Advice on boundaries, your rights and responsibilities

Boundary disputes between neighbouring properties can seem daunting at first but they are very common and can easily be dealt with. A real estate solicitor can help, from wondering who is responsible for a new fence to requiring permission to build a new wall, and everything in between, these questions can easily be answered. The following article will cover questions that are frequently asked to help you find the best solution.

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Topics to be answered in this article

Where are boundaries and who should maintain them?

Boundaries indicate the extent of your land, easily identifying where your land ends and where neighbouring land begins. The land within your boundaries is within your control and responsibility. 

If you are unsure of the boundaries surrounding your property then you can obtain copies of the title register and title plan from HM Land Registry. The title plan will identify the  extent of your property with red edging. The title register will also tell you the ownership and rights which affect the land if there are any uncertainties about this too.

These can be obtained via the Land Registry website – www.gov.uk/government/organisations/land-registry

Additionally, the title deeds may set out which boundaries you are responsible for. This is a great place to look when questions arise. You should have instructed your solicitor about the custody of deeds when the property purchase was completed; these may have been passed to yourself or remained in possession of the solicitor that you used. If you cannot locate them, some deeds may be found on the Land Registry website, or they may be held by your mortgage lender.

It is a common perception that you are responsible for the boundary on the left hand side of your property, however this is a myth! There is not a general rule about which boundary you must maintain, this is why consulting the title deeds is essential to establishing which boundaries you are responsible for. 

If the boundary is your responsibility, then you are liable for the cost of maintaining it. However, it is not uncommon for neighbours to offer to contribute to the cost as they will likely be benefiting from it too. For example, if a fence has blown down that is on your boundary then you are liable for the cost of repairing it, but the neighbours may contribute towards this cost as they are having the benefit of a new fence too.

What do I do if there is an issue with the boundaries?

Boundary Agreement

If there is an issue with the boundaries, this can usually be solved by having an informal discussion with your neighbour. However, if this does not work, or you want something formal drawn up, a boundary agreement is a great place to start. 

A boundary agreement will identify the boundary between properties and state who is responsible for each one but it cannot be used as a tool to sell or give away part of the land. 

What to include in a boundary agreement:

  • Your name and address. 
  • Your neighbour’s name and address.
  • The date the agreement was made. 
  • The boundary that has been agreed- this can be done using a written description, a map you have drawn yourself or an Ordnance Survey map that you have drawn/written on to indicate the boundary.

In order to record the boundary, you will need to make an application to change the register. This is done using Form AP1– found at Change the register (AP1) – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) . 

This form, along with a copy of the boundary agreement and £40 cheque payable to ‘HMLR’, will need to be sent to: 

HM Land Registry Citizen Centre, PO Box 74, Gloucester, GL14 9BB

They will update the register and send copies back to yourself and your neighbour. 

Precise Boundary Plans

If you want a precise boundary plan of both properties drawn up, then you should appoint a Chartered Surveyor (qualified by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors – RICS) to do so.

Party Wall Act 1996 Notice

If you are wanting to build a wall on or immediately adjacent to the boundary then you will often have to provide your neighbour with a Party Wall Act 1996 Notice. It is advised you have a discussion with the neighbour before providing a notice, as this helps iron out any issues they may have with the proposed work, and increases the chance of gaining consent to the notice. 

If you fail to provide a notice, adjoining neighbours could seek a court injunction to stop the work or seek other legal redress.

Other boundary dispute questions you may have

How high can a fence be?

The general rule is that a rear garden fence can be up to 2 metres high and anything higher than this will require planning permission. However, local authorities may have different restrictions so you should check their rules and regulations on the matter to be safe.

Am I legally required to maintain a fence or wall?

You are only legally obliged to put fencing or walls up in certain conditions. The most common conditions are if you live next to a railway, if you have livestock to be kept in a field or if your deeds require you to do so. 

As there is no requirement to have a fence in the first place, there is no legal obligation to maintain a fence or wall. This is unless stated in the deeds that it must be maintained, in which case this is a legal requirement and you must do so.

Can I remove a neighbour’s fence on my property?

You must be certain the fence is on your property, this should be checked by consulting the title deeds and measuring the boundary. You may also want to purchase your neighbours title deeds from Land Registry to ensure they are consistent with your own, or consider having an informal chat with your neighbour regarding where the boundary lies. 

If the fence is definitely on your property then you should talk to your neighbour about this, ask them to move the fence and explain you will take action if it is not moved. 

Whilst you are able to remove the fence, this is likely to cause issues with the neighbour if you have not discussed it first. If your neighbour does not cooperate you should consider instructing a solicitor on the matter.  

Is there a 7 year boundary rule?

Some people believe there is a 7 year boundary rule that allows adverse possession of land after it has been used for 7 years, however it is a myth! 

In order for there to be adverse possession, the land must have been used, continuously and exclusively, for 12 years. After 12 years has elapsed, the individual using this land for the last 12 years can apply for ownership on the basis of adverse possession. 

In short, the 7 year boundary rule is actually a 12 year boundary rule!

My neighbour has damaged my fence, what can I do?

You should start by talking to your neighbour about the damage that has occurred and what outcome you would like e.g. paying for a new fence. If they are happy to comply then you can get started on scheduling repairs.

If they are not happy to comply, you can either pay for the cost of the repair yourself, contact your insurance provider or consult one of our experienced solicitors to assist you.

Will I need to get a solicitor involved?

Understanding boundaries can be very confusing but hopefully this article has helped to answer any questions you had and you are able to resolve any issues amicably. If you do however feel you need to speak with a solicitor then you can. Our experienced property team can recommend litigation specific lawyers.

Contact us using the form below.

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Author Bio

Nadine Stevenson

I qualified as a solicitor in 2016 specialising into Residential Property.  I have been working in property law for over 10 years and have a wealth of knowledge and experience.

I pride myself in the level of service that I offer to my clients, I work very proactively ensuring that I understand from the outset my clients’ needs.  I have local knowledge specific to Wiltshire and the surrounding towns and cities and this helps me to provide clear and pragmatic advice to my clients and assists in simplifying the property experience so clients do not feel overwhelmed in what can, at times, be a stressful situation.

I really enjoy being a legal advisor for a wide variety of clients, whether that be first time buyers getting onto the property ladder that need additional support, families looking to re-size or property investors looking for their next project.   There is nothing more rewarding than helping clients with their property journey.

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