Let’s talk about boundaries

Published: 06/10/2014

Not the relationship kind but property boundaries! We get asked a lot of questions on this subject such as whose responsibility is it to maintain boundaries and fences as well as what to do if your neighbour ‘crosses the line’.

There is a general assumption that when it comes to property boundaries, you are responsible for the fence on the right hand side of your property. However this is not true in all cases.

The best way to locate the boundaries is in the title plan of the property; the deeds will also outline any boundary agreements. You can get a copy of this from the Land Registry (https://www.gov.uk/your-property-boundaries).

Neglecting their responsibility

It’s all well and good knowing who is responsible for the maintenance of a fence or boundary but what if they refuse to repair it?

Unfortunately your neighbour is under no legal obligation to fix or update a fence; it is after all their property and they can therefore leave it in whatever state they wish.

So where does that leave you? Well you ultimately have two options – leave it or fix it yourself. Some people may consider trying to encourage their neighbour to repair the fence by instructing something called a ‘Boundary Demarcation’. This is an expert report which identifies who is responsible for the upkeep of the fence but it cannot force your neighbour into repairing it. You should therefore weigh up the cost of this report versus the cost of repairing the fence as only one option is definitely going to have a positive outcome!

Dealing with damages

If a fence is damaged then the person who caused the damage is responsible for the cost of the repair regardless of whose side it sits on. However getting that person to pay up could be difficult.

If the person refuses to pay for the damages then you would need to decide whether or not to take appropriate legal action to remedy the situation. However, as well as the obvious cost of this, you need to remember that whatever the outcome it’s likely that you will continue to live next door to that person.

How high can you go?

Having a private garden is a huge bonus for any homeowner but this does not mean you can erect a super tall fence to achieve this! There are certain height restrictions in place for fences; as a general rule rear garden fences can be up to two metres tall although it is best to contact your local authority planning office to be sure.

If you would like to have a taller fence or wall then you would not only need to get your neighbour’s permission but you may also require planning permission. Visit www.planningportal.gov.uk/permission for more information.

Love thy neighbour

Boundary disputes can be tricky and, if handled poorly, can lead to a sour relationship with your neighbour. It is important to try and maintain a good rapport with your neighbours and establish good communication. That way, should you ever find yourself in a difficult situation, you are more likely to be able to reach a resolution.

For more help and advice on boundary disputes, download “A Clear and Impartial Guide to Boundary Disputes” by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICS). http://www.rics.org/Global/RICS-Boundary-Disputes.pdf

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