may terminate the contract at any time before settlement. The deposit will need to be refunded to the buyer within 14 days of the termination and the seller (and any person acting for the seller who prepared the contract) will be liable for the buyer’s reasonable expenses, including legal fees in relation to the contract. QCAT is required to maintain an electronic register of all orders made regarding trees, which is to be publicly available.
  • If QCAT has made an order for carrying out work to a tree and the seller has provided a copy of that order to the buyer, then if the seller has not carried out the work required under the order, the buyer will become bound by the order from the settlement date and will be required to comply with the terms of the order.
    We will be monitoring the progress of the Bill and will keep you updated as developments occur. The Bill is available at www.justice.qld.gov.au . If you would like to have your say about the proposed new laws, you can provide feedback until 9 July 2010 by email to NeighbourhoodDisputesResolution@justice.qld.gov.au or by mail to:

    Neighbourhood Disputes Resolution Bill Consultation
    Department of Justice and Attorney-General
    Strategic Policy
    GPO Box 149
    Brisbane Qld 4001

    For more information, please contact HopgoodGanim’s Commercial Property team.