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Boundary Disputes with Neighbours: An Extensive Guide

Damaged relationships with neighbours can have a severe impact on your life and can reduce the enjoyment of your property. Some of the most common events that instigate relationship problems with neighbours are boundary disputes.

These disputes are most commonly caused by a fence, plants/shrubbery or an extension, and if not dealt with amicably, can quickly transcend into more serious problems and potentially visits to court.

At Brown Turner Ross we have land specialist solicitors who can offer legal advice on how you can deal with boundary disputes and represent you should your case go to court.

What are the fence rules in the UK?

Fences can be a troublesome boundary feature because both parties may believe that they own, or are entitled to alter as they wish, their side of the fence.

Conversely, you may believe that a fence is a shared responsibility but your neighbour refuses to accept partial ownership and keep their side of the fence in good working order.

Unless you and your neighbour have specifically bought your fence together, then it is more likely that one party owns the fence outright.

You may believe that a fence acting as a boundary feature between two properties, that was erected before either party moved into their respective properties is a shared responsibility between both parties.

However, if there were to ever be a boundary dispute that led to a solicitor defining property boundaries and where the fence lies in relation to this, you may find that the fence is the responsibility of only one party.

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

Under UK law, you will need to legally prove that your neighbours’ fence is on your property before you can go about the process of removing the fence.

We recommend that you contact your neighbour and have a polite conversion about any concerns you have with their fence and see if you can come to a mutually beneficial resolution before taking any other more drastic actions or seeking legal advice.

Our boundary dispute solicitors can work with you to produce this information.

Removing Fence

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

If you can provide proof that it was your neighbour who damaged your property then you can approach a solicitor to recover the costs of repairing your fence.

However, we always advise that if you believe that your neighbour has damaged your fence that you calmly contact your neighbour and ask them for clarification.

Hopefully, if it was your neighbour, they will admit to any wrongdoing and offer to make the situation right without needing to go to court.

What is the legal fence height between neighbouring properties?

If the fence is at the rear of your property, then it should be a maximum of 2 metres tall (6.5 feet). And if it is at the front of your property then it should be a maximum of 1 metre tall (3.2 feet).

This is so your neighbour’s enjoyment of their property is not disrupted by a large object that could potentially block sunlight or visibility.

What happens if my neighbours fence falls into my garden?

If your neighbours refuse to repair their fence and it is causing a safety hazard on your property then you can either report it to the council or take legal action by contacting a solicitor.

However, like with most issues surrounding boundary disputes, we recommend that you approach your neighbour first to bring it up with them.

Hopefully, by making them aware of the issue they will take action to repair their fence and prevent it from hanging over into your property in the future.

Fence painting etiquette

Many people believe that as a boundary fence is accessible from their property that they can make alterations to their side of the fence as they wish. This is not always the case.

You should first ascertain who owns the fence and on who’s land the fence is situated before you make any alterations to a fence acting as a boundary feature between two properties.

Can I paint my side of my neighbour’s fence?

If your neighbour owns the fence then you are not permitted to make any changes to the fence, even if it is on your side of the property boundary, without their permission.

Politely asking them for their permission can be the best way to go about making changes to a fence, as acting without permission can lead to repercussions in the future.

Painting Neighbours Fences

What to do if a neighbour paints my fence without permission

If you erected the fence as a boundary on your property then your neighbour has no right to paint or otherwise alter their side of the fence in any way.

By doing so, they may have committed criminal damage. Even if they have only painted the side facing their property.

If the issue is that the paint that they have used has leaked through and is making your garden look untidy, it would be best to approach your neighbour and explain that they have painted your fence without your permission and the effect that this has had. Hopefully they will offer to repair any damages that they have caused or you can both communicate and come to an agreement on the colour of your fence.

My neighbour is trying to claim the land is theirs.

If you believe that your neighbour is encroaching on your land without your permission, whether through the planting and growth of a new plant or the erection of a fence or other property boundary feature, then you can seek legal advice and have a boundary dispute solicitor ascertain on who’s property the land falls on.

After it has been judged that you own the land in question, you can request your neighbour cease trying to claim your land. If they refuse, then you may be able to take legal action to reacquire your land.

Can a neighbour build over the boundary line?

No, your neighbour is not allowed to build anything on your property without your permission.

If your neighbour does build over what you believe to be your boundary line then you will need to prove that they have crossed it. To do this, you can contact a solicitor, like ours at Brown Turner Ross, who can determine where your property boundary is and then you can move forward from there depending on the findings.

Boundary disputes – your questions answered

There are many misconceptions around boundary disputes in the UK. These can lead to individuals believing that they have certain rights when they do not, or vice versa.

We hope to clarify some of the most common boundary dispute questions below.

Is there a 7-year boundary rule in the UK?

This is an example of a common misconception spread across the UK. Some believe that there is a 7-year limit on adverse possession, meaning that a squatter can take ownership of land after they have been using that land without the owner’s permission for a certain amount of time. This is not the case.

Since the Land Registration Act 2002 came into force, someone can apply for possession of land that they are not the registered proprietor of, subject to certain exemptions and regulations, after they have been in adverse possession of the land for 10 years.

If their application is denied but they remain in adverse possession for a further two years, then they can reapply for possession and will be granted the status of registered proprietor regardless of whether anyone opposes their application.

Is there a time limit on boundary disputes?

You will want your boundary dispute to be resolved within 12 years so that adverse possession cannot be used for another party to gain ownership of your property.

Boundary disputes can be extremely difficult to decipher and can take a long time from start to finish, so it is advised to start the legal process sooner rather than later if you are experiencing a troublesome boundary dispute.

How to find out exact property boundaries?

A solicitor will be able to review your title deeds and land registry documents and use these to determine, more or less, where your property boundaries are.

Is my boundary on the left or right?

This is another common misconception regarding property boundaries in the UK. There is no automatic designation of property boundaries in relation to your neighbours.

Instead, whether a boundary feature is yours or not will depend on if the feature is on your land and who erected or otherwise installed the boundary feature.

How to resolve property boundary disputes?

We advise approaching your neighbour first to calmly and amicably try to resolve the issue yourselves.

Boundary disputes can be incredibly complicated and if you have to go to court to get a resolution you and your neighbour could end up with a solution that benefits neither of you.

It is better and recommended, if possible, to find a middle ground yourselves without your relationship with your neighbours breaking down in the process.

Boundary dispute examples

Some of the most common boundary features that lead to disputes are fences, plants and extended walls or buildings.

If your neighbour were to erect a fence on the rear of their property that was under 2m tall and that did not encroach on your land then they would be well within their rights. However, if the fence was taller than 2m or if the fence encroached onto your land, then you could complain to your council, seek legal advice or speak to your neighbour to come to an amicable resolution yourselves.

Another example of a boundary dispute would be if you planted a tree and it ended up growing above your boundary fence and extended into your neighbour’s garden. In this specific circumstance, your neighbour would be able to trim your tree up to the property boundary provided that they cause no damage to your property or land. Any cuttings from the tree would still belong to you, though.

Finally, if your neighbour were to build an extension that encroached onto your land by six inches without you raising a complaint for a period of 12 years then they would have a strong case to apply for adverse possession of those six inches of your land. Whereas if you brought it up to them before their extension was built then you would be able to prevent them building on your land in the first place.

Using solicitors for your dispute

If your neighbour is not cooperating with you during your boundary dispute then you can seek the help of a qualified land specialist solicitor to legally determine your boundaries and resolve your dispute in the courtroom.

At Brown Turner Ross, our boundary dispute solicitors can help you define your own property boundaries and give you legal advice on how best you can reclaim your land if it is being encroached by your neighbours.