Which side of the fence am I responsible for?

When there’s a storm and your fence panels come down, it can save you (and your neighbours) a lot of grief if you know which side of the fence you’re responsible for. Find out your obligations and keep things amicable with our guide.

When there’s a storm and your fence panels come down, it can save you (and your neighbours) a lot of grief if you know which side of the fence you’re responsible for. Find out your obligations and keep things amicable with our guide.

Rachel Lacey
Insurance and money expert
minute read
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Last Updated 19 OCTOBER 2022

How can I work out which side of the fence is my responsibility?

With a fence usually straddling two properties, its maintenance and repair can all too often become a bone of contention between otherwise friendly neighbours. Who pays for repairs if a panel comes down in a storm or who replaces it if it starts to rot?

It’s important to know what you’re responsible for when it comes to boundary fences and walls. There’s a common belief that the fence to the left, as you look at your garden, is your responsibility. However, this won’t always be the case.

The fences themselves may also give you a clue. If the ‘good side’ faces into your garden, it’s usually yours. But again this might not always be the case.

If you own your property, your first port of call is to check the deeds and title plan. The deeds show the legal ownership of the property and the title plan is a map that shows the general position of its boundaries. You should have received a copy of the title deeds from your solicitor when you bought your home, so it’s worth going through your old paperwork. If you can’t find them, you can contact the solicitor that did your conveyancing work or contact the Land Registry.

You can also check to see if a boundary agreement, saying who’s responsible for each fence, already exists.

Did you know…?

Contrary to popular belief, there’s no rule about who’s responsible for the fence on the right or left-hand side of your property.

Can I find out which side of the fence is mine (left or right) from paperwork?

When you look at the plans, look for a ‘T’ on the boundary. If it’s on your side, it’s your responsibility. Sometimes you’ll see an ‘H’ (two T’s joined together), which means responsibility is shared between you.

Unfortunately, though, there’s no legal responsibility in England and Wales to specify ownership of the boundary. However, you should find that ownership is shown on the deeds of modern properties (it’s usually only a problem associated with older deeds).

What if it’s not clear who owns the fence?

If your deeds and title plan don’t reveal anything and there are no existing boundary agreements in place, you can try to establish who’s responsible for the fence by:

  • Making a boundary agreement with your neighbour. You and your neighbour can create an agreement to record the boundaries between your properties. This will outline who’s responsible for garden fence maintenance and repairs. Once you’ve made the agreement, you’ll need to apply for it to be recorded on the Land Registry. It’s a good idea to get legal advice to help make the agreement if you go down this route. See more on how to make a boundary agreement on GOV.UK.
  • Applying for a determined boundary This is an official recording of the exact boundary between your property and your neighbour’s. The application costs £90 and you’ll also need to pay surveyor and solicitor fees. GOV.UK has details on how to apply for a determined boundary.

If a title plan or boundary agreement already exists but you think there’s a mistake on it, you can apply to correct it. To do this, you’ll need to write to the Land Registry, explaining why you think there’s been a mistake and supply any documents that support your argument.

See more on how to correct a boundary mistake at GOV.UK.

Coming to a mutual agreement on garden boundaries with your neighbour should be a quick way of resolving the issue and could help you avoid any problems in the future.

What can I do if my neighbour owns the fence?

If your neighbour owns the fence, you’ll need to ask for their permission before making any changes to it. This includes raising the height, leaning or hanging items against it or even just painting your side of it. This is because paints and stains can bleed through to the other side.

Your neighbour may not be under any legal obligation to make any changes or repairs to the fence if they don’t want to – it depends on what it says in the deeds and any other legal documents. However, if the wall or fence appears to be dangerous, you should let them know. If they’re not willing to repair it, you can report the dangerous wall or structure using the GOV.UK website.

How high should a fence be?

The maximum height of a fence that fronts onto a road is one metre. For garden fences that don’t overlook a road the maximum height is two metres.

Anything higher would need planning permission from your local council. You should also apply for planning permission if you live in a Conservation Area or in a listed building.

Am I responsible for damage to my garden fence?

You might be legally obliged to keep your fence in a good state of repair. Look in the deeds and any other legal documents relating to your home to find out. If the fence is your responsibility and it becomes dangerous, your neighbour could take action against you.

Most damage to garden fences is caused by bad weather or wear and tear, so it’s not usually anyone’s fault. However, if your neighbour causes damage to your fence, they should pay for it to be fixed.

Is my garden fence covered by my home insurance?

Garden fences should be covered by your buildings insurance. But read the small print on your policy documents to double check.

Often, fences and gates are covered for fire or vandalism, but not by extreme weather. For example, your fence is unlikely to be covered if it’s damaged in a storm.

What can I do if my neighbour won’t repair their fence?

This is tricky ground and the cause of many a neighbourly dispute. If your neighbour is unable to pay for a repair, you could offer to help them. Just be sure to put any agreement in writing. Make it clear that the payment is a gift and that you’re not assuming future responsibility for the fence. You could also agree to split the cost.

A more controversial option is to put up your own fence on your side of the garden, so that there are two fences running alongside each other.

Alternatively, you can stick to the principle that the fence isn’t your responsibility and do nothing. But you might have to put up with an eyesore for the foreseeable future.

Common garden fence disputes and how to handle them

Garden fence issues aren’t unusual. They can include:

  • Disagreements about where the boundary is: if this is the case, you can get help from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
  • Doing work on the boundary: if you want to carry out work that involves boundary walls or fences, make sure you talk to your neighbour and ask for permission. You’re legally obliged to do this if they own the wall or fence, and it’s polite to do so even if they don’t. Make a note of any agreements and keep any copies of any letters or emails.
  • Your neighbour damages your garden fence: the first thing to do is to talk to your neighbour. It’s possible that their insurance might cover the damage to your property. If they refuse to pay, you may be able to make a claim on your buildings insurance.

Frequently asked questions

What should I do if I rent a property and there’s a problem with the fence?

If you’re renting your property, it’s important to ask your landlord to deal with any problems with a fence or wall. And you should always ask your landlord for their permission before making any changes to a fence or wall.

Does the smooth side of my neighbour’s fence have to face my side?

The good side (or smooth side) of a fence will normally face onto the garden that owns it. But there are fences that look good on both sides. If your neighbour is putting up a new fence, you could always discuss this option with them and volunteer to pay any additional costs.

I can’t resolve a boundary issue with my neighbour. What should I do?

If you can’t resolve a boundary issue with your neighbour, you can:

  • Get help from a mediator: you can find one through your local council. Or you can use the RICS Boundary Disputes Mediation Service.
  • Get help from a solicitor: some disputes will require legal advice to fix. Legal fees can be expensive, so before you go down that route, check whether you have legal cover included in your home insurance. If you do and you have a strong case, you may get your legal fees paid for you.

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