Garden fence responsibility can often be a subject of dispute between neighbours, especially when it comes to knowing where you stand legally. It’s easy to avoid unnecessary hassle and confrontation by making sure you know what you are responsible for when it comes to garden boundaries.
The first thing to do is check your deeds to see if there are existing boundary agreements on the properties already. If not, you can make a new boundary agreement, signed by you and your neighbours. Coming to an agreement on garden boundaries can save both you and your neighbours time and avoid any issues in the future.
It’s not a bad idea to check with the estate agent, landlord or previous property owner about garden fence responsibility before you buy a house or move into one. A simple chat with a neighbour can also usually resolve any potential future issues fairly easily!
If there is any uncertainty, you can request a separate authority to determine exactly where a boundary lies. There are three classes of people that have the ability to do this: The High Court Judge, County Court Judge and Judge in the Land Registration Tribunal. None of these simply come round and decide where your boundary is, but instead you are expected to make a legal case and put it to the court so that a judgement to be made.
All of this can seem a bit much just to define a garden fence boundary. If possible, find access to recent house surveys or deeds that have plans of the land. In many cases, defined boundaries will already have been labelled on these. This will hopefully answer the question: "Which fence is mine?" and will save you an unnecessary trip to court.
Once you have access to the deeds and can view the plans, you’ll notice markers that show whether responsibility lies with you or your neighbour if there’s damage to a fence or wall boundary between the properties.
A ‘T’ shown on the inside of a boundary line signifies ownership of the boundary fence or wall and means that maintenance responsibility falls on the shoulders of the property owner on that side. When two ‘T’ symbols are attached (as an ‘H’) to one another, this means joint responsibility between both sets of neighbours on either side.
Deeds and plans can often be outdated and not always entirely clear, so it can be difficult to see exactly where the boundary fences or walls start and end – sometimes causing disputes.
If you’re ever wondering: "Which side of the fence is mine?" if there has been damage or maintenance is needed, speak to your neighbour. The majority of the time, they’ll be just as keen as you are to come to a mutual agreement and resolve the issue.
Generally, your home insurance will cover ‘other structures’ associated with your home, such as sheds, garages and garden fences. Admiral Home Insurance covers fences as part of its standard home cover, as outlined in the policy book.
While some causes of damage to garden fences are covered under your home insurance, there are usually some exclusions. For example, should your garden fence be damaged by a falling tree or during a storm then this would typically be excluded under most policies.
As always, it’s best to check with your insurer to certify exactly what is covered and what isn’t. You may want to consider an estimate on any damage repair before you file for a claim on your garden fence, to make sure it’s really worth claiming.
Probably the most common garden fence problem is deciding who is responsible for repairs and maintenance. As mentioned earlier, talking to your neighbour and coming to a mutual conclusion can solve most issues. However, if it isn’t as simple as this then it’s important to know where you stand.
If there is a dispute between you and your neighbours about who is responsible, it is necessary to settle who owns the disputed bit of land. If you’re unable to come to a decision based on the deeds or land plans then it is possible to refer disputes to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber – Land Registration) and they will make a decision on what should happen.
Most garden fence damage happens inadvertently as a result of bad weather or unpreventable deterioration, so it usually isn’t anyone’s fault. However, if damage has been caused as a result of your neighbour’s actions then they are entitled to pay for the damage to be fixed.
Whilst garden fence responsibility can be a contentious issue, the rules and laws remains largely straightforward and cover almost all possible situations, meaning you can always sort out any problems in one way or another.