Who owns the fence between you and your neighbour - and whose responsibility is it to maintain it?
If the garden fence between yours and your neighbour’s garden blew down or was damaged, would you know who owns it and is therefore responsible for the repairs?
If you’re unsure, the easiest way to determine ownership of a fence is to take a look at the title plans of your home. These documents may show boundary ownership, especially if the property is fairly modern.
If you don’t have the plans, you can apply to the Land Registry to obtain an official copy of the title and title plans.
On the plans, ownership is indicated by a symbol that looks like a ’T’ marked on one or both sides of a boundary.
If the ’T’ is marked on your side of the boundary, then you own the fence and are responsible for maintaining it.
When the ’T’ is marked on both sides of the boundary (making an elongated ‘H’ mark), then you and your neighbour have joint ownership and joint responsibility of the boundary fence.
If you can’t find this information on the title deeds or title plan, then one neighbour (or both) may have assumed responsibility for maintenance and upkeep of the fence.
You may find confirmation of this in the seller’s property information form, which you should have received when buying your home. Or it might be a question your conveyancing solicitor would have asked the seller, so you could check with them.
There’s a common misconception that you own the fence on the left side of your property as you look at it from the street. But that’s actually a myth.
If you haven’t been able to determine who has responsibility for which fence in your garden, then you may be able to tell by looking at which side of the fence the posts are on. It’s usually the case that the fence posts stand on the owner’s land.
Unfortunately, neighbours can fall out over fences in a few ways!
Most commonly, conflicts can occur if a fence falls into disrepair, blows over or is damaged in another way and neighbours can’t agree on whose responsibility it is to maintain or repair it.
Even when there’s no dispute over ownership of a fence, if a neighbour neglects or refuses to maintain their own rotten or broken fence, that can cause friction too.
Another cause of disagreement is if a neighbour damages your fence and then refuses to pay the costs of repair.
If there are no records of boundary lines to be found, then you could try to come to an agreement with your neighbour to assume joint responsibility for maintenance of the fence. This can include an agreement to share costs of repair and upkeep.
You can leave it at that, or you can get legal advice and have it recorded in a formal boundary agreement which can be registered in the title deeds of both properties.
You can find information on how to do that on the gov.uk website
If your title plans or notes from your seller’s property information form show that a fence belongs wholly to you then it’s your responsibility to pay for repairs.
Where joint ownership has been shown, then the cost of repairs should be shared between you and your neighbours.
If, however, your neighbour damages your fence, from a falling tree on their land or a destructive dog for example, then it’s their responsibility to pay to put the problem right.
Most standard home insurance policies will include some level of protection for structures outside your property, like fences, gates and sheds. They’ll usually be covered under your buildings insurance, which can pay out for damage caused by things like fire or vandalism.
General wear and tear due to poor maintenance will not be covered. Check your policy for details and exclusions.
If your neighbour’s fence is rotting, broken in places or completely falling apart they’re actually under no legal obligation to fix it. So it’s not something that you can demand that they do, no matter how frustrating it is
They’re obligated, though, to remove the fence if it’s fallen over onto your land and is damaging it. However, they’re not bound to replace the fence afterwards because there’s actually no legal obligation to have a boundary fence at all.
If your neighbour point blank refuses to repair a dilapidated fence, then there’s nothing you can really do.
One option would be to erect your own fence parallel to theirs, inside your own boundary. That way, you don’t have to look at a fence that’s an eyesore and your garden won’t be overlooked.
Landlords are responsible for keeping their properties and grounds fit for occupation, safe and in good repair - this includes garden fences.
If a fence owned by the landlord has become worn or unstable over time due to wear and tear, or if it’s damaged by a storm for example, then it’s up to them to arrange and pay for repairs.
However, if a tenant damages the fence, perhaps after starting a garden fire that spread, or by kicking a football through a fence panel, then it would usually be up to the tenant to cover the cost of repairs.
If you and your neighbour can’t come to an agreement as to who is responsible for the maintenance of a garden fence, then you could contact your local council planning department to see if they can help.
HM Land Registry also has information on property boundaries. Or you could contact the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ Helpline Scheme, where member firms offer 30 minutes impartial, expert advice over the telephone.
It also offers a Boundary Disputes Mediation Service. There are fees to pay but it should be quicker and cheaper than the cost of taking court action.
There’s actually no legal obligation to have a boundary fence between properties.
In general, fences between properties can be up to two metres high in rear gardens. But you should check with your local authority planning office to confirm that’s the case in your area.