Ye olde garden fence ownership conundrum

20 Jun 2021
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United Kingdom
We had our garden redesigned a year and abided by the general rule that the left side fence is our responsibility and the right hand fence our neighbours responsibility.

Our old neighbor did not want us to replace the right hand fence (not sure why as it was in a terrible condition!) so be built a new one about 8 inches inside the right hand perimeter so we could have sole ownership of both fences. This did result in our side becoming a little smaller and created a gap between our new fence and the existing one.

Now last year, the neighbor sold up and the new owners decided to take down the old fence, but rather than put up a new one - decided to use ours as their new left hand fence. This as of course increased their garden size a little by 8 inches.

I'm not too bothered at the moment, but am concerned that it now 'appears' that 8 inches of our house in within their property and that as they have also hung some plants etc on the fence, its actually trespassing. We get on well with them so as I said i'm not too bothered, but in the future - could they or new owners claim those extra 8 inches as their own ?
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And so (potentially) begins a bitter dispute. Try the gardenlaw website and here

I guess as youre on good terms you should tell the neighbour that you dont want to move the fence but youre worried about what might happen in the future as the properties change hands and an incorrect boundary gets established, and so you think you ought to.

How much of it could easily be re-used if you put new posts in?
It is not the general rule. this is a myth. there is no general rule.

sometimes responsibility is marked on the plan with the deeds as a "T" mark.
Agreed! No "T" Mark on deeds or nothing in writing in deeds it's "Joint" responsibility. (The 'general rule' is a house selling estate agents wording.)
is there any remaining marks from the original fence? If there is then it's concrete soldiers at each end of the fence line, well concreted in at your cost. If there is no visible evidence then it's best to assume it's your loss.
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Simon, you need to tell your new neighbours that the fence is your property and they may not attach anything to it, lean anything on it, paint or stain it or do anything to it without your permission.
If you disagree with the current plants on it then that they must remove these immediately.

You should not have left an 8" gap as you are expected to fence your land to it's fullest extent, you have given away 8" so you need to make it clear that this 8" of land is yours, some notices on the other side of the fence and put in a wire line on posts that meet the boundary (the original fence line).

How you approach this all to your new neighbours and still remain on good terms is upto you, but if you fail to act over it this will become an issue between you both that will go on and on. Do it now, try and do it nicely but firmly.
Get your deeds and a tape measure out to prove it if needs be, but in removing the fence they should have seen where the boundary is. will not really tell you much different than this, although please do go and ask over there.

p.s. if you can remove fence panels, then you may need to do this to be able to access your 8" of land without trespassing on your neighbours land.
If you can get your fence panels moved back to the correct position it would be better for you.
Thanks for the comments/advice - luckily, the posts from the original fencing are still in place (neighbors only removed the panels) so the boundary is still defined to an extent. It would be difficult to move the new fencing back as we had new concrete posts/barge boards installed. I like the idea of using a piece of string (was thinking wire would be a bit dangerous!) down the line of post to show the original fence line and mark the boundary. I'll also have a chat to the neighbors as they are probably not even aware that its a problem - cheers all!
It would be difficult to move the new fencing back as we had new concrete posts/barge boards installed.
Youd have to bite the bullet of new posts, but couldnt the panels and bargeboards be reused?

And yeah - I know - the bulk of the cost is in the erection of the posts...
I have some posts on concrete spurs, where the wooden post is bolted on. It is possible to move the fence line by bolting onto the front or back of the spur; or by putting an extra short post between spur and post.

I have only done this to line up to an old wall, not to steal land.
I unknowingly inherited this situation when I bought my house... Decent sized garden so a few inches isn't noticeably however the two bits of trouble I've had are:
1) The neighbours on one side had since removed the original fence, piled up gravel against the wooden panels (no concrete gravel boards) and booted footballs against them. When the panels finally gave way in a storm they explained that the fence was erected to hide the original fence and therefore they wouldn't be replacing it despite the deeds showing that it was their boundary to maintain. My counter was that I would take out the concrete posts and the rest of the panels, and they'd have to install an entirely new fence or wall to meet their obligations, which made them rethink. I offered to go halves but they were happy to cover the lot (a load of panels is cheaper and easier than a whole new fence!)
2) The neighbours at the bottom later had kept the original fence, but when doing their garden renovations discovered my nicer fence and removed their original. That was fine, but they then painted their side with what can only described as "tikka masala orange", with some nasty wax-paint stuff. I got the worst off with a pressure washer but it's a bit annoying to have a nicely-stained fence covered with drips of a nasty shade of dysentery.

In summary, documenting it could be counterproductive down the line if you find yourself on the hook for a fence that ends up damaged because of your neighbours' actions. Better to be able to say "See the plans? It's your boundary, you fix it" cleanly. If you want to maintain control of the fence so it's always the panels you want then that's different.

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