Fence law

Boundaries are a complicated element of the law, and one that is highly prone to disputes.

Ideally, a fence between two properties would mark the precise boundary between them, but this is often not the case. Sometimes landowners might try to extend their land by moving the fence into another’s property.

More commonly though, a landowner might cautiously build a fence so far inside their land that it is no longer clear where the boundary lies!

What is fence law?

There is no specific legislation on fences. Instead, the law on this issue is contained in many different areas of law, from land law to tort law. You will usually need a solicitor to help you.

Disputes include:

  • Erection of fences
  • Building of dividing walls
  • Disputes over shared walls
  • Repairs of fences and dividing walls
  • Shared plumbing and sewerage
  • Drainage
  • Trees
  • Boundary disputes
  • Erection of structures near the boundary line

How are fence disputes dealt with?

Like all boundary cases, disputes over fences are usually best decided mutually between neighbours.

Mediation can be useful to sort out differences in opinion. It is always a good idea to try, because bad relationships with neighbours can be stressful and unpleasant. Once a solution has been reached however, it is important to have it officially recognised, otherwise the problem may rear its head again, even many years or decades later.

Unfortunately, when unresolved disputes escalate, legal action may be unavoidable.

It is a good idea to get legal advice before this happens. It may be that on examination, your case is not as strong as you think it is and it may be worth coming to a compromise to avoid further costs.

Alternatively, making the strength of your case clear as early as possible will help you win the sympathy of the court later on.

How do I know if I have a case?

If the land is registered, then you can search for you and your neighbour’s properties on the land registry website, to see the boundaries and who owns any wall or fence. If, however, the land is unregistered, then you can investigate your own title deeds, but without your neighbour’s consent you have no right to see their title deeds.

There are other legal rules that may come into play, even if the boundaries of the land appear clear on the documentation.

Covenants may bind landowners to maintain fences that are not on their land and long usage, particularly of unregistered land, can change the boundaries themselves.

You can learn more about land law by visiting our pages on the subject, but if you believe you have a case, or one is being brought against you, you should instruct a solicitor in the matter.

Caven can put you in touch with a local specialist civil law solicitor or property solicitor free of charge. Please call us on 08001 221 2299 or complete the web-form above and we'll call you back.