A couple could be forced to sell their home after they were left with a $163,000 legal bill when their neighbours took them to court over a fence.
Jay and his wife Kirsty Hall built their home in Sydney‘s northwest in 2018.
The couple say they had verbal approval from their neighbours to build a retaining wall that separated their two houses, which had been signed off by the Hills Shire Council.
‘The fence initially was constructed with a retaining wall attached to a metre high. And that retaining wall essentially was on a verbal agreement with the neighbours, we were on good terms at that point,’ Mr Hall told A Current Affair.
But in 2020, the development application showed that the fence had breached their neighbours’ property’s boundary.
‘The neighbours got a survey done on that wall and went back to our DA conditions which said that the retaining wall needed to be wholly within our property,’ Mr Hall said.
The council retracted the final occupation certificate and ordered the couple to move their fence seven centimetres back onto their property, which they did.
But the saga didn’t end there and their neighbours eventually took them to the Land and Environment Court.
Jay and his wife Kirsty Hall built their home in Sydney ‘s northwest in 2018. They’ve now been left with a $163,000 legal fee after their neighbours took them to court over a fence
‘We essentially have to sell our house to pay for those court fees and that’s really the devastating part because we built this house for ourselves,’ Ms Hall said.
Subsequently, in 2021, the council confirmed that no additional work was necessary.
‘We thought that once council had come out and looked the very last time and had signed everything off. I had this relief and thought, ”OK, it’s finally over and we don’t have to ever worry about this again”,’ Ms Hall said.
But the couple living next door then took the matter to court, saying the fence ‘wasn’t constructed correctly’.
They also claim they never agreed for the fence to be built in the first place.
Mr Hall has already had to reconstruct the fence but has been ordered to pull it down and rebuild it again
In May this year, the Hall family received a letter from their neighbours’ lawyer saying a judgement had been handed down in their clients’ favour.
The judge had found the Halls’ fence had been built in breach of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.
The couple were ordered to remove the wall and fence and replace it with a ‘structurally sound’ timber retaining wall and fence, and ‘install adequate draining measures’.
Not only will they now need to pay for the construction of a new fence, the Halls were then ordered to pay the cost of legal proceedings which equated to $163,424.
‘It’s a fence like $163,000 for a fence is ridiculous,’ Mr Hall said.
‘Council’s at fault, 100 per cent. We’re relying on them to be our certifier, we pay the fees.’
The council has said they had no reason to believe Mr Hall did not comply with the approved plans, adding because they were in discussions with one of the parties they could not comment further.
The council offered the Halls $10,000 to go towards rebuilding the fence.