Last updated: 02/11/2023 | Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes
If your fence was ever damaged in a storm, would it be your responsibility to fix it - or your neighbour’s? Understanding which side of the fence is your responsibility to maintain will not only help you to resolve problems more quickly, but can also reduce the likelihood of potential disputes.
But figuring out who owns the fence in your garden can be easier said than done, especially when you don’t have any paperwork to shed light on the situation. In this blog, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about fence ownership, helping you to make sure that you’re not paying for damage that you don’t need to.
In This Guide:
- Which Side of the Fence is My Responsibility?
- How Can I Find Out Who Owns the Fence?
- I’m Still Not Sure Who Owns the Fence
- Does My Neighbour Have to Repair Damage to Their Fence?
- Can I Make Changes to My Neighbour’s Fence?
- Is Damage to My Fence Always My Responsibility?
- Will My Home Insurance Cover My Damaged Fence?
Which Side of the Fence is My Responsibility?
There’s no clear-cut answer to this question as the side of the fence you’re responsible for depends on your unique situation. You may have heard that homeowners are always responsible for the fence to the left of their garden, but this is actually a myth. The location of a fence in relation to your garden usually has no impact on whether it's yours or your neighbours, but the side of the fence facing your garden might.
In many circumstances, if the ‘good’ side of a fence is facing in towards your garden, it’s your responsibility to maintain it. Fences typically have one side that looks more aesthetically pleasing than the other, so if your side of the fence is nicely finished and doesn’t show the fence posts, you are more likely to be responsible for the fence. However, this rule isn’t set in stone, so it’s important not to jump to any conclusions.
How Can I Find Out Who Owns the Fence?
The best way to check if a fence is your responsibility is by looking at the title plan and deeds to your home. These documents should confirm your ownership of your home as well as its boundaries. This can help you to pinpoint whether the fence in question is on your land.
Title plans usually highlight ownership with a symbol that looks like the letter T. If there is a T symbol next to a boundary, that means you’re responsible for the fence. However, if there is a T symbol on either side of a boundary (like a mirror forming the letter H) that means the fence is shared by you and your neighbour.
Some homes may already have a boundary agreement in place, which should explicitly state who is responsible for a boundary fence. If this agreement exists, you should have received any relevant documentation when you purchased your home.
If you don’t own your home, any boundary disputes should fall to your landlord to resolve.
I’m Still Not Sure Who Owns the Fence
Sometimes deeds don’t indicate who is responsible for a particular boundary, as there’s no legal requirement for this in England. If you need to decide who is responsible for a fence but can’t find an answer, you can consider the following options:
Have a discussion with your neighbours: The first thing you need to do is discuss the boundary issue with your neighbours. If they’ve lived in their home longer than you have in yours, they may have documents or title deeds you’re missing and be able to clarify who owns the fence. Alternatively, they may be willing to come to a fair agreement regardless of official boundary ownership.
Create a boundary agreement: If you’ve come to a decision with your neighbour about who will be responsible for your shared fence, you have the option of drawing up an official agreement. You’ll need to apply for the land registry to record who owns the fence, which can help you to avoid disputes in the future.
Ask for a determined boundary: Instead of a boundary agreement, you can also apply for a determined boundary, which will mean the exact boundary lines of your home are recorded. This could be beneficial if your dispute with your neighbour isn’t just over the fence, but where your gardens begin and end. However, this can be costly, as you’ll have to involve both a solicitor and a surveyor.
Does My Neighbour Have to Repair Damage to Their Fence?
It can be frustrating to have a poorly-maintained or broken fence facing into your garden, but your neighbour isn’t necessarily obligated to repair it – even when it’s their responsibility. The best thing to do is to speak to your neighbour about the fence and try to come to an agreement. If they’re struggling to pay for fence repairs and the fence is affecting your enjoyment of your own garden, you could offer to chip in yourself. However, your neighbour has to agree to any changes or repairs, as it’s their property.
If you can’t come to an agreement, you could install a new fence of your own in your garden that stands next to your neighbour's fence. This way, you’ll be free to make any changes you like to your fence, as it will belong to you. Just make sure it’s within reasonable height limits and doesn’t affect your neighbour’s fence.
The only time when your neighbour may be obligated to fix their fence is if it poses a danger to you. You can report a dangerous fence on the gov.uk website, but it may take some time for the issue to be resolved.
Can I Make Changes to My Neighbour’s Fence?
You can only make changes to your neighbour’s fence with their permission, even when it only concerns the side that faces your garden. In most circumstances, neighbours will be quite happy for you to put a lick of paint or varnish on your side of the fence, especially if it helps to protect it from the elements. But because varnish might seep through the fence panels onto the other side, it’s important to always inform your neighbour first.
You will also need to ask permission to hang plants or other items from the fence, as this could affect the structure’s integrity. It’s well within your neighbour’s right to say no, so it’s important to respect their decision no matter how frustrating it might be.
Is Damage to My Fence Always My Responsibility?
If a garden fence belongs to you, it will usually be your responsibility to repair it. It’s a good idea to keep your fence well-maintained, as this reduces the likelihood of it becoming dangerous, though bad weather can sometimes cause unexpected damage.
The only time you aren’t responsible for damage is if it’s caused by your neighbour. If they’ve done something that directly leads to problems with your fence, it’s their responsibility to cover the costs of putting things right.
Will My Home Insurance Cover My Damaged Fence?
Garden fences are usually covered by your home insurance policy, but you won’t be able to claim for all types of damage. For example, some policies will cover fire but won’t cover damage as a result of a storm, so it’s important to check your terms and conditions carefully. Your home insurance policy also won’t cover normal wear and tear, as it’s your job to properly maintain your fence.
When making a fence-related claim on your home insurance, your provider may want you to confirm the boundaries of your property or prove that the fence is your responsibility. This is where having a written agreement with your neighbour can be useful.
To learn more about home insurance that covers damage to your garden and its fence, get in touch with us here at Money Expert for a quote or more information.