Fences and Property Lines: Resource Guide

Fences and property lines are an issue that many homeowners have to deal with. Whether you're building a new fence or adding one to your current home, there are many considerations before making the final decision on what type of material you should use. In this blog post we will go over some guidelines for choosing the best option for the job so you can make an informed decision.
Boundary fence

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Some people say that it’s not just a fence, but also a boundary line between your property and someone else’s. Others say that fences don’t really mean anything at all and are just there to provide decoration or screening from nosy neighbours.

But what about if I hit my car into my neighbour’s fence?

What if my dog digs under the fence while chasing something on their property?

And what about when we have children who may want to use the other side as an escape route from home life?

These are some of the common questions people have about fences and property lines and this article will answer them!

My neighbour has moved his fence further into my garden

This is a common problem and it’s not always easy to work out what the right course of action should be.

Fences can cause problems because they often mark the line between your property and someone else’s. Other people say that fences don’t really mean anything at all- they’re just there to provide decoration or screening from nosy neighbours.

So what do you do if a neighbour decides they want some more of your garden? Is there anything you can do?

a) Well, you could talk to them about it first. If they want more of your garden for safety reasons (maybe they have a dog), then there might be room to negotiate on this point.

b) You can also take legal advice from an expert solicitor or barrister. Fences do not necessarily online the property and they could be well within their rights to move the fence.

Which garden fence am i responsible for? 

In the UK there is no tradition or law which means you are responsible for one side of the fence or the other, or even the whole fence.

Obtaining a title plan and register information from the Land Registry is an inexpensive service that will provide you with valuable data. 

You can also obtain copies of any documents referred to in the register, such as deeds containing covenants showing who is responsible for maintaining a boundary.

However these records do not necessarily confirm ownership of boundaries so be sure to check your deed’s heading before relying on them.

The best way to work this out will always be by agreement. This can be done by drawing a line on the ground, but if there is any disagreement over where that line should go it may have to be settled in court.

Which garden fence do i own?

Commonly when a wall or fence splits up two properties, it is unclear who owns the structure. The ownership can be determined by looking at paperwork from previous deed transfers and agreements between owners;

if these are not available then each owner may get one side of the property to maintain while paying rent for use on their adjacent landholdings.

If both parties have maintained the area but nobody has been exclusive about maintenance responsibilities yet, this could mean that they share joint ownership over all shared spaces collectively (such as in case with party walls).

Is a garden fence a boundary?

According to HM land registry a fence can be a boundary but this does not mean that this is the legal boundary of your land.

The exact boundary is not available on most records and even when there is some indication on the exact position this can be disputed in many cases.

Is a fence covered by home insurance?

Yes, in theory, your fences and gates should be covered by your building insurance. Some insurance providers say this in their policies and on their websites.

Fences and gates can be covered if they are damaged in a fire or vandalism. But storm damage is not usually covered.

Storm damage also includes basic weather damage which is the most common reason people want their fences replaced.

Is landscapers we install a lot of fences and have never come across a fence being paid for by insurance. This would suggest that if they are covered, it will not be common that a claim can be made.

My neighbour won’t fix their fence

Before you can do anything about a neighbour failing to fix their fence you need to establish that they actually own the fence.

A lot of people believe that the boundary line is marked by their fence but this is not always true.

If it turns out your neighbour does own the fence, they are responsible for its repair and maintenance. You have starting point here.

Unfortunately your neighbour is not legally obliged to have any fence at all as long as their is something indicating the boundary between the two sides.

There are no legal routes you can take here unless it is dangerous and causing a danger to you or others you live with.

The best route is to come to some sort of compromise which may involve you paying for a portion of the fence or your neighbour doing some work on it if they are able.

What if your neighbour damaged your fence?

If your neighbour has damaged your fence and you can prove it, you can take your neighbour to court and claim damages.

Of course this is stressful for all parties and will not lead to a harmonious relationship between you so this should be the last resort.

Before going down the legal route you should approach your neighbour, explain what has happened and ask them to pay for the repairs.

If they are uncooperative you can always call in a mediator, who will help to negotiate a solution which is satisfactory to both parties.

It’s important when approaching your neighbour that you keep calm and explain the situation clearly after all it was their actions that have caused this problem not yours!

In most cases, issues can be solved without to much stress or hassle. Be firm but fair and listen to their opinion. Winning a negotiation usually requires some sort of compromise so its a good idea to have the amount you would be willing to compromise in mind.

Can my neighbour attach things to my fence?

In most cases, your neighbour will need to get permission before they attach anything to the shared fence. In some instances though a court may allow them to do this if they have been trying for a reasonable time without success.

If you know that your neighbour is going ahead with attaching something onto the common area and you don’t want it there then you need to establish that this is legally your fence (which can be difficult if there is no clear evidence).

Its best to come to an agreement of what can and cannot be done to a fence and why they are doing whatever they are doing.

Can i paint my side of the neighbours fence?

It can be difficult to understand what rights you have regarding a fence which is partially in your garden. If the fence belongs to your neighbour (they bought or maintain it) then it is the answer to the question is the same as asking can I paint my neighbours car.

It’s their property so anything done without permission could be seen as vandalism.

If you are unhappy with the way the fence looks you can offer to pay for the painting, or if you know someone who is skilled at this type of work they may be happy to do it.

In some cases a neighbour might be willing to split the cost with you so that both fences look good.

If there are any problems arising from people not being able to agree on what should happen then you can always opt for mediation or install another fence on your side of the boundary which you own completely.

Can i clean my side of the neighbours fence?

There is no set law here, the fence belongs to them so anything you do to it needs to avoid damaging or altering it. Our advice would be to ask them first and take care when cleaning it so as not to make a mess.

If you need to get rid of weeds and overhanging branches then it is advisable to do so as they could cause damage if left unattended for too long.

If the neighbours fence looks awful, your options are to fix up their side with them or leave it alone.

Do i have to give my neighbour the good side of the fence?

There is no law or convention which suggests that you have to give your neighbour the good side of your fence.

It is advisable to keep both sides looking their best, but there are no hard and fast rules that you have to give them the better half.

This is more a question of how well you get on with your neighbours and how much of a difference this will make to that.

If you want to promote a good relationship (by far the best option) then it may be worth helping them out and considering them when you can. The last thing you want is an ongoing and petty war with the neighbours.

Can a neighbour build right up to the boundary?

If they are building right up to and onto the boundary then this can be classed as a party wall and will need permission from you. If you object they will usually have to change the plans to something which you are happy with.

If the fence or wall is slightly back from the boundary line then your neighbour does not need to ask permission and you cannot object unless it is breaking some sort of building regulation.

Do i have to build a fence between mine and my neighbours garden?

If you do not want to build a fence then you do not have to and you could object to your neighbour building one too. However if you neighbour does want a partitioning fence and you do not it will be a good idea to sit down and talk about it.

You could also look at a shared fence or wall. This would give you some privacy and it may be more attractive to both of you.

You will have to agree on the design first though as this is something which you want to get right, otherwise one neighbour might not like what they see from their side of the garden.

A good way in which many people deal with fences is by building them slightly back from where the boundary line should be according to local law.

Neighbours do not need permission for this type of partitioning fence if it does not break any regulation rules about height restrictions or safety concerns such as razor wire on top.

Conclusion

Fencing and boundary lines is a complex topic with very few guidelines set in stone. When it comes to disputes its always best to talk to your neighbour and come to some sort of informal agreement before taking things further.

If you have tried that and still have no luck you will need to establish who owns which boundary lines and which fences before anything can be legally done.

If the fences are in place without permission or you need a formal agreement with your neighbour, it is best to consult a lawyer before taking any steps.

They will be able to advise on what type of fencing and boundary line would be most appropriate for your property as well as who needs to pay for it.

In the event that there has been an encroachment onto their land by one party then this can also be formally discussed with them if they have not done anything about it already and legally set out in writing how much should remain on each side of the fence so there are no more disputes after construction is complete.

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