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Establishing Rights Over Fences & Boundaries

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 16 Aug 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Fence Disputes Neighbours Boundary

Adjoining neighbours can sometimes get into a dispute about the position and ownership of a particular boundary, be it a fence, wall, barrier or some other kind of boundary line. Often the Boundary Disputes will arise when one party wishes to use part of the land for something particular and the adjoining neighbour opposes that on the grounds that the other is encroaching upon their land.

Alternatively, arguments also arise where damage has been done to a particular fence or wall, for example, which then needs repair and the decision over who is going to foot the bill.

How to Establish the Boundary Lines

Usually, the most common way of establishing boundary lines is to check the deeds of the properties involved and, more often than not, there will be a clear demarcation of exactly where the boundaries are. However, this is not a foolproof method as previous owners of the houses concerned may have agreed to alter the boundaries for one reason or another yet have not informed the Land Registry.

Another point to consider is where one party has been using the disputed area of land continuously for the past 12 years. This is something that is termed as 'adverse possession'. It can be quite complex to understand and in this situation, it's better to seek legal advice if the dispute cannot be resolved amicably.

Establishing Boundary Areas Which Aren't on the Deeds

There are certain boundary areas that will not be included within the deeds, such as party walls, hedges and ditches and fences. Most of the time it's simply presumption that determines who owns what and whose responsibility it is to maintain certain boundaries or barriers.

Common presumptions:

  • A fence where the posts are supported on one side would be the responsibility of the person whose side contained the posts
  • If two properties are divided by a hedge and a ditch, the person whose side the hedge is on is responsible as the rightful owner, although there's no presumption if there's a hedge only
  • Interior walls which separate a semi-detached property are usually deemed to be the responsibility of both parties, and any repairs which might be needed are, in most instances, divided between both parties if the damage affects both sides

If you wish to fix an exact boundary, you need to:

  1. Try to agree any unclear areas with your neighbours and all sign an agreement to that effect
  2. Ask a surveyor to draw up a detailed plan
  3. Send both the signed agreement and detailed plan to the Land Registry, along with a completed application (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/exact-line-of-boundary-registration-db), and your application fee (£90)

If you can't agree the boundary line, there are steps that you can take to determine the boundary (see below).

Ways to resolve your dispute

There are several ways in which you can attempt to resolve any issues you have over boundaries:
  • Amicable discussion
  • Mediation
  • Adjudication
  • Courts
Here's an overview of what's involved in each of the above:

Amicable discussion

Disputes over boundaries and your rights can run into several thousand pounds and even six figure sums in more complex cases should you decide to take the matter to court. This can cause immense stress.

The best way to resolve any boundary issues is to try to reach an agreement between both parties. Once an agreement is reached, you can inform the Land Registry of the agreement and fix the boundary. However this comes at a cost, and it may be that you and your neighbour can resolve the issue without needing to formally "fix" the boundary line.

Mediation

In mediation, an independent person is jointly appointed by both parties to "police" discussions. It is very much up to the two sides to reach an agreement. Having someone to help ensure that discussion stays on relevant issues can help with this, but both parties need to approach the discussions with a genuine intent to resolve the matter and appreciate that this will involve some compromise on both sides.

This can be a great and comparatively cheap way to reach an agreement that all parties are happy with. Further, the Courts will often stay (put on hold) proceedings to give parties chance to try to reach a settlement via this method. However the "down side" of mediation is that either party can walk away at any point, and so there is no guarantee that the problem will be resolved.

Should you wish to undertake mediation, an RICS accredited mediator (who specialises in boundary disputes) can be found at http://www.ricsfirms.com/accreditations/mediationaccreditationscheme.

Adjudication

Adjudication involves both parties jointly appointing an independent expert who will decide the dispute for you. Both parties agree to be bound by the adjudicator's decision. Many barristers chambers offer this service.

The advantage of adjudication is that it is speedier than trying to resolve the matter via the courts, and a definite solution will be reached. Further parties will usually not be required to make an appearance in person.

The disadvantage is this can be a very expensive option, and in some cases can be more expensive than using the Court system. It can also create further dispute by parties failing to agree an adjudicator, and spending more time arguing over who will resolve the argument than actually working towards a resolution!

Courts

The Courts are of course available should parties be unable to resolve their dispute amicably. Sometimes this may be the best way of resolving your dispute. However I would advocate careful consideration of the following before applying to the Courts.

1. You will usually need to instruct a solicitor to guide you through the Court processes and assist you to best present your case. Solicitors range from approximately £120ph to over £200ph. You will need a number of hours to allow for consultation with your solicitor, receipt of advice, and preparation of your claim / defence with your solicitor.

2. If you are not successful, there is a risk that you may have to pay at least a portion of the other party's costs, as well as your own.

3. The Courts will usually expect you to have considered and attempted a form of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation (as discussed above).

4. The Courts often have a several month backlog. When you will be able to have your case heard will depend upon your local court's timetable. However in large city centres, this could be as long as six months, particularly if you have a number of witnesses or a large amount of evidence to be considered.

What is the best way?

Before taking steps to try to determine a boundary, first consider why you need to determine the boundary. The above options have varying costs, however all do come at a cost, and it may actually be cheaper to for example jointly pay the cost of repairing a fence rather than spend money determining whose responsibility it is to do so, particularly if this is likely to be a one-off repair. Also remember that disputes with neighbours may have to be declared should you wish to sell your house, potentially making your property less attractive to buyers.

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Hi if anyone can give me some advise please I purchased my house couple years ago no problem all really nice neighbours but there is a fence separating mine and what was the lady next doors drive, this was never a problem until she has now passed away and her family who do not live round here have sold the house, the people buying the house have already been telling the street they plan on building on the drive, this does not bother me the problem is they believe the fence is in the wrong place and have told me when they buy the house they are having it moved! To give them more room to build! I have now had a slight argument about this because I have looked into it and the fence was originally put up in 1984 when the house was built and because it had been there that many years I don’t care what the os maps say my house and previous owners have maintained the fence and use the drive every day! ( moving it will stop me using my drive it’s already a tight fit) and I should also add it is about 1 foot different to the os map not alot!. Now am I right in telling him no he cannot touch the fence I purchased my house knowing that’s the boundary and he has not even purchased his and can see where the fence is! It does not say in any paper work by land registry that either of us own it just that they should be treated as party walls and maintained so this is what I have done thanks.
Jim - 16-Aug-18 @ 6:05 AM
Dan - Your Question:
My neighbour has had a drive payed down which clearly goes about 0.5 meteron to my property. There is a fence panel at top of the garden and when it’s lifted. See there drive way

Our Response:
Talk to your neighbour, ask them why they have encroached on to you property. Perhaps they don't realise they've done it. If you can't come to a mutually acceptable resolution, you could try using a mediator etc. If that is unsuccessful, you may have to consider legal action.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-Aug-18 @ 11:25 AM
I hope somone can help, we have recently found out that next doors front garden goes in to the boundary line of my house, currently we share a footpath and i have a small V shaped open garden as i cannot put anything up as it compromises entry to my house. The house was just been recently sold but the garden and shared path have been there 20odd years,is there any advice on claiming some garden as its on my land/boundary line? Were the new people mis sold their house? Ive seen plans of land registry the new owners have and its been scrubbed out by the morgage people i can only assume so a new print out shows no line but on my LR there is a direct line that crosses the shared path and a corner of their front garden. I hope this makes sense?? Any advice please
Marie - 8-Aug-18 @ 10:51 PM
My neighbour has had a drive payed down which clearly goes about 0.5 meteron to my property. There is a fence panel at top of the garden and when it’s lifted. See there drive way
Dan - 8-Aug-18 @ 6:45 PM
PB - Your Question:
The boundary between my property and my neighbours is described as a party wall. So no clear responsibility. There s a brown panel fence with dividing concrete posts between the property's which is decayiong. And seems to be mostly held together by foliage on his side. Infact one panel has so much foliage it is completely curved and looks like it could break. I want to replace the fence. This will inevitably mean reducing some of my neighbours foliage when the fence comes down.As neither of us is separately responsible can I just go ahead and replace or do I need his permission.

Our Response:
You should talk to your neighbour before going ahead with this. He may want to take steps to remove if his plants before you pull down the fence if nothing else. Check that neither of you is actually individually responsible for the fence. Your deeds might help with this, or you could ask a boundary specialist.
ProblemNeighbours - 7-Aug-18 @ 2:38 PM
the boundary between my property and my neighbours is described as a party wall. So no clear responsibility. There s a brown panel fence with dividing concrete posts between the property's which is decayiong. And seems to be mostly held together by foliage on his side. Infact one panel has so much foliage it is completely curved and looks like it could break. I want to replace the fence. This will inevitably mean reducing some of my neighbours foliage when the fence comes down. As neither of us is separately responsible can I just go ahead and replace or do I need his permission.
PB - 6-Aug-18 @ 11:17 AM
In 2014 I replaced the fencing between my garden and the one next door. At the time both houses were owned by a housing association and my neibours were lovely, sadly in 2015 they had to move due to ill health. The house was sold and is now a private residence.I'm May this year I was approached and asked if I would mind if they put 2ft of screening up to assist with a planter which already had trellis attached. I agreed to the 2 ft of screening being put up verbally.This was approx 6ft 6in tall and stood at least 6in above the fence, possibly more. As I had agreed to that small part I decided to let it be even though it was an eye sore.A couple of weeks later I had been out all afternoon to find that the screening had been extended up the garden to the house, a total of another 3 1/2 fence panels, each one at least 6 inches above the fence.It took me several days to pluck up the courage to go round.i was greeted with a "We didn't think you'd mine and he wanted to get on with it"I was taken through to view said 'extention' they had screwed horizontal batons to my fence so they could attach this willow screening. Sadly my response was not what she wanted when I told her she could not attach anything to my fence. This is where neighbourly relations came to an abrupt end, things got a bit heated but I left them in no uncertain terms that I wanted it taken down.They have trimmed it to the hight of the fence but the batons are still attached, they have also moved the planter but attached the trellis to my fence.i contacted my landlord to determine who the boundary belonged too, the contacted the Land Registry Office and there is no determined boundary as the land was bought and then split into plots and can offer no further advice. I saw the husband last night and asked politely when I could expect the rest of the screening to be taken down and for any damages due to screws etc to be put right, I was met with a roll of the eyes and a shake of his head. Does anyone have any advice please? Thanks in advance.
CrazyBeeLady - 29-Jul-18 @ 12:16 AM
Hi my neighbour removed all of his conifer trees and replaced them with a 6 foot high fence. However, he left a chain link fence and metal posts (his boundary line) on our side of the fence, which he refuses to let us remove as he said it’s still his boundary. The state of the chain fence is in a bad way and leaning into our boundary and is very unsightly. What are our and his rights please?
Jenny - 27-Jul-18 @ 9:09 PM
I have a mature weeping willow tree at the back of my garden. Large as the house in lengtht and heightIt is a real pain as it drops it’s leaves and branches two to three times a year andmakes an awful mess ruining my plants I have spoken to the owners who are not concerned, as half of their garden theydon’t bother about. I feel as through as long as their content with the situation that’s OK?It I take a lot of pleasure and hard graft keeping mine up together and I car to stand the mess for much longer time running out I am now84.can you help.E.MH
Eddy - 11-Jul-18 @ 3:38 PM
I want to take out a tall hedge that my neighbour says is his. Which is fine but the whole of this hedge is in my land. So if i cut it back to his boundary it will be non existent. So doni have the right to take it down
Hedge - 11-Jul-18 @ 8:03 AM
I live in a Waterloo house which is an housing assassination my neighbor has put a fence up between us which the bad side is facing my way and he has put it Wright next to the edge so you can not cut the side where he has put the fence when I put a shead up thay told me I would have to leave room to cut the edge but when I ask them about him they side that the fence was on his boundary now when I ask them about it thay say I will have to take it to court to sort it out but they will not show me where the boundaries are thay just keep pausing the buck to other people now it you will have to go to court but it not my property and I do not have the money to do this the people next door do not speck to me so I can not take to them they are not very nice
Sue - 10-Jul-18 @ 6:21 PM
Trying again with corrected grammar! Advice needed please. My elderly neighbours (89 and 93 yrs) own, as shown on the deeds, the garden wall between their new neighbours. It’s a terraced property.The new owners want to pull the garden wall down and put in new footings so they can extend their property.It will be rebuilt. They are inclined to object to this as they do not wish the upheaval and the loss of several established plants that are growing up their wall. However, they are also worried as the wall on the new neighbours side is in bad repair and they fear being given a large bill for repointing the whole wall (it’s very long). The pointing on their side is perfect.Can they legally object to the wall being demolished (and rebuilt) and not have to pay for the repairs to it on the new neighbours side? They cannot afford to pay for it to be repointed. Thank you.
Amy - 6-Jul-18 @ 6:59 PM
Advice needed pls. My elderly neighbours (89 and 93 yrs) own, as shown on the deeds, the garden wall between their new neighbours. It’s a terraced property.I live on the other side and I’m trying to help them as they are feeling bullied.Thenew owners want to pull the wall down and put in new footings so they can extend their property. They are inclined to object to this as they do not wish the upheaval and the loss of several established plants that are growing up their wall. However, they are also worried as the wall on the new neighbours side is in bad repair and they fear being given a large bill for reprinting the whole wall. The pointing on their side is perfect.An they legally object to the wall being demolished (and rebuilt) and not have to pay for the repairs to it in the new neighbours side? They cannot afford any expense. Thank you.
Amy - 6-Jul-18 @ 6:23 PM
Andyt - Your Question:
My neighbour is telling me a boundary wall is mine. This wall is a retaining wall for his garden his garden level is approximately one metre above mine I am disputing his claim can you be of any helpThanksAndrew Thompson

Our Response:
You will need to check your title deeds to see if there is any mention of the wall/boundary. If not, perhaps a boundary specialist/surveyor might be able to help.
ProblemNeighbours - 2-Jul-18 @ 3:34 PM
My neighbour got wind that we were building a wall round our front garden , he went to the bother of taking the post out and putting the fence panel back up with brackets therefore we can't point the wall on that side
Sandy - 30-Jun-18 @ 10:05 PM
My neighbour is telling me a boundary wall is mine. This wall is a retaining wall for his garden his garden level is approximately one metre above mine I am disputing his claim can you be of any help Thanks Andrew Thompson
Andyt - 29-Jun-18 @ 2:22 PM
46Rossi - Your Question:
Next door have paid for the fence between our gardens on the boundary I am responsible for in the deeds. It was in place before I moved in 8 years ago but they are harassing me, shouting at me over the fence, damaging my plants, reporting me to the council repeatedly with unfounded complaints and it's making me feel anxious and I'll. I'd like to take possession of the boundary back and build my own fence. Can I ask them to remove their fence? Both properties are privately owned and not rented. Thanks

Our Response:
Does it really matter whose fence it is on the boundary? If you feel you need a different fence in place, get one erected on your side of the boundary to your specification.
ProblemNeighbours - 22-Jun-18 @ 11:37 AM
Next door have paid for the fence between our gardens on the boundary I am responsible for in the deeds. It was in place before I moved in 8 years ago but they are harassing me, shouting at me over the fence, damaging my plants, reporting me to the council repeatedly with unfounded complaints and it's making me feel anxious and I'll. I'd like to take possession of the boundary back and build my own fence. Can I ask them to remove their fence? Both properties are privately owned and not rented. Thanks
46Rossi - 21-Jun-18 @ 5:52 AM
My neighbour wants to put some new fence panels up between our gardens.There is a existing, very old wire fence that I take to mark the boundary line, and I have a Land Registry document showing the boundary of my property being a straight line between our plots.The neighbour told me that he wants to put the new fencing in and asked if he could cut back some hedging (which has grown all around the old wire fence) - I said fine, he'd know where the boundary was.I've come home to find that he's cut out the hedging but also dug a long trench on my side of the old fence, which I think is where he plans to put the panels.Surely if he does this, the new fence will be in my garden and he'll have taken part of my plot into his? We haven't discussed that, and I wouldn't agree to just 'giving' him part of my land anyway.I'm about to put a note through his door politely pointing out that the trench is on the wrong side and asking for a chat before he does any more work.
Caz - 21-Jun-18 @ 12:53 AM
I live in an end terrace house and there is a driveway (servicing garages) between my house and my other neighbours. I have a tall hedge along my boundary and the drive. Maintenance of driveway is my neighbours responsibility. This has been unkept since I moved into my house 4 years ago. He has now renovated the house and put it on the market. He and another neighbour approached me about cutting the hedges on the driveway side as they now want to be able to use the garages. I explained that as a single parent on tax credits money was tight. He finished the conversation saying he would leave it with me but did not want it to drag on or have to take me to court. Anyway as I was worried I borrowed some money and had the hedges cut back. A month on they are just starting to tidy the rest. I overheard them talking and saying that I would have to put a fence along there as the hedge will keep growing back.Please can I have some advice as I really can not afford a fence or be taken to court. I also do not want to cut the hedge down. Thank you in advance.
PSC - 20-Jun-18 @ 10:39 PM
Hello. We’ve got a problem with our neighbours who brought a listed grade 2 farmhouse from my wife’s family several years ago. Last year he cut away all the wire fencing from our post and rail fencing allowing his dog to enter our field where sheep sometimes graze. He’s basically done this to intimidate us. The following weekend I put up a six foot high fence made out of plywood as it was the only materials I had and afford at the time. This plywood fence is on our land by six inches. Since then he complained to the listed building department of our council who has said its on the curtilage of the listed farmhouse and not in keeping with the area, despite him putting up similar fencing on other boundary’s. What I’m trying to find out is how far is a curtilage for a listed building? Thanks in advance
Desseardo - 20-Jun-18 @ 9:56 PM
baz - Your Question:
My neighbour at the rear of our property is building a detached bungalow on some of their land and the new boundary wall encroaches on our land by a couple of feet. The land at the rear of our property was left wild and unattended for years and when the new property owner came he decided to clear conifers and he also cut down trees that were at the rear of our property without our permission. Any help will be gratefully appreciated.

Our Response:
Have you talked to the neighbours? Do they know they have encroached on your land? Or that the trees were yours? The boundary issue will need to be resolved in the civil courts if you can't agree between you; you may need a professional to help with defining the original boundary etc.
ProblemNeighbours - 20-Jun-18 @ 10:31 AM
My neighbour at the rear of our property is building a detached bungalow on some of their land and the new boundary wall encroaches on our land by a couple of feet. The land at the rear of our property was left wild and unattended for years and when the new property owner came he decided to clear conifers and he also cut down trees that were at the rear of our property without our permission. Any help will be gratefully appreciated.
baz - 16-Jun-18 @ 1:00 PM
2 years ago we removed a flower bed on the edge of our driveway and extended our brick block up to our boundary line. A year later we receive a letter from our neighbour stating a boundary dispute and encroachment claim demanding we return the area to how it was! She does not elaborate on her claim or explain her reasons behind it. Two surveyors have examined the area together with conveyance plans from Land Registry detailing ours and our neighbours boundary and cannot find any grounds for her claim. We wrote back to her last June with this information asking her to provide information to support her claim but have not heard anything from her. However, we are in the process of selling our house and have had to disclose the historic boundary dispute. Our buyers are reluctant to complete until our neighbour declares no dispute. We have approached our neighbour again and she is adamant that 3 feet of our driveway belongs to her! How can we resolve this matter. What is this 3 feet she mentions, I've heard it mentioned before??
Yoda - 13-Jun-18 @ 4:41 PM
2 years ago we removed a flower bed on the edge of our driveway and extended our brick block up to our boundary line. A year later we receive a letter from our neighbour stating a boundary dispute and encroachment claim demanding we return the area to how it was! She does not elaborate on her claim or explain her reasons behind it. Two surveyors have examined the area together with conveyance plans from Land Registry detailing ours and our neighbours boundary and cannot find any grounds for her claim. We wrote back to her last June with this information asking her to provide information to support her claim but have not heard anything from her. However, we are in the process of selling our house and have had to disclose the historic boundary dispute. Our buyers are reluctant to complete until our neighbour declares no dispute. We have approached our neighbour again and she is adamant that 3 feet of our driveway belongs to her! How can we resolve this matter. What is this 3 feet she mentions, I've heard it mentioned before??
Yoda - 13-Jun-18 @ 3:31 PM
There is a shared responsibility hedge between our properties which we both maintain. The neighbour now wants to remove it and build a brick wall on the boundary. I want to keep the hedge. The boundary is my responsibility. Where do I stand?
amalfifi - 13-Jun-18 @ 7:55 AM
Spennylass - Your Question:
I have a single story extension on the back of my house, one wall faces onto a neighbour's garden out the back of me. The extension was built by the previous owners of my house about 25 years ago. I have the deeds to my home and they contain the approved plans for the extension. On the plans there is a foot gap between my extension wall and the original boundary between my property and the neighbour out the back. The boundary is shown as a fence on the plans that I presumed was still there but couldn't see because of dense ivy growing in the neighbour's garden and up my wall. A new neighbour moved into the property about 2 years ago and has been renovation the house and garden. I came home one evening to find the ivy had been removed from my wall ( thank goodness) but the neighbour had also removed my white pvc fascia boards and guttering along the wall facing his garden. He replaced my fascia with black pvc, he even came all the way along the wall, even where it co,es into my garden. He didn't get my permission for this or even told me he was thinking about doing it. I spoke to him and he insisted it's a party wall and as it faces his garden he can do what he wants. I told him this isn't the case and he cannot touch the wall without permission, he just told me to get lost and deal with what he has done. Now he keeps drilling into my wall, he has attached electric cables, a large clock and lights. If I ask him what he thinks he is doing, he laughs at me in an intimidating way. He's driving me mad with this.

Our Response:
It doesn't sound like it's a party wall to us. It belongs to you and your neighbour should not attach anything to it. Unfortunately for you, it sounds as though you may need to seek professional legal advice to verify this and take action if necessary.
ProblemNeighbours - 8-Jun-18 @ 12:05 PM
I have a single story extension on the back of my house, one wall faces onto a neighbour's garden out the back of me. The extension was built by the previous owners of my house about 25 years ago. I have the deeds to my home and they contain the approved plans for the extension. On the plans there is a foot gap between my extension wall and the original boundary between my property and the neighbour out the back. The boundary is shown as a fence on the plans that I presumed was still there but couldn't see because of dense ivy growing in the neighbour's garden and up my wall. A new neighbour moved into the property about 2 years ago and has been renovation the house and garden. i came home one evening to find the ivy had been removed from my wall ( thank goodness) but the neighbour had also removed my white pvc fascia boards and guttering along the wall facing his garden. He replaced my fascia with black pvc, he even came all the way along the wall, even where it co,es into my garden. He didn't get my permission for this or even told me he was thinking about doing it. I spoke to him and he insisted it's a party wall and as it faces his garden he can do what he wants. I told him this isn't the case and he cannot touch the wall without permission, he just told me to get lost and deal with what he has done. Now he keeps drilling into my wall, he has attached electric cables, a large clock and lights. If I ask him what he thinks he is doing, he laughs at me in an intimidating way. He's driving me mad with this.
Spennylass - 6-Jun-18 @ 5:43 PM
Manc9182 - Your Question:
My neighbour has just purchased the property next door. The previous owners erected a 6ft high panel fence. The new owner has taken it down and is planning to erect a 6ft high wall made of concrete slabs. We have asked him twice to reconsider and just have a panel fence. He refuses, does his fence have to be in keeping with the rest of the street or can he do whatever he wishes?

Our Response:
In general a fence owner can choose whatever fence materials that they like. It might be worth checking with your council's planning office to see if any rules on styles/materials exist locally though.
ProblemNeighbours - 6-Jun-18 @ 2:43 PM
My neighbour has just purchased the property next door. The previous owners erected a 6ft high panel fence. The new owner has taken it down and is planning to erect a 6ft high wall made of concrete slabs. We have asked him twice to reconsider and just have a panel fence. He refuses, does his fence have to be in keeping with the rest of the street or can he do whatever he wishes?
Manc9182 - 5-Jun-18 @ 8:02 PM
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