Fence Issue with Neighbour and Council

Hi fellow bargain hunters,

I am a new home owner and need some advice on an issue with my fence please.

My neighbour built a 1.5m fence instead of the maximum 2m and has security cameras on the side and back of the house looking into my property. The other sides of my fence are 2m and 2.5m comparatively. So I attached some bamboo fencing on the short side for privacy and to stop the cameras looking into my property but also as a garden feature. I feel invaded by the cameras and could not enjoy my outside back because of this. The bamboo fence has fixed the problem but now the neighbor has complained to the Council about the high fence. My neigbour has been problematic ever since I moved in, complaining to Council once about my grass being too long. When an inspector visited to check the length of the grass, he told me he didn't understand why a complaint was made.

The Council wrote to me asking me to explain why I put bamboo fencing and that I need a building permit for it which could cost thousands. I explained and provided photos of the cameras, and the short fence.Other houses in the area have much higher fences, about 70 percent of them in fact.

But now the Council has written back to me saying I need to remove the fence by a certain date and if I don't I will be fined under the Building Act.

I have tried to liase with the neighbour but that has not worked and I don't know what else to do.

Any advice will be much appreciated.

CORRECTION: The maximum height fence is 2m not 3m. The neighbour built a 1.5m metre fence. I've corrected above. Apologies for the error.

Comments

  • +22 votes

    Your neighbour sounds like a sick pervert - Isnt the point of security cameras to look at your own property not other peoples. Sounds like they are inside with the binoculars too.

    And also, its your house - unless your grass is like a freaking forest and attracting snakes and baboons, who the hell are they to tell you to mow your lawn.

    Just call the cops and tell them some sick freak is spying on you.

    • +7 votes

      Yeah I was thinking something similar also, isn't there privacy law that says security cameras must not record/point at neighbouring properties that invade privacy without formal consent from the neighbour? Something like that (thinking out aloud here not sure if it's even a thing)…

      •  

        I haven't found anything that says as such, would be wonderful to have that. From all the reading I've done, it's a grey area that the police or Council want to stay away from.

        • +2 votes

          I have only ever found guidelines too. Nothing that can be used in court.

          Guidelines being to not directly point at another property so it doesn't fill the whole frame but if it's mostly your property or the public street in the frame then a little of a neighbouring property may be recorded but everything should be done to avoid that by pointing cameras down the fence line instead of at the fence.

          Just like to add that a 3 or 3.5 metre fence is a very high fence. We have a 1.8 metre fence and I consider that a normal fence. Yes anyone can peer over it…so what…

        • +2 votes

          @mysterytal: Yup I don't have any problem with short fence, just the cameras. Also got my figures wrong for the fence. Max height is 2m they built a 1.5m fence.

          Thank you.

        •  

          What state do you live in? The laws aren't national level.

        •  

          @manshrew: Victoria.

          Also I made a mistake with my figures, max height is 2m, they built a 1.5m fence.

        • +1 vote

          @Kavaguru:

          LOL… relax. I hate it when I make a mistake on posting and everyone jumps to the wrong conclusion. That makes much more sense. Yes a 1.5 metre fence is short.

          Thanks for clarifying.

        • +1 vote

          @mysterytal: eeeek thank you.

        • +5 votes

          @Kavaguru:

          http://www.smartsafe.org.au/legal-guides/legal-guide-surveil...

          It is an offence for a person to knowingly install, use or maintain an optical surveillance device to record visually or observe a private activity to which the person is not a party, without the permission of each party to the activity.

          Edit: However it is worth noting that this doesn't apply once you're outside a building, or if you could expect someone to be watching.

        • +1 vote

          @manshrew: Thanks mate, this will be worth referencing.

        • +1 vote

          This is from Sydney criminal lawyers

          "Although you can’t film on private property without consent, filming someone on their property from a public space isn’t an offence. For example, it isn’t illegal to film a neighbour’s property from your own, or film someone on private property from a public footpath – although certain other laws may apply here, depending on the circumstances."

        • +1 vote

          Hey mate. You could invest in some jamming devices. Depending on the type of cameras he is using.

        • +2 votes

          @Ravenousryan:

          jamming devices

          an ecm is unlikely to work if it's a wired cctv.

          there is also this.
          https://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/faqs-mobile-phone-and-gps-ja...

        •  

          @whooah1979:

          Yes well…that's certainly a problem :)

          No jammers for us.

      •  

        From what I read about photography, there is no law prohibiting someone from a public space taking photos of your backyard, unless there is "adult" content involved ( don't know how to say it otherwise ). So I think he can take picture ( videos ) of your backyard as much as you want.

        I suppose you could put up a fence on your side, if you pay for it. Or you could put a inflatable pool in your backyard, which nor FORCES you to put a 1.8m fence around the pool.

        • +3 votes

          Your first sentence is correct but I think you have come to the wrong conclusion where you say this gets the neighbour off the hook.

          The neighbour's property is not a public space, it is a private space. This makes a significant difference.

          E.g. If your backyard was viewable from the street (a public place), and there were cameras installed in that place that could view your yard that is legal. The cameras are only recorded what anyone would be able to see anyway.

          If your backyard is not ordinarily viewable from the street or the neighbours house then not only is it your private space, it is in fact private. And now the camera is violating that privacy.

          (note here with a 1.5m fence your yard might be viewable if the neighbour is looking over it, but not if they were occupied in the middle of the yard etc - so I think the fence height here is still sufficient to say that they are getting viewing access from the camera that they ordinarily don't have of your yard).

          In WA, under police regulations the installer of the cameras would be fined and the home-owner forced to alter the installation to make sure privacy is maintained (such as by locating the camera lower, changing its angle etc). Link to WA legal act: http://www7.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/legis/wa/conso...

          " SURVEILLANCE DEVICES ACT 1998 - SECT 6
          6 . Regulation of use, installation and maintenance of optical surveillance devices

              (1)         Subject to subsections (2) and (3), **a person shall not install, use, or maintain, or cause to be installed, used, or maintained, an optical surveillance device** —
          
                  (a)         **to record visually or observe a private activity to which that person is not a party;** or
          
                  (b)         to record visually a private activity to which that person is a party.
          
              Penalty:
          
                  (a)         for an individual: $5 000 or imprisonment for 12 months, or both;
          
                  (b)         for a body corporate: $50 000."
          
      • +2 votes

        In WA it is illegal according to police guidelines ~ perhaps you could check with your state police? (or alternatively a licensed security company).

        In WA it is illegal to film where the other party has a reasonable expectation that their activity would not be observed and is private and where you are not a party to the situation and do not have consent.

        A backyard is a private space, generally speaking houses & fences are designed to prevent the ability to directly observe a neighbours yard unless it is unavoidable (e.g. very low fencing, steep hill etc).

        I've reworded from here: http://saiwa.asn.au/files/saiwa_video_surveillance_legislati...

        One of my clients' owns a security company and had discussed with me before.. he showed me installations of his competitors that they were showing off on Facebook and he was bemused that they didn't obey state guidelines given the rule above.

        Just going to put one more note up (because I know others will jump on what I have said), I recently had an issue with a neighbour building a second story that looked into my yard. My council's advice was that part of my yard was reasonable to expect to be private and non-viewable from his balcony but part of it wasn't. E.g. Since he could stand/sit on his balcony and see under my pergola where we would sit and eat dinner he was considered in breach of their guidelines as he was considered to have given himself access to see into my private space (as it was considered an extension of the living areas of my property. Similarly if I had a pool, they would have also considered that a private space & him in breach. However if his vision was limited to seeing a tiny patch of grass at my back fence, that wouldn't have breached guidelines as it is not reasonable to expect that I would often be doing something private in that area that would matter to be observed.

        And as my neighbour built the second story & balcony without notifying me (like your fence), I was informed I would be within my rights to request a modification of their balcony after the fact, in the form of a barrier at the side of the balcony to restrict their view. In order to be a good neighbour I decided against this and didn't make a formal complaint as I otherwise got along well with the guy & decided to plant bamboo along the fence instead (as others suggested here).

    •  

      Yes I keep thinking the same, they have shutters outside their windows which is always down, and have cameras all around the property. They (2 people) never have visitors and the only time we see them is when they get into their cars to go to work. It's really creepy.

    •  

      where in Australia do you need a permit to build a fence ? Oh wait it must be Sydney. In Brisbane, you just build it, you don't need a permit & if a tree on your land is annoying you, ie. you own it, just get rid of it. Don't need to ask anyone.

    •  

      Get laser pointers to blind his cameras.

  • +4 votes

    My neighbour built a 2.5m fence instead of the maximum 3m and has security cameras on the side and back of the house looking into my property.

    For starters, they don't need to build to the max height allowed.

    Second, are you sure these cameras ARE looking into your back yard? Have you need the video footage from them?

    I'm not saying they not, but before you get on excited about it, maybe go talk to them and say, hey can I see what you can see from your cameras?

    But now the Council has written back to me saying I need to remove the fence by a certain date and if I don't I will be fined under the Building Act.

    Remove it from the fence and look at other options. Fast growing hedge?

    •  

      I've asked a security camera guy who visited and said the cameras have a wide span. They won't talk to me so I don't think asking them to show me evidence will work. I also like the bamboo fence it makes my backyard look nice. But yes good idea re the hedge and other options.

      • +1 vote

        Yeah well if they won't talk to you, then you're sort of stuffed.

        Also there is no way to tell from looking at the cameras what lens is installed. It could be a wide view 2.8mm lens, it could not be. So the security guy is really only having a good guess.

        i have two turret cameras sitting on my desk now, one has a wide 2.8mm lense, the other has a more 'zoomed' 6mm lens. You can't tell from looking at them. They look the same.

        But at a guess, most go the wide view 2.6/2.7/2.8mm lens as they cover more area = lens cameras. That said, this reduces what they can see/quaily of the picture in the distance as such as large area is covered in the picture. Have a look at these examples

        https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81TQavVYpOL.SL1500.jpg

        https://ae01.alicdn.com/kf/HT1NlikFN0XXXagOFbXs/220807780/HT...

        https://ae01.alicdn.com/kf/HT1BhufFKXbXXagOFbXH/220807780/HT...

        •  

          This is great thanks @JimmyF. It does make me feel a bit better that they can't see clearly. I would still feel conscious though and not free in my own backyard with their 1.5m fence.

    •  

      Yer fast growing hedges are good. Ive heard a nice story where something similar happened. They fed the hedges so well that they grew so fast and solved the problem that actually pissed off the other neighbour but nothing could be done :D

  • +14 votes

    You can have a fence as high as the regulations allow.
    Adjust yours to be within the specification and you will be fine with the council.
    No drama required.

    If the neighbours cameras are still an issue with a regulation fence, ask the neighbour if they are able to reposition them. If they will not, what you can do varies by state. See:
    https://www.oaic.gov.au/individuals/faqs-for-individuals/law...

  • +1 vote

    to stop the cameras looking into my property

    This isn’t possible unless they’re directed at your bathroom or bedroom windows and can record what is happening inside those rooms.

    There isn’t much you can do if they recording their property and some of your backyard.

    •  

      Thanks. I just feel it's so unfair. I feel so conscious whenever I'm at the back or hanging the clothes on the side because of the cameras. The camera on the side of the house can see into my laundry and kitchen window so I have to keep the blinds down all the time.

  • +1 vote

    Who paid for the fence? If you paid part of it with the understanding it will be a 3m fence, then I hope you have something in writing.

    As for cameras pointing into your house, have a written request to have your neighbours point the cameras away or be removed. If he refuses, escalate with local attorney.

    https://www.oaic.gov.au/individuals/faqs-for-individuals/law...

    •  

      They paid for the fence and didn't consult or ask me to pay my share, I would have happily paid my share but would have insisted on a 3m fence.

      I will do a written request then engage a local attorney as advised, thanks very much.

      • +2 votes

        Pay your share now - to build an extension to the maximum height allowed

      •  

        Talk to a solicitor. Surely they can't just build a fence without your permission. Use that angle to cause them grief. Also who are these guys? bikies? if they threaten somebody again tell them where to stick it. They are only causing you grief because they know they can and you won't do anything about it.

  • +21 votes

    What about growing some actual bamboo on that side of the fence?

  • +3 votes

    Am I the only one wondering who the hell has 3m fences? Around where I am, 2m Colorbond is the norm. 3m tall fences just seems ridiculous.

    •  

      oops I just realised I made a mistake, the max is 2m and they build a 1.5m fence! sorry will correct above.

      • +5 votes

        I don't think there's any way they can stop you putting something on your side of the fence as long as it doesn't exceed the 1.8m/2m height limit, which is maybe where you're going wrong.

        If the council insists that you can't do that, I would ask them to show you the relevant legislation (this is assuming you're not exceeding the height limit).

        There's nothing stopping you planting bamboo or something though - no height limit on that! Gracilis will get to 6 metres which will mean you never have to look at your neighbour again.

        • +1 vote

          Good points. I can lower the bamboo fence but then it defeats the purpose of blocking the camera from my view. I'm really liking the idea of planting Gracilis! Thanks so much.

        •  

          @Kavaguru:

          Be prepared it takes a couple of years to really get going. You can buy mature plants, but they're reasonably expensive (depending on how many you need).

          It will form an inpenetrable hedge after a while though.

        • +1 vote

          @hcca: Ah yes, will be worth spending money on I reckon. And will look nice too :)

      • +2 votes

        Okay that makes a bit more sense.

        What doesn't make sense is a 1.5m fence. Most adults would just be able to see over it, its like it's trying to be private, and just not quite there.

        Maybe see if you can talk to a council inspector and see what they recommend? They have to see and certify fencing and crap all day long. I'm sure they might have an idea on costs and how to get it passed cheaply.

        Also if the maximum is 2m, how does the other neighbor that borders you have a 2.5m fence?

        •  

          None of my neighbours consulted me on the fence so they are all diff heights. The 2m and 2.5m you can really tell but those two compared to the 1.5 is a huge diff. Will call the Council tomm

    • +1 vote

      1.8m-2m is the max in probably the majority of councils. 3+ metres is insane. Maybe he lives in a prison?

    • +1 vote

      me too. Our 1.8m fence seems massive. I have to stand on tip toes to peer into the neighbours yard.

      A 3m fence is going to cast a massive shadow over the yard and probably be taller than the house.

  • +9 votes

    Are you sure it's 3m high?

    Sorry just kidding, you must be bored of answering the same question!

  • +5 votes

    If you are worried about line of sight is there anyway you could setup mirrors that reflect light back onto the lens of his camera. The odds are he would move where they are pointed if all he gets is a reflected light image.

  •  

    Sorry but "In Australia, there is no general right to privacy" http://www.lawstuff.org.au/vic_law/topics/privacy

  • +2 votes

    shrubs my friend, all along the fence line. something like a murraya paniculata will grow to 5m in a couple of years. downside is it needs pruning.

    also i was under the impression that security cameras invading neighbouring yards was a big no no. i'm not sure who to complain to. are you sure the cameras are surveilling your yard?

    •  

      Thanks for that, yes I’m now thinking shrubs, hedges etc.

      No actual law on cameras. They are pointed into my back and side areas. Not sure how much they can see but I feel invaded just with the cameras looking into. I don’t doubt they would be surveilling though.

    • +1 vote

      murraya paniculata might not like cold weather, so it might not be a great choice for down south. you should be able to find something appropriate

  • +1 vote

    Be careful with bamboo. It can grow runners and end up annoying your neighbours even more by sending up shoots on their side.
    Google "tall hedge plants". It'll come up with plenty of alternatives and the neighbour and council can't do a thing. Don't plant it too close to the fence - you need to allow space for the plant to grow and get a thick growth, so around 1200 to 1500 mm from the fence.

    •  

      Ok will do some research. Thank you.

      •  

        Yup. Clumping bamboo of the gracilis whatever-is variety someone mentioned above. They can grow ridiculously high, but when you cut the main trunk it won’t grow beyond that height. Suggest getting mature plants and lopping the top off so they stay at 2-2.5m. Good luck with your PITA neighbour!

    • +1 vote

      Make sure you only get a clumping variety of bamboo.. no runners.

  • +8 votes

    Put up pictures of big hairy butts on the side where the cameras are pointing.

  • +2 votes

    Pittosporum… silver sheen variety is nice. Will never see them again. Grows very quickly so minimum twice a year pruning but if you do it very regularly can be cut into what ever shape you want.

  • +1 vote

    "The Council wrote to me asking me to explain why I put bamboo fencing and that I need a building permit for it which could cost thousands."

    Made you an offer you couldn't refuse eh?

  • +4 votes

    hang planters on your fence instead of putting up bamboo fence

    the planter box hidden from your side of fence, while the plants grow from the top of the fence

  • +2 votes

    I think the rules of suburban warfare would require blinding spotlights pointed at your fence 24/7 (and perhaps anything behind it).

    •  

      I think infrared spotlight would be ideal. Cannot see it with the naked eye, but cameras see infrared light.
      A handy trick I learnt years ago, if your infrared remote control is having problems, grab your mobile phone camera out and press buttons on remote, while looking through camera to see if light is coming out from remote.

  • +11 votes

    Buy some cameras and point them into his yard. Two can play this game…

  • Top