Wondering where your fence or property boundary is? Is your fence ownership in question? Find out who has responsibility for your fence, hedge or wall with our useful guide.
Who does my fence belong to?
How do you find out who's responsible for painting the fence, maintaining the wall or cutting the hedge between you and your neighbour's properties? Has your boundary fence blown down and needs repairing? Our first and best piece of advice is to talk over any issues with your neighbour calmly, and resolve the issue between you, but it does help to know who owns a fence between houses beforehand.
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 builders or property owners should have put the fence up facing away from 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.
If you're erecting a new fence between your property and a neighbour, a great way to overcome the 'bad side' issue is to use double-sided fence panels. This type of fence panels features a 'good side' on both sides of the panel, completely removing the 'who gets the good side' issue.
Look at your 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 may charge a small fee to access). Ensure that you are on the official gov.uk website (linked above) as there are several copycat, official-looking websites that will charge you unnecessary fees.
However in England and Wales there is no obligation for boundary ownership to be specified on the title deeds - rules differ in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
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 an 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 official.
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.
What to do if your fence gets blown over
There is no legal obligation to have a fence between properties unless this is specified in the title deeds, or you have pets such as dogs (although this is a grey area legally). Hence, if a fence blows down into your garden that is maintained by a neighbour then they are responsible for removing the damaged fence from your land, but they do not actually have to replace it.
In most normal circumstances this wouldn't be an issue, as neighbours would resolve this between themselves rather than living with an open gap in the fence. However, the worst case scenario would be that you would have to erect a secondary length of fence on your side of the boundary to close the gap.
For advice on emergency fence repair speak to our experts at your local branch of AVS Fencing & Landscaping Supplies.
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.
My neighbour owns the fence, can I paint it on my side?
The short answer is only with your neighbour's permission! Again this isn't normally a problem between neighbours, but remember that any paint or stain that you apply is likely to slightly bleed through to the other side of the fencing. Hence it's a good idea to coordinate your annual fence treatment day with your neighbour, where any bleed through can be dealt with while the treatment or paint is still wet.
You are not technically 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. It's unlikely that your neighbour would object to you growing climbing plants up your side of the fence, but remember that in time plants can become heavy, and may affect the structural integrity of the fence.
How high should my fence be?
Fence heights are a matter of planning policy. Generally, 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.
Who can help to resolve a boundary dispute?
As we've said before, resolving any disputes directly with a neighbour is always the best option, and the Land Registry website has lots of useful information on this topic. Your local council planning department should be your next source of help, and finally, if all else fails consult with a solicitor for legal advice to resolve the dispute.
And of course, for any advice on erecting, repairing or treating a fence speak to the experts at your local branch of AVS Fencing & Landscaping Supplies.