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Establishing Rights Over Fences & Boundaries

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 21 Jun 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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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
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
My neighbours vegetation including trees has pushed my fence over into my garden by as much as 2 metres, what are my rights.
Pete - 1-Jun-18 @ 1:52 PM
We live in a barret house our next door neighbours garden runs the opposite way to ours and was built by another company . on our side we have a fence with the posts on our side. There is then a void which is full of brambles,the other side of this is my neighboursfens but still the posts facing us. so it looks, like fence,void,fence. The other company decided to put up their own fence when they built their house the same time ours was being built. My neighbour has just removed his fence (with a small digger/jcb. pulled all the nettles out (with digger) and has now claimed the void as his own. This has been done in the last few months with it being completed yesterday. He did not even ask/tell us what he was about to do. He is the 4th owner of the house and we have never had a problem. I called the council and they came out to his house and said there was not a problem, they did not even call to see me. Can he do this. I am also concerned if he may have compromised the footings of our posts. There is also a few small trees in the void which I am concerned that he may remove once the land he has claimed after a few months. Sorry this has been so long.
negativepitch - 30-May-18 @ 1:04 PM
My neighbour has erected a new fence and left the unsightly wire fence on my side. Can I remove this without their permission as it is dangerous as well as an eyesore.
Izagud1 - 30-May-18 @ 11:49 AM
I live in block of four semi-detached houses.lm the only council Tennant and end property. Two doors up from me had dispute with their neighbours (end house)and they took down gate, blocked it and made wall higherthat was eight years after moving in previous owners always used that access without incident. The council changed access round to my side and through owners without notice. Two doors up had front and side door together at front of property. Just lately they have blocked up their side door.myself or neighbour weren't informed and it affects us because council informs me that anyone of the street can come through my garden,over six foot wall through owners garden and over another six foot wall and I'm being unreasonable.it started out a dispute between owners and nothing to do with council they deliberately blocked their own access.
Tricia - 26-May-18 @ 12:34 PM
MB - Your Question:
My front bay window looks out across a small road to the side of a detached house. It has a nice hedge so the view is pleasant. They have now put up a large unsightly air conditioning unit, which is now my view. It’s depressing and I know it will have affected the saleability of my home, no one will want that as a view. Do I have any rights in this situation? I know there was a clause when I moved in about unsightly items.

Our Response:
You probably have no rights at all unless the owner's of the other property have a similar clause in teir deeds about unsightly items.
ProblemNeighbours - 23-May-18 @ 12:46 PM
Tom - Your Question:
We live next door to a working mens club. The fence adjoining between the two properties carries on beyond the end of our garden and adjoins another neighbours. The fence on our part is falling down - in fact one panel is now missing. The deeds don't specify who owns the fence. However, the nice face of the fence is on our side, also the fence posts are on the clubs land - this combined with it covering several neighbours gardens - is the club responsible for maintaining the fence?

Our Response:
The nice side/posts theory is a bit of myth sorry. If your deeds do not specify contact the club and ask them to look at theirs. A surveyor specialising in boundary issues might be able to help.
ProblemNeighbours - 23-May-18 @ 12:28 PM
My front bay window looks out across a small road to the side of a detached house. It has a nice hedge so the view is pleasant. They have now put up a large unsightly air conditioning unit, which is now my view. It’s depressing and I know it will have affected the saleability of my home, no one will want that as a view. Do I have any rights in this situation? I know there was a clause when I moved in about unsightly items.
MB - 21-May-18 @ 4:10 PM
We live next door to a working mens club. The fence adjoining between the two properties carries on beyond the end of our garden and adjoins another neighbours. The fence on our part is falling down - in fact one panel is now missing. The deeds don't specify who owns the fence. However, the nice face of the fence is on our side, also the fence posts are on the clubs land - this combined with it covering several neighbours gardens - is the club responsible for maintaining the fence?
Tom - 21-May-18 @ 2:25 PM
Vicki- Your Question:
Hi, my neighbour removed the dividing fence and concrete posts several years ago. The wall he put up is unsightly and different tones of cement. Also the small fence he errected on top is a mess my side, several joists to keep it pinned but looks great his side. Anyway, can I paint the wall in a masonary paint and stain the top bit of fence (same colour as he has it) ?? It will look far better than it does, it all I see from my kitchen window ??

Our Response:
Is it your neighbour's fence? If so, you can't really do anything about it and your neighbour is under no obligation to make it look pretty on your side. You can erect your own fence or free standing trellis to screenit if you want to. If the fence is a shared responsibility fence then of course you should have a say in how it looks, and of course contribute half towards it etc.
ProblemNeighbours - 21-May-18 @ 10:39 AM
Hi, my neighbour removed the dividing fence and concrete posts several years ago. The wall he put up is unsightly and different tones of cement. Also the small fence he errected on top is a mess my side, several joists to keep it pinned but looks great his side. Anyway, can I paint the wall in a masonary paint and stain the top bit of fence (same colour as he has it) ?? It will look far better than it does, it all I see from my kitchen window ??
Vicki - 18-May-18 @ 5:18 PM
Kevin D - Your Question:
We just bought a semi detached house our neighbours house (Not attached) is higher than ours. The boundary wall is a supporting their land from collapsing.Who is responsible for this wall as it's leaning and they assume I'm going to rebuild it for them even though last week they ripped the fence panels out last week and drove a big digger over the top of it.Any advice?

Our Response:
What did the seller's questionnaire say about the wall when you purchased the property? What does it say in your title deeds?
ProblemNeighbours - 15-May-18 @ 12:23 PM
Unplugged - Your Question:
My neighbour has run an electrical cable and an outside plug along my side of his boundary fence (when I was out and without my permission). Can be do this? It is about halfway along the fence.

Our Response:
Whose fence is it? Your neighbour can attach anything to his own fence but cannot trespass onto you land or into your airspace in order to do so.
ProblemNeighbours - 14-May-18 @ 12:44 PM
My neighbour has run an electrical cable and an outside plug along my side of his boundary fence (when i was out and without my permission).Can be do this?It is about halfway along the fence.
Unplugged - 13-May-18 @ 7:01 PM
We just bought a semi detached house our neighbours house(Not attached) is higher than ours . The boundary wall is a supporting their land from collapsing. Who is responsible for this wall as it's leaning and they assume I'm going to rebuild it for them even though last week they ripped the fence panels out last week and drove a big digger over the top of it. Any advice?
Kevin D - 11-May-18 @ 7:18 PM
Hi. I live in a terraced house. The elderly next door neighbour has now moved out and we believe the house will go on the market shortly. Our issue is that the garden fence we are responsible for was moved closer to our back door many years ago for whatever reason. This means our house boundary is about a foot into their garden. Our bathroom waste pipe, part of our windowsills and this is what concerns me. I'm not bothered about the land itself but if we wanted to build a single extension at the back we have no 'wall' to build onto as the fence starts on the window frame. Likewise if the new buyer decided to build an extension they could build up to the fence covering our wall, with waste pipe and window sill. They have pebble dash render which clearly shows the border and our house brick is a foot into their garden due to the fence. Where do we stand and how can we get our party wall back to stop a builder building on our wall?
Vjb - 6-May-18 @ 6:51 PM
Nonna - Your Question:
My house is in the middle of a Terrace of 6 houses. All the adjoining fences in the back gardens were the same (although some have been replaced like for like). My next door neighbour has erected a new fence between our back gardens where the old one was. Unfortunately they have erected a completely different type of fence panels, the previous fencing was squared off but their new fencing is curved at the top of each panel making my garden fencing look very odd with one ‘curved’ fence on the left and two straight fences at the bottom and right hand side of my garden. My neighbours mentioned that they were putting up a new fence and we had no objections. However, we didn’t think to enquire what style of fence they were using so were surprised when they had erected the new fence on their other neighbour’s fence as well as one on our joint neighbour’s at the bottom of the gardens. Is there anything we can do about this ‘odd fence’ situation?

Our Response:
Probably not, unless there is a restrictive covenant or conditions in your deeds that specify certain types of fencing.
ProblemNeighbours - 2-May-18 @ 12:25 PM
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