What are property boundaries?
Property boundaries lie at the point where land belonging to two different owners meets.
How to check property boundaries
If you own a property in England or Wales, you can get an idea of where your property boundaries lie by referring to your title deed and land registry maps. Title register documents and title plans can be accessed on the HM Land Registry website for a small fee.
Although your title plan will give an indication of land registry property boundaries, there is very rarely any record of the exact boundary between two properties.
How to handle boundary disputes
Because property boundary lines are invisible, it is easy for property boundary disputes to arise.
How you should handle the dispute will depend on the specific circumstances.
Dispute regarding the position of a boundary fence
If you believe your boundary is in the wrong place, there are things you can do to challenge its position.
You should start by having a conversation with your neighbour. Voice your concerns and explain why you believe the fence is in the wrong. It is important to keep this conversation civil. A legal battle to move a boundary is likely to be extremely costly and time-consuming, so your aim should always be to come to an amicable resolution.
The only professional who is legally able to tell you exactly where your boundary lies, is a judge. As it isn’t possible to get a judge out to visit your property in order to assess your boundaries, your best bet is to hire a boundary surveyor. A boundary surveyor will come to your property and give their professional assessment of where the boundary should lie. However, because the assessment is based on an opinion, your neighbour can dispute it if the case comes to court. For this reason, it is always best to work with your neighbour to find the correct boundary position, rather than fight against them.
It is important that you don’t take it upon yourself to simply move or remove the fence, even if you believe it is in an incorrect position. If you do move it – even if you are right – you could be arrested for criminal damage.
Dispute regarding boundary fence maintenance:
If you are having a disagreement with your neighbour because you don’t feel they are maintaining the boundary fence to an acceptable standard, you have three real options.
Try to diffuse the situation as best you can
This should be your preferred route every time. Neighbourly disputes can escalate quickly and cause a great deal of unnecessary stress. Good communication is invaluable when it comes to neighbours. Perhaps invite your neighbour round for a coffee or a meal and try to find a mutually acceptable solution.
Think about steps you could take to help
If your neighbour is still refusing to repair or maintain the fence, consider whether cost may be an issue. If your neighbour is struggling to afford the maintenance work, you could offer to repair/maintain the fence yourself. Or you could suggest splitting the cost. You should, however, ensure you have full permission from your neighbour before carrying out any work to a boundary fence that belongs to them.
Erect a second fence
If you don’t want to repair the fence, you can simply erect another fence on your side of the boundary. It will hide your neighbour’s unsightly fence and will remove any need for bad feeling between you and your neighbour.
It is important to remember that there is no legal obligation to have a fence marking the boundary between the properties. Your neighbour could remove the fence altogether. The only ruling is that there is some sort of marking to show where the property boundary lies.
How can I find out who owns the fence between two houses?
If there is uncertainty about who owns the fence, the best place to look is the property deeds. The property deeds will usually show the property boundaries and clearly indicate which are your responsibility. If you don’t have your property deeds, you can ask your solicitor to get a copy for you.
Planning permission for garden fences
Although there is no ‘garden fence law’, as such, there may be planning permission implications for your garden fence.
- Any garden fence, wall or gate, more than two metres high will require planning permission. This includes the addition of a trellis above an existing fence, if it takes the total height above two metres.
- If you wish to erect a new garden fence or wall that borders a public highway used by vehicles, you may require planning permission if you are planning for the structure to be higher than one metre.
- If you live in a listed property, you should seek advice before making any changes to boundary fences or walls.
- Some areas have ‘open plan’ front gardens, which are protected by a local covenant. If you are wanting to erect a garden fence or plant a hedge to the front of your property, you should check that your property isn’t subject to one of these property covenant restrictions.
Our party wall needs work – whose responsibility is it?
A party wall is one that lies on the boundary between two properties. It may form part of one, or both, of the homes, or may simply be a garden wall.
If you want to do any work to a party wall, you must inform your neighbour before you begin.
You do not need to inform them about minor cosmetic work such as plastering or drilling. However, you must give notice of any building work that affects the party wall in writing. A minimum of two months notice is required for any such work.
Work than would require consent from your neighbour may include:
- Making a garden wall taller, shorter or wider
- Removing a chimney breast from a party wall
- Demolition and rebuilding of the existing party wall
- Any digging below the foundations of the party wall and your neighbour’s property
Should we consider mediation?
If you and your neighbour are both in agreement that you would like to reach an amicable resolution, but you can’t agree on what that resolution should be, you might want to consider using an impartial mediator. You can contact Citizens Advice for more information.
Can I sell a property with a boundary dispute?
If you are unable to settle the dispute with your neighbour and decide to move, you may find it tricky.
Anyone selling a property is required to fill out a Seller’s Property Information Form. This form contains information about several different aspects of the property. One of the topics covered is neighbourly disputes. The seller is asked to disclose, not only any on-going or historic neighbourly disputes, but also anything they are aware of that may lead to a dispute. If you do not disclose any relevant information on the form, you are committing fraud, and could be prosecuted.
If you disclose a current or past dispute with a neighbour, you should be prepared that it may well put your buyer off the purchase. It may also cause problems with them securing their mortgage to buy the property.
This, along with how much stress a neighbour dispute can cause, is why you should endeavour to build positive relationships with your neighbours, and always try to resolve any concerns amicably, before they escalate. Prevention is always better than a cure when it comes to neighbourly troubles.
If you are trying to sell a property with a property boundary dispute, a cash buyer may be able to help. The details of a property boundary dispute are often complex. As a result, any professional home buyer will need to understand your circumstances before assessing whether they can buy it.
To discuss your personal circumstances with Quick Move Now, call the team today on: 0800 068 3366.