Whose turf is it anyway?

21 May 2017

If you own a property, or looking to, you’ve probably heard the words: easement, boundaries, and setbacks. You should care about them if you want to know any of the following:

  • What’s your turf (boundary);
  • Who is allowed through or on it (easement); and
  • How close you can build to the street or your neighbours (setbacks).

A boundary, sometimes called a property line, marks the end of your land. They are usually invisible, but they are certainly not figments of the imagination. Boundaries are regulated by local councils, usually to control what an owner can do in close proximity to, or on, a boundary. Most residential properties adjoin three privately owned properties and road on the frontage side, which is public property.

One of the most common issues that comes up is related to fencing on a boundary. Neighbours are usually required to share the cost of boundary fencing. The Queensland Government has a webpage with further information on this issue. Retaining walls cannot be built on boundaries without the permission of your neighbours.

It is not recommended to that you rely on existing fences or boundary pegs as accurate indicators of the property line. The only reliable way to determine your boundaries is to have a registered Surveyor conduct an identification survey of the property. This can cost a couple of thousand dollars, which may seem like a lot. But that cost pales in comparison to the expense you might face for building on someone else’s land and being forced to remove your structure.

Boundary realignments can be carried out, but these are usually for minor readjustments. If significant changes to a boundary are needed, a subdivision may be the more appropriate solution. A boundary realignment will typically require a Development Application, which attracts council fees. You will also likely need the services of a surveyor and town planner before and during the process until such a time as your realignment is approved and sealed, or rejected.

An easement is registered on your property title and gives a third party the right to use a section of your land for a specific purpose (e.g. shared driveway, infrastructure services), despite you being the owner. Typically you cannot build over an easement without the written consent of the beneficiary of the easement, and in some cases the easement registered with the Titles Office will also need to be amended.

There are situations where services are not located within an easement, but the owner of the infrastructure has the right to access and maintain their infrastructure. If you want to build over, or near, infrastructure there are restrictions that apply and these vary between the utility providers.

The best way to identify where there may be some restrictions on a property which isn’t subject to an easement is through a Dial Before You Dig Search. Unfortunately this will only identify public infrastructure and not individual services associated with connections to a house. Once you’re across where your boundary is and what, if any, easements or services there are you can confidently work toward home improvements. That being said, you must pay heed to the applicable setback requirements. A setback is the minimum distance your structure needs to be away from a boundary or public property (e.g. road reserve) and this can vary from council to council.

The Queensland Development Code’s (QDC) Design and Siting Standard is the State standard and prescribes where structures can be located on a property. There are different setbacks depending on the size of the lot. However, the QDC can and is frequently overridden by setback requirements in a Planning Scheme. It is best to engage a Town Planner to advise on the setbacks that apply for any structures you are proposing, including houses, extensions, and carports to name a few.

Consult Planning can help you establish the applicable setbacks for a property you are considering. Get in touch to save yourself time and money via office@consultplanning.com.au or 1300 017 540.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to provide accurate information, Consult Planning does not guarantee that this blog article is free from errors or omissions or is suitable for your intended use. The information in this article is tailored to the Queensland scenario although it will have some relevance in other states as well.