Fence Dispute Between Wavell Heights Neighbours Highlights Steps Needed to Resolve Similar Boundary Issues

For five years, two Wavell Heights neighbours have been at odds over the fence on their properties, a dispute that has intensified to include the police and even the RSPCA. The case has shone a light on the necessary steps to take when dealing with a boundary line issue between neighbours.

In October 2022, Wavell Heights residents were alerted to the screams of Reshael Sirputh who was trying to stop Mitch McKee, the guy who lives next door, from taking down the fence between their properties. The police were alerted to the disruption but Mr McKee claimed he simply wanted to build a new fence because he was concerned about his neighbour’s dog. He also said that the new fence will cost his neighbours nothing.

However, Ms Sirputh said that there was already a chain wire fence when McKee moved in years ago and she has also complied with Council’s orders to add a bamboo fence on her side since there’s a dog on her property. Contrary to what Mr McKee said, her neighbour apparently wanted Ms Sirputh to pay for the new fence he planned to build himself. She said that he quoted $14,000 for the fence.

When she declined the cost, Mr McKee, a tradie, took out his power tools and proceeded to cut the chain wires and remove her bamboo fence. Ms Sirputh took videos of her neighbour as she screamed and attempted to stop him from destroying property. Her dog also got in the way of Mr McKee, who swung a hammer at the animal. The RSPCA issued him a warning.

Ms Sirputh hurt her hand when she tried to stop Mr McKee but he was not arrested nor charged. The police said this was a civil matter that must be heard before the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT). 

The dispute between the Wavell Heights neighbours could have been avoided if one of the homeowners immediately filed for an order with the QCAT to prevent the other party from demolishing the fence on their boundary line, under Section 38(1) of the Neighbourhood Disputes (Dividing Fences and Trees) Act 2011

Before filing, however, the neighbours should have had a proper conversation and investigation into why they needed to knock back the boundary line fence. If an agreement has been reached, it should be done in writing but if the neighbours continued to disagree, the QCAT could recommend a mediation. 

The QCAT has nationally-accredited mediators who can walk both sides of the process with impartiality. This service is free. However, if the mediation fails, then the disputing neighbours can elevate and take legal action by filing a civil court case. A court case, however, may be costlier and more time-consuming than installing a new fence.   

Published 25 March 2022