Who owns the fence?

If you live in England or Wales, there’s usually no record of:

  • the exact boundary between two properties
  • who owns the hedge, wall, tree or fence between 2 properties

Whether it’s because the fence has fallen over due to strong winds, there is rotting on one side, or you simply want a new fence, it’s important to understand who owns the fence.

Which fence is my responsibility: Left or right?

The old adage “each home owner is responsible for maintaining the fence on the left-hand side, as you look at the property from the road” is not true. There is no general rule about whether you own the fence on the left or the fence on the right of your property. The first place to look to see which boundaries you own and are responsible for maintaining is your title deeds although in some deeds, this is not disclosed.

Determine ownership of the fence with title deeds

When the original owner of land divides it up to sell they will usually assign responsibility for the boundaries of each of the smaller parcels they create. This responsibility will then be recorded in the deeds.
The deeds may stipulate that the purchasers (and subsequent purchasers) are responsible for all of the boundaries jointly with their neighbour or solely. Sometimes these are marked with an H (meaning shared jointly) or T (inward facing T means sole responsibility) on the plan to the deeds. However, just because a boundary structure may belong to someone, that does not mean that they will actually maintain it or that you can force them to repair or replace a boundary fence.
In other cases, the deeds are silent and do not stipulate who is responsible for the boundaries. In this instance, you may have to work on the basis of the information provided by the Seller in the Seller’s Property Information Form at the time you purchased the property or look at what has transpired historically during previous periods of ownerships or what has happened between your neighbours.
Sometimes, the information in the Seller’s Property Information Form and the deeds will differ. This is because people put up new fences, plant hedges and build walls and, naturally think that their work belongs to them.
Unfortunately, the information kept within the deeds is rarely up-dated and the information given by the seller may not be the same as their neighbours’ understanding.

Can I make my neighbour fix the fence?

The simple answer is no. There is no law that states the owner of the fence has to fix it. Even if the fence completely falls over, there isn’t even an obligation to have a boundary fence at all (unless the deeds state that fences must be in place) The only thing you can do if your neighbour is refusing to fix the fence, is to erect one of your own on your land. It doesn’t matter if your fence is touching theirs as long as it is within your boundary.

Which side of the fence will face my garden?

A fence will have a good side (the smooth side with no posts) and the side with visible posts. The choice of which way the fence faces is completely up to the owner of that fence. So, if that isn’t you, it may be the case they get the nice side unless you agree to put up extra panels on your own side to hide the posts, plant big bushes or hide it away somehow, you can even erect your own fence adjoining the neighbours.   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

What to do now?

The best approach is to talk to your neighbour. Talk to them face to face if you can – make a note of what you agreed. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to them, write to them or ask someone to contact them for you. Keep copies of any letters or emails you send or receive.
It’s often best to find a compromise, for example sharing the cost of a new fence panel. It could help you to keep a good relationship and will probably be cheaper than paying a solicitor to resolve the disagreement.

Please note that the information provided is for guidance purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.