15 Jun 2020

Something Between Us: Your Fence Ownership Questions Answered

With summer around the corner, homeowners are looking to spruce up their gardens, so they’re ready to enjoy the warmer weather. Many will also be looking to clean up or replace their fencing. However, the rules around your rights and responsibilities when it comes to this crucial landscaping element can be unclear. Here, Jacksons Fencing, along with a solicitor at law firm Gullands, answers your most pressing questions about fence ownership so you can start your outdoor renovations with confidence.

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Who owns which fence? Is it true that every house owns the fence on its left-hand side, as you look at it from the street? While this is frequently the case, especially amongst rows of terraced properties, it’s not true of every house.

Ownership of a fence, or liability to maintain or repair a boundary, is often indicated on plans with ‘T’ marks. The marking will be drawn on the land of the party that owns the boundary feature with the base of ‘T’ touching the line that represents the feature. It is up to the developer when preparing the plans to decide on which side the marks are drawn.

Be aware even where a ‘T’ mark indicates your responsibility to install a boundary, if your neighbour has already done so, they retain ownership of the fence regardless of what’s indicated on the plan.

What if the plans show an ‘H’ mark?

An ‘H’ mark is two ‘T’ marks mirrored on a boundary line, indicating responsibility shared between the neighbouring properties. The deeds may have information about who exactly is responsible for installing a fence. If not, you should look in the property information form from when you purchased your home. You may also be able to infer responsibility based on the pattern of fence ownership along the same side of the street.

Am I legally required or obliged to fence the boundaries of my property?

Unless there is a statutory or common law requirement or it is detailed by the deeds to the property, there is no obligation to install a fence to indicate the boundary of your land.

Some boundaries are marked clearly by physical features such as a river or a wall. This may also be legal and identified in property documents. However, it’s rare the exact boundaries are identified precisely. Sometimes, the physical boundary doesn’t follow the exact same line as the legal one.

There are exceptional circumstances which require erecting a perimeter, such as land containing cattle. The Highways Authority is also required by statute to install rails and fences to maintain people’s safety.

Whether for privacy, noise pollution or clarity around who’s responsible for what, you may feel most comfortable finding out the legal and physical boundaries of your land and installing a fence. If you have a pet, a fence helps contain it within your boundaries, preventing possible claims for damages under the Animals Act or for trespass or nuisance by your neighbours.

What is a party wall, and how does it affect my fence?

A party wall divides the buildings of two homeowners. The boundary is usually, but not always, positioned at the centre of the wall. Usually, between terraced or semi-detached houses, it also includes garden walls situated over a boundary.

Unless there’s anything to indicate otherwise, you’re entitled to put up a fence on your land. Make sure the structure is entirely on your side of the boundary to avoid any accusations that you’ve trespassed on your neighbour’s land.

Be aware your neighbour – current or future – might assume the fence runs along the boundary line and that the legal boundary passes down the middle of the fence. Clear communication can help to avoid disputes.

How do you work out the exact boundary?

Legal documents, such as the title deeds or a property plan, should give you an idea of your boundaries. Where there’s a discrepancy between the plan and the description of the land, then you will need to refer to the wording used in the documents to determine which is more reliable.

Plans aren’t always 100% accurate, so if there’s any dispute about a boundary’s position, you may need to consider the physical features which exist, or may have existed when the plan was prepared. Special considerations may need to be made where hedges, ditches, banks and streams are concerned.

The Land Registry prepares plans based on ordnance survey maps, almost always under what’s called ‘the general boundary rule’. Most often, this leaves the exact line of legal boundaries for properties unclear.

Fixing a boundary requires a thorough examination of the property in question and those adjoining with a detailed survey. Alternatively, you can enter into a boundary agreement with your neighbour. The agreement can be filed with the Land Registry and will be binding on the current and future owners of those properties.

Can I make my neighbour reduce the height of their fence?

If your neighbour’s fence meets local authority guidelines, the simple answer is probably not.

However, where it does not meet those guidelines, you may have grounds on which to ask your local authority to take steps to require your neighbour to reduce the height of their fence.

Can my neighbour stop me from installing a new fence?

If you’re worried about upsetting your neighbour, it’s always best to communicate your plans with them first. Before you do so, make sure you’re clear on what you are legally allowed to install, maintain or alter, in line with deeds, the property information form from your purchase, plans and the local authority.

If your neighbour still has reservations, we recommend trying to work through them before taking any legal action, which can be costly and create an uncomfortable social situation.

Further information....

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