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Dealing with uncooperative neighbours is never a pleasant task, especially in terms of house boundaries. Let’s say you wake up one day and the same annoying Mr Whatshisname has installed a huge and ugly fence without bothering to ask you. Before you surrender to the urge of tearing down the wall with your bare hands, hear us out: There are a few things you can try in order to find justice in this situation.
So, if you:
Then this article will help shed some light on the issue.
The first thing you should do is figure out where the exact boundary is between your and your neighbour’s home. This step is important, so you can understand who actually owns the fence. The wall can be yours, your neighbours, or even shared. A good way to go about this is to look for the house deeds of your property that also contain a plan of the land. You can find the property boundaries marked there. Don’t worry if you can’t obtain the deeds to the house, you have three more options:
If you are extremely unlucky and can’t find any existing boundary agreements, don’t stress about it. You can just make new ones. The only thing you need to make sure of is that the other homeowner signs them, as well. Doing this can save you a lot of time and energy, debating with your next-door neighbour in the future.
Of course, there is always the case that you are dealing with an extremely stubborn person. If you are a victim of a situation like this one, opt for an opinion from a third party. You can seek help from The High Court Judge, County Court Judge and Judge in the Land Registration Tribunal. But let’s get one thing straight – none of these people can just come around your house, point to the lawn and say “This is where the boundary is.” This is not how it works. At this point, your only option is to file a legal case and put it through the court, so a decision can be made.
If it’s within their property boundary, your neighbour has every right to do whatever they want, including installing a fence. However, the situation is a bit different in terms of height. If you want to find out what are the policies in your area, you need to visit the local authority planning office for more information. Generally, if you desire to install a fence in your rear garden it mustn’t be higher than 2 metres.
In most cases, a fence located on the boundary line is most likely a “party wall”, which means that you share it with your neighbour. With that being said, there are certain measures that you have to take before doing any changes to it, such as giving your next-door neighbour a written notice. The same applies the other way round. If you aren’t sure whether the wall or fence is shared, you can check in GOV.UK.
Below, you can find information about what you can and can’t do to a fence in different ownership scenarios.
If your neighbour is the legal owner of the fence and, for example, you want them to paint or fix the wall, they have every right to say no. Also, you can’t even hammer a single nail to your side without asking for their permission, first.
Of course, there are whoop-holes. If the state of the fence is so bad that it poses a health risk, you can point this out to your neighbour. If he or she still doesn’t take any measures, you can always file a report at your council on GOV.UK for a dangerous wall or structure.
The same rule from above applies if you are the owner of the fence – your neighbour can’t make you do anything. However, make sure to check the documents for your house. There is a big chance that they might say that you are obliged to keep the wall in your garden in a good state of repair. Also, if your neighbour is asking you to fix your fence, check it. They might have this request because of safety reasons. If you find that true and you continue to neglect the situation, you can end up being reported.
At the end of the day, if your wall is safe and there is nothing written in the house documents about maintaining it, it’s all up to you about what you are going to do with it.
If you know where the boundary is located, just talk with your neighbour about the changes you want to make to your side of the fence. It is best to write down what you’ve agreed upon and make copies in order to prevent future problems. For example, many times homeowners compromise on sharing the price for a new fence or for a fresh paint job.
When discussing improvements for your side of the wall with your neighbour, make sure to be as clear as possible that you are only going to do work on your part of the fence. Don’t do any changes to the other homeowner’s side without their permission.
Like we talked about earlier in the article, if your neighbour is the legal owner of the fence, you can’t make them do practically anything to improve the state of the wall. There is no law that requires him or her to paint it, for example. Or in other words, your hands are tied. Also, there is no point of getting a boundary demarcation and disputes expert to write a report if your neighbour doesn’t want to listen. Basically, you are going to be throwing money straight out of the window.
What you can do is to conceal the ugly sight of the rotting fence by installing a new one right next to it and on your side of the border. If you’ve never done it before, check our post on how to build a fence. There will be two walls right next to each other but then you won’t have to look at the destroyed one. If this solution doesn’t work for you, here are two more options that might be of help:
If you can’t get your neighbour to agree upon fixing their fence, you can always call a mediator. This is a neutral person who doesn’t know either of you and is specially trained to resolve problematic situations, such as this one. And where can you find a mediator? Ask your council about this. If you need information about how to find your local council, you can go on GOV.UK. Keep in mind that this might be a paid service.
Another way to put an end to the problem that is worth trying is to contact a solicitor. Many legal advisers specialise in neighbour disputes. The bad part is that hiring a solicitor is a bit on the expensive side.
As you can see, property boundary matters are a pain to deal with. Make sure to take the time to properly inform yourself about what your neighbour can and can’t do before taking any actions. This way, you can save yourself a bit of time and a lot of stress from arguing.
Please note that we do not provide individual legal opinion as we are not qualified to do so. We receive lots of emails about boundary fences, often in connection with fence toppings or damage. If you have some issue about what a neighbour or some other person has done and you feel you have been wronged, please, talk to the person to see if you can remedy the situation and if this fails, then, you should consult a solicitor. In the first instance, you could try contacting the local branch of Citizen’s Advice to see if they can help.
We hope you found our article helpful in the battle with your neighbour, and of course, feel free to leave a comment in the section below with your thoughts and experiences.