A guide to garden fence laws

You may think this is a strange topic, but lots of homeowners remain unaware of the laws regarding garden fences until they find themselves embroiled in a frustrating and costly boundary dispute. So, here you’ll find some expert advice to help you stay well-informed about your property rights and obligations as a homeowner.

With fences being central to many neighbourhood conflicts, we believe that everyone who owns a property in the Cotswolds and the Vale of the White Horse should have a better understanding of the law.

Establishing fence ownership – When trying to determine which fence is yours, the best place to begin is your deeds. You’ll find a scale plan of your property highlighting your boundary lines with a T-mark (a symbol that looks like the letter “T”) to represent the wall or fence ownership.

Sometimes, adjacent properties have joint ownership over a fence or wall (something that is referred to commonly as a party fence or wall). If that is the case, you’ll see two T symbols joined together making an H-mark (which looks like an elongated letter “H”).

Virtually every modern property deed will have clear markings for boundary ownership, but if you’re living in one of the older properties, you may find that the boundaries are less obvious. In such cases, something known as “presumptions” will come into play. It is presumed that fence posts are placed on the land belonging to the owner of the fence so the rear of the fence which has the posts showing will face their property.

Although it has been traditionally believed that you own the fence on the left-hand side of your property, you can’t guarantee that will always be the case. Checking the deeds is always the first port of call.

Who takes responsibility for garden fence maintenance? As you’d expect, the owner of the fence will usually be responsible for fence maintenance, while party fences and walls are both neighbours’ joint responsibility to maintain. It can get a little confusing if the deeds don’t indicate ownership clearly, or if they include covenants relating to the repair of the wall or fence in question. In a few cases, even documents held by the Land Registry may be misleading. If one neighbour has taken responsibility for maintaining a fence for an extended period of time, they may have become legally responsible for its upkeep.

Am I legally allowed to force my neighbour to make repairs to the fence? There are no laws that require anyone to repair fences, even when they’re in extremely poor condition, so essentially, you can’t legally force your neighbour to carry out repairs. You may find it best to leave the fence in place and simply erect another for yourself on your own land in such a situation.

What do I need to know if I’m erecting a fence? If the property deeds indicate that a fence is your responsibility, then you are responsible for erecting a new fence. If it is a party fence, both neighbours must take responsibility.

A garden fence height may be determined by your local authority, but in most cases, it must be no more than 2 metres high to be permitted with no planning permission required. If the property is a listed building, planning permission will probably be needed, as will any fence that is over 1m in height and adjoining a public road.

Restrictions will typically apply to any property with a front open to public paths or highways. Therefore, consulting with the local authority before commencing work is a good idea.

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