Fence ownership: who owns that garden fence?

We’re all used to seeing fences around gardens of individual houses but in most cases there’s actually no legal obligation to  fence off the boundaries of your home.  The exception is:

  • Around building sites adjacent to highways, both road and path: Highways Act 1980;
  • Around disused mines: Mines and Quarries Act 1954;
  • To prevent livestock from straying from their fields: Animals Act 1971;
  • Alongside railways: Railways Consolidation Act 1845.

These regulations are in place for safety reasons but generally, a fence is erected to give a homeowner a bit of privacy.

After we first posted on fence ownership, we received lots of comments about issues people were having with sorting their fences. We’ve answered the most common ones below to help you make sense of all things concerning fences, including who’s responsible for repairing them.

 

trellis fence

Image Source: Pinterest

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Who owns a fence, me or my neighbour?

Contrary to popular belief, there’s no rule that says the fences on the left side of your home belong to you.. The transfer or conveyance deed might state who owns it, but if it’s not in writing, then look out for any T-mark to the boundaries.The stalk of the ‘T’ will sit on the boundary and come out into your garden or property, which means that fence is your responsibility. If responsibility for the boundary is shared, like in the case of a party fence wall, for instance, then a H-mark (two T-marks mirrored on the boundary line) is the symbol conventionally used and it’ll indicate that any repair bills should be split 50/50.

who owns the fence

 

If the deeds don’t make it clear who owns a fence, then you may need to dig out the Seller’s Property Information Form which you can find at https://www.lawsociety.org.uk.

It’s sometimes possible to establish who’s responsible for a fence by working out who owns which fence along the same side of the street.

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 Can I make my neighbour repair their fence?

There’s no law which says your neighbour has to repair their fence, even if it’s rotting away and making the side of your property look bad. While you could opt for a boundary demarcation and hire a disputes expert to write a report, you could end up wasting your money as it’s unlikely they’d change their mind. What you could do instead is leave the old fence where it is and erect another one right next to it. The boundary would then be  a thin line that runs between the two fences, even if they’re touching each other.

How high can a fence be?

Fences in back gardens can be up to 2 metres high. If you’re wanting it to be higher, you’ll need to get planning permission. For the latest information, head to the Planning Portal.

Is my neighbour allowed to have the “good” side of the fence facing towards them?

There’s no law that says the “good” side (for example, the side with the smoother wood) of the fence should face your neighbour.

traditional garden

Image Source: House To Home

Can I attach something to my neighbour’s fence?

You can only hang things on your neighbour’s fence paint it or use itto support your plants withtheir permission. . Leaning or hanging things on the fence or using it as a makeshift retaining wall will result in a much heavier burden on the supporting posts and panels of the fence than itwas designed to bear. This might cause damage and  you’d be liable for the cost of any repairs. What’s more, you’llstill have to get the work done  and pay forit, so it could cost more than you bargained for. If you need help repairing the fence, a professional gardener can lend a hand.

Anything you do to your neighbour’s fence without permission, including staining or applying preservative to your side of the fence, is tantamount to criminal damage.

Can my neighbour put up, replace or remove a fence without my permission?

If the boundary for the front of the property is less than 4 inches high, then planning permission isn’t required. However,if your neighbor has decided to put up a fence, they need to put this in writing and give you 30 days’ notice ahead of the work going ahead, otherwise you can take them to court. If they’ve given you notice and you’ve failed to respond, a civil court can rule that you have to pay for half of the fence. The same thing applies if it’s you wanting to put up the fence.

When it comes to replacing an old fence, they can alter the height and material (but they’d need to get planning permission if it was over 2 metres). They can also decide to get it taken down and they wouldn’t need to install a new one. If the old fence is made of wood, and your neighbour wants to replace it with a concrete one, you can insist the new concrete posts and base slabs be erected entirely on their side of the boundary line, so you can erect your own wooden fence with new posts later on. Also, it doesn’t matter who had the “good side” of the old fence.

fence in garden

Image Source: Pinterest

How close can I build to my neighbour’s fence?

You can build up to a  boundary line as long as you get planning permission for it (see 4-inch rule above). If your neighbor is the one planning on the build and you’re concerned that it might block the light coming into a window, the best thing to do is to voice your concerns and try to persuade them to build in a way that reduces the impact on you.

If that isn’t possible, you should check the local building regulations. Perhaps the plans would be a fire hazardor breach other safety laws. Of course, this also applies to you if you plan on building close to their fence, so it’s worth checking the Planning Portal to see what’s possible before you start planning work.

Read more:  our top tips for shed construction  and how to build a patio.

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25 comments

  1. My house is next to alleyway from the right side and the back. Therefore i have 3 fences; one on right, back and the middle one which joins the neighbour.Wjth repairs, ny previous neighbours and we always shared.The new neighbour however is backing off saying it is our fence and we should repair it.We are now in a pickle.We have 3 fences and repairing all 3 would be costly.If i do repair middle one,who repairs/maintains the right side and back side fence which joins no neighbour but just next to alley way. The middle fence does need repairing. Please advise as to what we should do.

    1. Hi Naila, your best bet would be to dig out the deeds for your home. As the article states, ownership of boundaries on the deeds to your home will be designated with a small ‘T’ that sits inside the land of the owner. I hope this helps!

  2. I live in a terraced type house which i own and my neighbours are council tenants. i erected a fence in the back garden on my boundary however i would like to know if its right that my neighbour can fix hanging basket brackets etc to my fence which i bought and payed for.

  3. I live in a semi-detached house and there is a fence between me and my neighbour on the right hand side. The previous owner of the property erected the fence and did so with good side facing me. New neighbours moved in about a year ago and are denying it’s their fence. It’s an old fence and the winter weather has blown down four panels. My neighbours keep throwing the panels into my driveway and back garden, despite me telling them on numerous occasions it’s not my fence. The fence also goes around the back of their property and I’m at a loss as to how to get them tonrealise it belongs to them. Any advice?

    1. Hi Jo, Sorry to hear you’re having issues with fence ownership. The best way to resolve this is to dig out the deeds for your home. As Iain explains in his piece, ownership of boundaries on the deeds to your home will be designated with a small ‘T’ that sits inside the land of the owner. The stalk of the ‘T’ will sit on the boundary and come out into your garden or property, which means that fence is your responsibility. If two ‘T’s’ come together to form a ‘H’ shape, that indicates a shared boundary, in which case the fairest thing to do would be to split upkeep and repair bills 50/50. If you can’t find these deeds and your neighbour has no deeds to prove that the fence isn’t theirs, it might be a good idea to try to come to an agreement on a 50/50 split. Best of luck!

  4. The fence on the right as you look at my house has fallen down. I went to my neighbor to find out whose fence It was, as I was told the left hand side was mine. He told me the previous owner of my house made a community agreement to take ownership of the fence, so my neighbor says it’s my fence. So my question is why should that fence belong to me because the previous owner did a community agreement. I didn’t make the agreement.

  5. No one has the right to attached anything to your fence if it is yours. that includes plants painting leaning stuff up against it. that is the law. also there is no rule who has the good side,if you own the fence you dont have to give your neighbour the good side. this forum information is not correct.

    1. Hi Casey, yes – what you say is true. As Iain says in the article, your neighbour would tend to have the ‘good’ side of your fence but that’s not the law and not everyone would be so generous as to give their neighbour the good side!

  6. We have always repaired and replaced fencing to our left including concrete posts and bases, our neighbour to the right has always done that side. Whilst we were out our neighbour has replaced the fencing on the left and has taken the good side even though we only replaced it 6 months ago and we only had it painted 3 months ago. I do feel annoyed they’ve done this especially as we paid for the posts eto.

  7. i know the fence on the left is my fence and the right side is nect door,what about the fence at the bottom of the garden?

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  8. Hi, I just bought my 1st semi detached house and having read all the above and gone through my deed (from 1953) , it does not have the “T” or “H” on it.

    Is there another way to find out who has the ownership?
    I get along with the neighbors quite well and could speak with them, sort out the fence, but you never know in the future.

  9. Regarding left side boundaries, My neighbour about 12 years ago erected a concrete paneled fence, consisting of concrete posts with
    6′ x 1′ panels slotted in, they are 7 panels high the center post and one other have always had a slight lean to them,
    About 4 years ago new neighbours moved in and have gradually leveled there garden using the concrete panels as walling which has accentuated the lean slightly more, they have leveled there garden to about 4 feet up the height of the fence. when I talked to him he said it was my wall and my responsibility, how can that be?

  10. Hi I own a semi, the left side it is next to a children’s playground owned by the housing association. My deeds say this is my fence, and I have a fence there a few inches inside the boundary line. The housing association had a 6 foot chain link fence on the boundary line, which they have recently removed, meaning their park got just a tad bigger! But leaving my fence open to the abuse of the kids and teenagers in the park, kicking a ball at it all day, amongest other things. Can anyone tell me if they can really do this, or can I insist they put it back.

  11. I had a look of the law society for a link for the sellers property information form you mentioned but cannot find where on the site I could look to get this?

    1. Hi Louise, if you do a quick Google search and type ‘law society property information form’, the downloadable PDF will be one of the top results from the Law Society site. I hope this helps.

  12. Hi , my neighbour took over responsibility for our fence but has now built an eyesore of a concrete wall ,does he now own the boundary or is it still ours?thank you

  13. My neighbors took away there garden and demolished their side of a Drystone wall without any consolation with me, as far i know we are jointly responsible for the fence separating our homes, they didn’t cap of my wall and then months later attached a brick wall to the stonewall with loads of cement a total botch job, after nearly a year of them not putting the fence back or sorting the wall, I told them i was going to sort the wall and put new fence up, within 36 hours they got there before me and erected a 6ft one between us at the back nice side to them, it was only 4ft before with wide slats that let the light though now it total shut my garden off, should of i had a say in shat type it is as we are jointly responsible, or like they say we can do what ever we want, I am now left looking at a crap high fence with no light, and what they have down at the front is totally out of character with the street and hasnt got a drop side yet to park in front of there lounge window, I also have the problem that there now tiled surface is lower than my soil boarder, the new fence floats above this so every time i cut my grass or doing any wedding etc debris will fall under the fence on to their side, this is through no fault of mine they change the height between the garden with what they have done thanks Joanne

  14. hi
    I have a brick wall that my back garden is enclosed on – the T is the other side of the boundary on my deed – the wall is in a terrible state and the owners are not doing anything to remedy this – someone reversed into it – I feel it is a H&S issue as I have 2 children or it could fall onto a car – can I ask the council to come and look at this or is it entirely up to the owners

  15. Hi, two years ago my previous neighbour removed their garage adjacent to mine and erected a fence on the boundary line between my garage and their garden.The new neighbour wants a new fence there and wants me to pay for it. I think they bought the house like that and why should I pay the full cost. It’s not falling down or anything and I didn’t erect it

  16. Hi, our neighbour put up a fence long time ago, inside her boundry, now she has decided to remove anything we put in the few inches between her boundry and our lawn edging. She pokes it with a stick and reaches underneath to remove it. Her cats can crawl underneath as she has made dips, but I have small dogs and can’t block them off! Is it her fault that she has put up a wire fence within her boundry? She even threw off our small hanging baskets off her post and chucked it on our flowerbed. Any advice please? Thankyou. Debby

    1. I am not sure if you actually put plants in her land , beyond the boundary line. If this is the case , she might be annoyed ,in fact, the fence erected by her within her land is hers not yours and the land between her fence and the boundary line is hers. You should not hang anything on her wall without her permission . If you want to hang anything ,you can built your own fence and plant anything you like within your own land .

  17. We own the fence it’s on our boundary attached to our garage,and it shows on our deeds it’s ours.
    Next door she had screwed two 7 foot kitchen unit panels to the back.
    I’m waiting for the council to come down.
    Please advise

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