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Case study - Jim, Mai and Tam
Jim owns his home. The fence that divides his property from his neighbour's has a number of panels falling out. Jim has spoken to the people living next door, Mai and Tam, about repairing the fence but they have told him that they are renting the house and do not know the name of the owner.
Jim wants to get the fence fixed but is not sure how to find the owner of the property.
If you want to build, fix or replace a dividing fence, you will need to talk to the owner of the property. This may be difficult if they do not live next door (for example, it is vacant or they rent it out). If this is the case, you will need to find your neighbour.
Here are some steps you can take to find out who owns the property and where they are:
If your neighbour's property is rented out, you could try asking the tenant or managing agent of the property for the owner's contact details. You could also ask the tenant or the agent to pass on a letter to the owner asking them to contact you.
A title search is a search to find out who owns a property. There are two steps you need to follow:
You need the title reference for the property. You can find this by doing a street address inquiry through NSW Land Registry Services. Enter your neighbour's address in the street address inquiry and you will be told the title reference for their property.
Once you have the title reference, you can do a title search. You can do an online
title search through one of the approved information brokers. They do not have a standard fee. You can also do a
title search over the counter at Land Registry Service’s Queens Square Sydney office for $15.00
(as at 1 July 2020). The title search will list the names of the owner or owners
of the property.
Once you know the name of the owner or owners, you need to find out their contact details. You can look up the name of the owner in the phonebook.
whitepages is available online. Not everybody is listed in the phonebook. Some people may not have a landline in their name and some people ask for their numbers to be kept "silent" (confidential).
Your local council will generally have the address and contact details of the owner of the property neighbouring yours. The council may agree to give you this information. You can:
You can make an informal application to your local council for the details of the owner of the neighbouring property. An informal application is usually free, although you may have to pay for photocopying costs.
Informal applications may be made in writing, online, or in some cases, by telephone. You can contact your local council for details about how to make an informal application.
When you make an informal application, the council may contact the owner and ask them if they approve having the information released.
If your local council will not provide the details of the owner of the neighbouring property informally, you can make an Access Application. An Access Application is a formal application to the council for information.
Copies of the Access Application form are available at your local council.
You can write a letter providing further information about why you need to contact your neighbour and attach it to the form. If you cannot get a copy of the form you can just apply by letter. In your letter you should:
You will need to pay the application fee of $30.00 (as at July 2016) when you make your Access Application.
The council will consider your application and decide whether to provide you with the information that you have requested. For more information about Access Applications, go to the Information and Privacy Commission NSW website.
If the council refuses your application, you should get legal advice. There are a number of options for requesting a review, but each request must be made within certain time limits.
If you have taken the steps listed above and you still cannot find your neighbour, you may need to make an application to the Local Court or the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) for a Fencing Order without giving notice to your neighbour (in their absence). For more information, see
For answers to commonly asked questions, see Frequently Asked Questions.