For many people across the UK, being neighbourly is just common courtesy and most of us find it relatively easy to get on with ‘them next door.’ But for a lot of people, disputes over boundaries can cause some significant problems and this can lead to an impasse that might only be dealt with through legal action.
Of course, nobody wants it to come to that so it is worth clueing yourself up on what you can do when boundary issues become more than just a passing comment about the state of the fence. If you have attempted to talk to your neighbour about fixing their fence to no avail, then are a few things you might need to think about.
What Is The Law On Fence Disputes In The UK?
If you are having trouble with a neighbour over a fence dispute, what we are about to tell you will probably offer very little comfort; in the UK, there are no laws that can help you when it comes to boundary or fence disputes.
Moreover, it is not a legal requirement that anybody must install a fence on their property boundary. Of course, most people do to give themselves more privacy but if your neighbour doesn’t want to, they aren’t obliged to. The only exception to this is if there is a clause in the property deeds that dictates a fence must be in place.
In some instances, the property deeds may specify that the boundary is shared. In this case, you may have a leg to stand on since you have the right to take legal action to force your neighbour to share the cost of erecting a fence or helping to maintain an existing one. However, legal action should only ever be taken as a last resort since it can cause more problems than it creates in terms of your relationship with the people next door. In addition to this, you should consider the cost of legal action. It will likely be far more expensive than simply tending to the fence yourself and serves more of a way of making a point than saving you money.
One thing that you can do that doesn’t involve any unpleasant disputes in court is to come up with a written contract that is signed by both parties and lodged against the property deeds. In the future, this would help to avoid any problems.
Is The Fence Your Neighbour’s Responsibility?
Many people fall into the trap of trying to get their neighbour to repair a fence only to find that it is, in fact, their own responsibility. This is not only inconvenient, it can also be downright embarrassing. So, before you go hammering on the neighbour’s door demanding they sort the fence out, take the time to figure out who is responsible.
A lot of homeowners are under the impression that, generally speaking, a home is responsible for the left boundary but this isn’t always true. There are frequent things in place within property deeds that dictate which side each house is responsible for and this is usually given by the land vendor when the properties are constructed. If you have a neighbour whose fence meets your rear boundary, this will also vary from property to property.
The only way to find out for sure which boundaries you are responsible for is to take a look at your deeds. Some homeowners do not have a copy of this document but they are readily available from the Land Registry where you can request a copy. Most commonly, the image on the deeds will be marked with a T to show which boundaries are your responsibility.
It’s My Neighbour’s Fence; What Do I Do?
If you are dealing with a neighbour who won’t fix their fence then it can be incredibly frustrating. However, all is not lost at this point. While there may be no rule that can force them to repair or replace a fence, there are other options that may help you come to an amicable agreement.
For people that are fortunate enough to get on well with their neighbours, it may be somewhat easier to broach the subject and come to a common agreement. However, if your neighbour is not quite as receptive to talking, you may need to resort to other measures.
Let us first point out that if the fence poses an immediate danger then the normal legalities do not apply and your neighbour will be required to fix the hazard. But this might not be as quick a process of informing them of this. You may need to report the fence to the local council who will then take action on your behalf.
For a lot of people, the cost of repairing a fence, which can, according to Checkatrade, cost in excess of £940, may be too much. Instead of explaining this situation to you, your neighbour may feel embarrassed and may lash out at you.
If you feel that this may be the issue, it may be worth offering some financial assistance. This may be enough to sate them and cause them to come to an arrangement. However, you must ensure that you make it clear to them that this won’t be an ongoing thing and that any future repairs will fall on them.
Put Up Your Own Fence
If all else fails then you may have to admit defeat and put up your own fence. Of course, if the existing fence is on your neighbours boundary, you may create further issues by erecting a new fence in its place. Some people may just like to be difficult and while they won’t replace the fence themselves, they will have an issue with you doing it too.
In this case, you will need to install the new fence on your own property but place it as close to the boundary as possible. This way, your neighbour cannot contest the fence and you don’t have to put up with the current eyesore. What is the average height of a fence is often a question we get asked.
If you find that the situation cannot be resolved no matter what approach you take, this can be frustrating. Often, during conflict, both parties become so defensive that it can be difficult to hear what the other person is saying and they may have a reasonable point. But mediation is a good way for both parties to get their thoughts and opinions across in a controlled environment.
The downside to this is that a mediator will generally charge a fee, which again will add to the overall cost of repairing the fence and can put some people off. However, if it helps to resolve the situation, it may be worth it to keep the harmony with your neighbours allowing you both to feel comfortable at home.
There is no legal obligation for anyone to install a fence along a boundary. The only reason that a court would rule a fence to be repaired or replaced would be if it is posing a serious hazard and going through the motions of this can take an emotional toll, not to mention the court costs and legal fees.
The best approach to take is to talk to your neighbours and try to come to a mutual agreement. Failing that, you may need to seek professional mediation or install a fence on your own property, near to the boundary.