​Which Side of the Fence is Mine?

Wondering where your fence boundary is? Find out who has responsibility for your fence, hedge or wall with our useful guide. 

Fence panels in garden

Want to find out who's responsible for painting the fence, maintaining the wall or cutting the hedge between you and your neighbour's properties? Our first and best piece of advice is to talk over any issues with your neighbour calmly rather than argue. But it does help to know who owns a fence between houses beforehand so you can both have all the information you need to discuss it properly.

Can I work out ownership by looking?
Forget anything you've been told about “left-hand” or “right-hand” rules. They don't exist. Looking can give you a clue: walls and fences are most likely to have been built on the land that belongs to the boundary’s owner with the further edge of the wall marking the actual boundary. You can often guess who owns a fence by looking at where the frames are – the owners should have put these up facing away their own property so their neighbour gets the 'good' side. This should be repeated with the neighbour on the other side so each home has one 'bad' and one 'good' side. 

Find the paperwork
To be entirely sure, however, you will need to check the title deeds for your house. If you own your home you should find a copy in your paperwork or ask the solicitor who did your conveyancing. If the information is not listed on the title plans, you'll have to check the plans that are registered with the Land Registry (which costs a small fee to access). When looking at the plans, the ownership is indicated by a “T” marked on the plans on one side of a boundary.
• If the “T” is written on your side of the boundary, you're responsible for maintaining it. 
• If there's a H (although actually it's two joined Ts) the boundary is the joint responsibility of both parties.

If you have a joint boundary, and you have a party fence, you’ll have to speak to your neighbour, and work out what you want to do such as taking it in turns to care for your fencing. You can buy out your neighbour – you must go through a proper, legally recorded sale process to make this stick

What if I can't find anything?
1. You can undertake a further search of the Registry of Deeds which holds records of unregistered land.
2. You can strike a “boundary agreement” with your neighbour(s). This will put everything down on paper, and can officially be recorded as an ongoing legal document – saving future owners the hassle of a fencing dispute. Working this out between yourselves is often the smartest move. However, it is wise to consult a legal expert and also check the extent of the agreement’s powers.

My neighbour owns the fence, what can I do?
You will not be allowed to hang items from your neighbour’s fence or lean things against it, unless you have been given permission from your neighbour to do so. You are also not permitted to paint, stain or apply preservative without suitable permission. But as always, it's worth just clearing these things with them beforehand.

How high should my fence be?
Fence heights are a matter of planning policy. Generally, though, your rear garden fences are allowed to be up to two metres high and one metre on front fences but your local authority planning office will be able to confirm this. Do always discuss any plans you have with any neighbours who may be affected.

My neighbour won’t repair their fence, what can I do?
If your neighbour is adamant about not repairing their fence or has not shown any interest in doing so, there is not much you can do to change their mind. You could erect your own fence alongside your neighbour’s fence, within your boundary. Then there will be two fences running alongside each other, with yours covering the look of your neighbour’s fence.

Who can help?
If you need legal advice, then contact the Law Society (or the Law Society of Scotland or the Law Society of Northern Ireland) or RICS (the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors).

Our experts say...
"If you don’t own your property, then your landlord or housing association should be your first port of call. If your property borders public land, then you may need to contact your local council, charity or government department."

Help & advice
If you want to know ask about this subject or fencing, please get in touch with your local branch. Our specialists will be happy to offer help and advice and can provide you with a free quote for supply of all relevant materials.

26th Jun 2019