I’m a legal expert – how to find out who owns your garden fence and who has responsibility for it | The Sun

NEIGHBOURS happily chatting over a garden fence might be the ideal scenario but a legal expert has intervened in the knotty problem of neighbours arguing over one instead.

Concerns have been raised over who exactly owns the boundary between two properties – and who has the right to maintain and decorate it, especially on their side.

Consumer group Which? has now offered their input – while warning it could yet prove tricky to stake your definitive claim.

Mark Andrew Woodman, Which?'s legal senior legal adviser, suggested exploring title deeds to see whether they stipulate which property has prior rights over the fence – and asking around over who actually first installed it.

But he also urged caution before getting to work on amending the fence without getting more certainty yourself – since there is a danger of actually being prosecuted for criminal damage.

His contribution came after a poser set by Times newspaper reader Anne Rice, who wrote: "I have a mid-terrace house with a long, narrow garden that is fenced on both sides.

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"Each of my neighbours say the fence on their side belongs to them. How do I determine whether I am responsible for one fence?

"I am sure that the neighbour on the south side is correct in their ownership as they have lived there for more than 30 years.

"The fence on the north side has the 'unfinished' part on my side, with metal stakes (I painted these as they were an eyesore) and green plastic net fencing in between that needs covering up.

"Can I spray paint my side to make it look better?"

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Mr Woodman admitted there was "no single way to determine ownership of a fence sitting on the boundary".

Yet he has recommended checking the title plan – the Ordnance Survey extract showing a homeowner's land – to see whether it is marked with a "T" or an "H".

A "T" entering your property would indicate you have responsibility for whatever sits on the balcony, such as fencing or a wall – while an "H" tends to straddle the boundary, showing it is shared with a neighbour.

Mr Woodman also advised checking the property's title register for any references stipulating who has responsibility – though conceded these tended to be "quite rare".

Yet he went further in his guidance, pointing out: "One of your neighbours or the previous owner of your house may remember who installed the present fences.

"This would be another indicator as to who has responsibility for it.

"It is generally accepted that the party that installed the fence would take responsibility for it going forward since the fence would be their personal property."

If still this provides no joy, he highlighted the option of a dispute process administered by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors – though both or all neighbours must agree to participate.

And in a final warning Mr Woodman added: "Your right to do anything to the side of the fence facing into your garden really comes down to solving the problem of ownership.

"If the fence does not belong to you then you should not paint or affix anything to it without the permission of the neighbour, as to do otherwise could actually constitute criminal damage."

Other experts have previously suggested a potentially-simpler solution – simply looking at a fence to see which side features rails.

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The other side would tend to be the "good side", indicating it to be that neighbour's property, according to pros from Kent-based firm Jackson Fencing.

Fences are not the only possible neighbourhood disputes to fret about – with a top lawyer warning the person next-door could land you with a £50,000 fine under a little-known rule on fly-tipping.

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