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Maintaining garden walls and fences – who pays?

I live in a terraced house with a wall separating my garden with my neighbours on one side and a fence on the other. Who is responsible for maintaining them?

Boundaries between gardens can sometimes be a real bone of contention between neighbours leading to serious disputes.

Knowing what you are responsible for can avert a lot of hassle and even legal wrangles.

The obvious place to start is always with the deeds to your property.  On modern properties there is often a plan drawn to scale which shows the boundaries.  The plan registered at HM Land Registry is a scale plan.  Sometimes at the Land Registry you can also find the plan on the original purchase deed.  The plans can be obtained direct from the Land Registry (by obtaining a copy of your title deeds) or you can ask your solicitor/conveyancer.

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 it – be it e.g. a wall or a fence.  If the “T” is matched by another “T” on the boundary so it looks like a “H”, this shows the boundary to be a party wall/fence.  This means joint responsibility for the maintenance of the wall/fence.

That is the easy part because if, as is often the case, the deeds and plan do not give an indication of ownership you are then reliant on “presumptions” (and of course presumptions can be rebutted if the facts show otherwise).  For example, with regard to a wall, the boundary is likely to be on the far side of the garden wall because naturally it is presumed that the person who erected the wall would build it on his/her own land with its farthest side being the boundary.

As regards fences, the presumption is any posts will be on the owner’s side.  Therefore he/she is responsible for maintaining the fence.

However, these are only presumptions and can be easily rebutted.  For example, a wall can appear to be exactly the same on both sides with no clear indication of it being on a particular property and would therefore most likely have to be regarded as a joint boundary wall with joint responsibility.

With fences, the owner may wish to have the side without the posts (i.e. the best side) facing his/hers garden and erects the fence and the posts entirely within his/her own garden.  At first glance it would appear that the boundary is further into his/hers garden than is actually the case and that the fence is the responsibility of his/her neighbour to maintain.

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.

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