Homeowners often remain unaware of garden fence laws until it’s too late and something happens that forces them to have to look things up online or seek legal advice like a fence falling.
Conflicts between neighbours often revolve around garden fences and they often don’t end well. At the same time, a tenant’s right to a habitable home should be respected if renting.
Therefore, it’s essential to understand your responsibilities as a homeowner or even if you’re a tenant. This article will provide information on how to determine which fence is your responsibility.
Also, it will go over what to consider when installing a new garden fence. Along the way, we’ll also touch on a few other relevant points that will keep you out of court and running into legal disputes.
To begin, let’s explore who owns what so you can be armed with the right information to face intimidating neighbours who think a fence is your responsibility.
What fence is your responsibility?
Determining responsibility for repairs and maintenance is likely the most common problem regarding garden fences. So talking about this neighbour is how most issues will be resolved.
There is no one size fits all answer for working out whose responsibility the fence is like saying that it is the fence that faces the left of the garden or the right of a property.
However, if there’s a dispute between you and your neighbours regarding responsibility, it’s necessary to determine the ownership of the disputed area of a garden area of land. This is how the process will come to an end.
Sometimes, a landlord could look at the plans of the house or the deeds that were signed at the beginning of the property’s ownership to help with the dispute as part of their responsibility for managing tenants.
However, these documents don’t always provide clarity in which case a disagreement can be referred to the First-tier Tribunal which is where the land registry will get involved to resolve the matter.
As you go through this legal process, it is useful to note that most garden fence damage is unintentional and caused by wear and tear or weather like a tree falling on the fence.
This means it is usually no one’s fault and you should approach your neighbour with this in mind. It is quite likely that they are getting round to repairs but they need to gather the money or find the time to get the work done. This does not allow them to unfairly deny any responsibility at the same time.
Establishing ownership of fences through observation
Sometimes there are visual cues to work out if the responsibility of a fence is your neighbour’s or it is in fact you who has to step up and accept responsibility for repair or damage.
Typically, walls and fences are constructed on the land that belongs to the owner of the boundary, with the further end of the wall indicating the actual boundary.
By examining the orientation of the frames, it is often possible to deduce who the fence belongs to – the builder or property owner would have positioned the fence in a manner such that it faces away from their property.
This allows a neighbour to enjoy the visually appealing side of a fence and the neighbour on the other side of a terraced house will be exposed to the frames.
Further tips on how to work out if a fence is yours
You can also work out if a fence is yours in a few other ways rather than looking at the deed of the property and finding the legal documents involved.
Does the position of the fence on the left have any significance?
To debunk a myth that has been going around, no, there is no rule that states a homeowner should only be responsible for the fence that is on the left of their property.
It just so happens that this is the case most of the time because of the way properties were built in the UK. But, this isn’t anything to go by as there is still a good chance it isn’t on the left.
Are you able to ask the landlord if you’re a tenant?
While you’re not responsible for taking care of the fence yourself as a tenant, it is your propensity to communicate with a landlord about a damaged fence if it happens.
Most landlords would be open to providing the financial investment to repair it because if not they could get reported by a local authority if they leave it for too long.
Hence, asking a landlord is the best thing you can do in order to get things fixed fast.
Are you able to ask a tenant to contact their landlord?
If a fence needs repair or you want to work out whose responsibility a fence is and you’re not sure yourself by looking at your own property documents it is worth asking a neighbouring tenant for their documents.
However, there is no legal obligation for them to provide this and it should only be something done out of the good will of the tenant rather than a legal obligation.
Who needs to make sure a garden fence is maintained?
As is typically the case, the owner is accountable for maintaining the fence in most instances.
However, some situations can become ambiguous. As mentioned earlier, some deeds may not provide a clear indication of ownership and may contain repair agreements pertaining to the fence or wall in question.
Moreover, Land Registry documents can be misleading at times. There have been instances where one party has taken on maintenance duties for so long that they have assumed legal responsibility for upkeep.
How can you encourage your neighbour to repair their fence?
Unfortunately, if it is not mandatory to repair a fence, the most you can do is remain neighbourly and explain how a broken fence is interfering with your property.
WIth this behaviour, most neighbours will take the right action to repair their fence and work out how to get a property back in the right order.
Is it mandatory to fix a fence if it breaks?
There could be deeds on the property that force a landlord or homeowner to repair the fence that is on a property.
However, there are also some deeds that state there doesn’t have to be a fence in place. So, there is
If you think that a homeowner is mandated to repair a fence then you can bring this up with the land registry who will be able to provide you with some advice.
What should you consider before putting up a new fence?
When installing a new fence, there are some considerations that you should have before you do so in order to make sure everything goes smoothly
Who should be held responsible for erecting the fence?
Whoever is responsible for the fence is responsible for the erection of the new fence. However, there can certainly be agreements between neighbours that go against this.
For instance, one neighbour could pay for the costs of repair while another one could actually put up the fence. Or, a contractor could be paid to do the job as well.
What is the maximum height for a garden fence?
The answer to this question depends on your local authority and you can contact them here to get the answer you need. Usually, however, the highest fence allowed without planning permission is two metres in height.
You also have to make sure that the fence height includes any trellising that is on the fence even if it is only thin. Ideas for how to still have a good level of privacy while keeping your fence within two metres can be found here.
Are there any regulations or requirements for constructing a fence?
As we’ve just mentioned, fences over two metres will generally require planning permission. Be aware that this includes any trellising that may be present atop the fence.
If it goes over the two metre rule, you’ll likely need to obtain planning permission for it.
Listed buildings will also commonly require planning permission, as will fencing that adjoins a public road and is above one metre in height.
For property where the front is open to highways and public paths, restrictions usually apply, so talk to your local authority before you begin any work.
Wrapping things up
The responsibility for repairing or maintaining garden fences can often lead to disputes between neighbours. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer for determining ownership of a fence, visual cues such as the orientation of the frames can help.
If a dispute arises, landlords can refer to the deeds or plans of the property, and the First-tier Tribunal or land registry can be involved to resolve the matter.
Homeowners are typically responsible for maintaining their own fences, while party walls and fences are the responsibility of both neighbours.
Local authorities may have regulations on the maximum height and construction of garden fences, with fences over two metres usually requiring planning permission.
It is also useful to note that a tenant cannot be evicted for bringing up an issue with a fence, even if there is the correct notice as this is against a tenancy agreement