How To Know Which Fence Is Yours?
A serious headache, particularly for people who are renting a property in the middle of a terrace, it is important to know which fence you are responsible for, in both your back and front garden.
Though it may not seem important, it can create a very severe legal problem for you if you are not maintaining a fence that you are responsible for and like most things, it is better to be safe than sorry.
What does the law say?
Unfortunately, different areas in the UK and across the world have different rules and regulations regarding this so it can all get very confusing and frustrating.
Firstly, consider what type of property you have- if your house is full detached and the fences surrounding it are not shared by another property, then obviously, all of the fences are your responsibility.
Secondly, wait before attempting to repair a fence or replace it; unless it poses a genuine risk to yourself or your neighbours, refrain from taking it down. That way, you will not have broken and regulations, which if you are a tenant, can lead to you losing your home.
General Rules Regarding boundaries
Due to a precedent-based legal system in the UK, there isn’t a strict law regarding boundaries between two properties. Even when you buy your house, there is no set rule about which fence is yours either.
*Disclaimer- this guide is not intended for use as a legal document. If you are unsure of your property line, contact your local authority.
Rented vs Owned
Do you have the good fortune to own the property? Then good news (or bad depending), all of the fences (assuming they don’t share a border with another property) are yours to do with as you please.
House ownership does offer a slight glimmer to eliminate confusion; you may be able to locate a pre-set conveyance deed. This will contain information about the already established boundaries lines and highlight which fence you are legally responsible to maintain.
You will also have a deed, which should eliminate any boundary disputes with your neighbours but if you find these puzzling, contact the company that sold you the house.
If you inherited your property from a friend or relative, contact the solicitor responsible for the will to try and ascertain the required documentation.
If you are renting, contact your landlord, housing association or council and ask them to look over the property deed.
Be aware, availability of documentation to relieve confusion will not always be accessible if you are a tenant. Though you can contact your landlord, sometimes this is not an option; your landlord may live abroad, be a large housing association or the local council.
If a fence is falling down, understandably, you may not want to wait around for them to get back to you. However, there are some very loose general rules regarding housing type in relation to rental properties, fencing, and legality. Remember, these will vary based on where you are in the world and can even vary by county.
Talk to your neighbour
Though boundary disputes can be a cause for serious friction between neighbours, as soon as you notice a problem with the fencing or have worries, your best option is to nip it in the bud and talk to your neighbour.
If they have been there longer than you, they may have access to information such as talking to your landlord previously about who is responsible for the fence.
Even if this is not the case, ask them who they feel is responsible for the fence and come to mutual, informal agreement. Remember, if you live in a terrace, you will have to do this with neighbours on both sides.
Be aware, however, that this does not constitute a legal contract and does not constitute a long term, legitimate solution.
If you have contacted your landlord or the association responsible for your property and are waiting for a reply, it may be an idea to apply for a ‘determined boundary’ in the meantime.
This is also useful if the deed to the property cannot be located.
Though it is not your responsibility to determine the boundary, if your landlord cannot locate the deed, they will have to go through this process anyway to ensure their property boundary is kept up to date.
A determined boundary document will also solidify who is responsible for maintaining any trees or hedges that may be separating two properties
Once you know which garden fence is yours, you must maintain it. Luckily, most wooden fences are easy to maintain with minimal time commitments
- Keep it clean- you can purchase a wooden fence cleaner, but even warm soapy water will do the trick, provided that there are no other issues like damp or rot. Always follow the instructions of the fence cleaner.
- Repairs- minor fence repair are now your responsibility. This includes fence reinforcement, tightening loose boards, removing splinters and gluing minor splits or cracks. You must also try to prevent the wood from rotting as much as possible; applying a wood preservative around the base of the fence will prevent any significant damage.
If your fence has ivy growing on it and you are worried about the damage it is causing, contact your landlord for their advice.
- Replacement*- if the fence is too damaged to repair, you are responsible for replacing it. When doing this, if possible, keep your landlord updated on your choice of fencing; after all, it is their property and they have the legal right to remove anything they are unhappy with.
*You may not be reimbursed by your landlord for this.
What you can do with your fence
Now you know which fence panel is yours to uphold, you have the legal right to stain it, paint it and varnish it.You can also hand baskets from it and attach trellises to it to grow climbing plants.