2021 Update

Fence Disputes: Who owns the fence between two houses?

Joe Bailey

When it comes to disputes over fence ownership it's best to know who owns the fence on both the right and left side. We break it down for you.

Fence DisputesFence Disputes

Fence ownership is a common uncertainty among homeowners. Some people are lucky and don’t have to share theirs with anyone, while others are waging wars with neighbours to settle the questions of “Who owns the fence?” and “Which fence belongs to my property?”.

In this article, help you discover ways to figure out who owns the fence and the rules for maintaining and replacing it.

Unfortunately, for some homeowners, a simple fence dispute is just one of a long list of neighbour disputes. And if that's the case then many homeowners think about just selling up and moving on. If that's the case then we have some helpful advice towards the end of this article.

Who is the fence owner?

The most convenient way to uncover who owns the fence between two neighbouring houses and the legal owner of the barrier is with a transfer, title plan, or conveyance deed.

If you can’t locate it in writing, look for the T-mark on these documents, which if positioned on your side of the fence, indicates right of possession. However, if you discover a H-mark, then responsibility for the fence is split between you and your neighbour, and the answer to “Which fence is mine?” is actually… both.

There are situations in which the deed does not contain such information, which can be frustrating. Arguments over fence ownership and responsibilities are some of the most common property disputes.

No worries, another strategy to solve the case and figure out which side of the fence are you responsible for is to put on your Sherlock Holmes hat on and find the Seller’s Property Information Form. This is a questionnaire that the previous owner filled out for you when you bought the property from them. If they knew the answer of who owns the fence, the answer will be in there.

Is my neighbour responsible for repairing the fence?

Who repairs the fence?
Who repairs the fence?

Even if the fence is falling apart as you're reading this article, there is no law that obliges your neighbour to fix it. You can hire a disputes expert to write a report but you could end up throwing money out the window because in most cases people still don’t change their mind.

According to the experts at Fantastic, a good option is to build a new wall next to the old one. It will create a boundary between the two fences, even if they are not touching. Keep in mind that if you opt for this, the maximum height that you can go for is 2 meters. You will have to acquire planning permission if you want to construct it any higher than that.

Can a fence be put up, replaced or removed without my permission?

Changing the fence between two houses
Altering a fence in real life isn't so straight-forward...

In case of putting up a new barrier, a 30-day notice (in writing) is required from your neighbour.

If they fail to do that, you have the right to take legal action. Keep in mind that if your neighbour has informed you through a written form and you have failed to respond, the court can decide that you have to pay for half of the building work. Of course, the rule applies to both parties.

Another thing to acknowledge is that the fence can be taken down without a new one being installed. The type of material can be changed as well.

For example: If the old wall was wooden and your neighbour wants to construct a concrete one, you can demand that it has to be entirely on their side so you can put up a fence made from a material of your choosing.

Can I make any changes to my neighbour's wall?

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but if you don’t have your neighbour's consent then you can’t lay a finger on the fence.

If you decide to let’s say, lean a heavy piece of furniture on the wall, you risk affecting its supporting posts and panels, which can lead to major damages. You are fully responsible for covering all costs for any reparations that will be needed in case of harm.

Even if you just want to freshen up the fence with a new coat of paint or decorate it with some flowers, you still can’t do it without your neighbour's permission. It may come as a surprise, but this is considered criminal damage. Yes, you read this right, a pot of roses can send you to court!

How close can can I build to the fence?

If you follow the 4-inch rule, which states that if the boundary for the front of the property is less than 4 inches high, you can freely build without planning permission, advises Mortgage Saving Experts.

On the other hand, if your neighbour is the one planning to put a new wall and you have concerns about it, try to talk this through with them. If you can’t find a solution that suits both parties, check with the local building regulations for any loopholes. Maybe the construction plans breach some safety laws? (wink-wink)

Is this part of a larger neighbour dispute? 

Who knew that just a simple task of painting your garden fence can involve so many laws and rules?

The best bet is always to have a good relationship with your neighbour and to communicate openly and fairly about what you both want.

That might be an ugly, rotting old fence to you, but they might love that they've still got the "original features" in tact from when they bought their home 30 years earlier... The thought of changing it or updating could genuinely be upsetting to them. It's worth trying to see things from their point of view so you can hopefully find a resolution that works for both of you...

Neighbour disputes... Stay or sell? 

Let's face it though... Sometimes the fence is just the start of it.

A simple fence dispute could be a symptom of a larger issue... The relationship with your neighbour may just be really bad. Sadly this does happen, and there's nothing worse than being on bad terms with your next-door neighbour.

If you can't sort your fence dispute (and if the fence really is just one of many issues with your neighbour) then you may start thinking that you'd be better off moving on altogether. Read more about selling your house fast here.

Selling up and moving on instead of sorting out

So if you decide you want to move on you'll put the property on the market. And yes, that ugly fence will be there when you're trying to sell. But you'll hopefully find a buyer.

Just be aware that when you do, you need to disclose any issues you have with your neighbour. You could end up in hot water if your buyer ends up with the same problems later on down the line and you never disclosed them.

You're legally obliged to disclose any neighbour disputes to your purchaser when you come to sell your home.

Because you're obliged to disclose these kinds of issues, a simple fence and neighbourly dispute can sometimes make your home difficult to sell.

An alternative to the stress and long-waits

There is an alternative to waiting on the open market to find a buyer.

We're used to all kinds of issues with properties, and none of them deter us. In fact, we buy any house - nothing puts us off. So if you do have a problem with your fence or your neighbour in general and you need to sell, then it might be worth reaching out. We can make you an offer quickly, and if you're happy with it we can buy from you in a timeframe to suit you.

The downside is that we buy for less than full market value. You can read more about how much we offer throughout our website though. We'd suggest starting here if you're interested in learning more.

Alternatively, hit one of those big blue "Get An Offer" buttons, enter your details, and we'll call you straight back to start discussing further. It may be a lower price than you'd hoped for, but it could be the end of your neighbour problems and the start of a new chapter.

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