Maintaining garden walls and fences – Who is responsible?
I live in a terraced house with a wall separating my garden with my neighbours on one side and a fence on the other. Which side of the fence is my responsibility? Who is responsible for paying to maintain the garden wall and fence?
Boundaries between gardens are sometimes a real bone of contention between neighbours leading to serious disputes.
When it comes to maintaining garden walls and fences, knowing what you are responsible for, can avert a lot of hassle and even legal wrangles.
Establish ownership via property deeds
To find out which side of your fence/wall is your responsibility, you should start by looking at the deeds to your property. On modern properties, there should be a plan drawn to scale which shows the boundaries. The plan registered at HM Land Registry should be a scale plan, as well as, the original purchase deed. If you can’t find your plan in the paperwork you received when you bought the property, you can obtain a copy of your title deeds from the Land Registry.
Once the plan is received, you can see if there are “T”s on any of the boundaries. A “T” shown on the inside of the boundary line indicates the ownership and responsibility to maintain – be it e.g. a wall or a fence. If the “T” is matched by another “T” on the boundary so it looks like an “H”, this shows the boundary to be a party wall/fence. This means joint responsibility for the maintenance of the wall/fence.
Ownership of walls
However, if the deeds and plan do not give an indication of ownership, you are then reliant on “presumptions”. For example, with a wall, the boundary is likely to be on the far side of the garden wall. It is presumed that the person who erected the wall would build it entirely on his/her own land.
That said, a wall can appear to be exactly the same on both sides with no clear indication of it being on a particular property. This will likely mean it is a joint boundary wall with joint responsibility.
Ownership of fences
With fences, the presumption is that the posts will be on the owner’s side. The back of the fence – the side where the posts are visible – faces the owner. The owner of the fence is usually responsible for maintaining the fence.
However, this is not always the case. The owner may wish to have the side without the posts – the best side – facing their garden and erect the fence and the posts entirely within their own garden. At first glance, it appears that the boundary is further into the neighbour’s garden than is actually the case.
If in doubt and to see how the land lies, we recommend you have a friendly word with your neighbour to gauge their view of ownership over the respective wall and fence. You can both consult your title deeds and ask for advice from a party wall surveyor. You will want to avoid a legal dispute as costs can run high, as well as, a loss of goodwill. Do not underestimate the stress involved if you end up in a nasty dispute on your doorstep.
Is the owner obliged to fix the fence or wall
Unless the deeds specify for the boundary to be maintained, there is no legal requirement for the owner to maintain the wall or fence or to keep hedges tidy. The owner could be liable if the fence or wall causes damage or injury because it has been neglected. You can ask the owner to keep an evergreen hedge trimmed back to 2m and ask the local authority to intervene if your request is refused.
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