Whose Responsibility is the Fence?
Arguments can often occur between adjoining neighbours due to issues with ownership of fencing or boundaries in general, particularly when repairs need to be undertaken or a neighbour wishes to make changes to the existing land which could be argued as encroaching on another neighbours land. As it is often difficult to establish ownership of fencing or other boundaries, it can become a problem for many simple issues, but there are in fact ways to find out precisely who is responsible for certain areas of the land that lies between adjoining properties.
The easiest way to establish the responsibility for repairs to fencing or general boundaries is to check the deeds to the property, which will usually outline clearly where your boundaries lie between neighbour’s properties. However it is important to understand that previous agreements over land ownership or alterations may have occurred without the Land Registry being informed, so this in itself is not completely fool-proof. And if you choose to sell your home quickly, it is advised to confirm details with the Land Registry.
For example, if it is discovered that the boundary lies very differently within the deeds than perhaps it is now, or has been continuously for 12 years or more, this is known as ‘adverse possession’, and can make the situation more complicated. In which case, you will need to seek legal advice regarding your rights over the land if it is disputed.
Although the deeds will give a guide over certain boundaries, there are certain areas which are often not included within the deeds, such as party walls, fencing, hedges and so forth. In most cases the boundary of homes and gardens, in particular, is based on a common-sense assumption, however generally speaking the fence is the responsibility of the side which contains the supporting fence posts. If the property is divided by a hedge or other material, the responsibility also usually lies with the area which the hedge is on, although it can become complicated if a neighbour proposes to remove the hedge as to what your rights are as the adjoining neighbour if you dispute the plans.
In most cases, neighbours will deal with issues amicably and divide the cost of any necessary repairs and maintenance. This is always more favourable than resorting to legal advice or other costly action. Disputes can often cost thousands of pounds, depending on the complexity of the case and whether it needs to go to court or not. Obviously as well as the financial cost, it can also prove extremely stressful so it is always advised to try and reach a mutual decision which both parties are happy with.
However, if you feel you are unable to communicate effectively with your neighbour you can speak to a solicitor or instruct a surveyor to help clarify boundary issues, but it is worth noting how costly this process can be. A surveyor’s report and mediation through a solicitor can, however, help to reach an agreement but if you can do it together you can both save spending any unnecessary money on legal fees. Once you have a boundary line which is accepted by both parties and in place, it is then wise to contact the Land Registry for these details to be recorded on your deeds.
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