What can landlords do when the neighbours have no boundaries, or the fence blows down?
Neighbourly disputes are common sources of friction especially when one side feels unfairly treated over the cost of putting things right.
Everyone’s taught to love their neighbour, but sometimes it’s difficult when you are both arguing with each other.
And resolving the problem is not always easy and means resorting to a legal remedy that just adds cost and stress to an already tense situation.
- 1 Cost of repairing a fence
- 2 What to do if talking fails
- 3 What the law says about fence disputes
- 4 Fence and boundary dispute FAQ
Cost of repairing a fence
Wooden fences are the most popular and they come in several types with panels and close board the most popular.
Whatever the style of construction, all wooden fences are susceptible to the same damage from mould, rot and insects. Panels tend to suffer a lot from wind damage, while posts deteriorate over time from being buried in the ground.
The average cost of repairing a wooden fence ranges from £40 for a new post to £1,839, according to web site for finding tradesman CheckaTrade. The average cost is £940.
Landlords can reduce the risk of paying for expensive repairs by buying concrete posts and installing gravel boards. This makes the initial outlay more expensive but should reduce repair costs over time.
The good news is the tax man will let you put the cost of any like-for-like repair through your books to set off against rental profits for the year, which reduces the amount of tax you pay.
However, any improvement, like replacing a wooden fence with a brick wall, is classed as a capital cost and can only be reclaimed when you sell the property when it is offset against capital gains tax.
What to do if talking fails
The first step in resolving a shared boundary dispute is always trying to negotiate a fair and reasonable solution with your neighbour.
But not every neighbour is fair and reasonable, especially when they must put up some cash.
If talking fails, the next step is to look at the property deeds.
The Land Registry generally has a map with the title documents with your property marked in red.
A ‘T mark’ on the plan is an indication of who is responsible for each boundary.
A good idea is to ask your lawyer to establish who owns the boundaries when you buy a property.
The common belief is a homeowner is responsible for their left side boundary unless they have a corner plot, but this is not always the case.
The title deeds are not always a hard and fast resolution – they may show you are responsible for maintaining the boundary or that the obligation is shared.
If this is the case, you must repair the damage at your own cost.
Even if you can prove the damaged fence belongs to your neighbour, they don’t have to rush out to make repairs on your say so.
If the fence is in such a state that it presents a danger and the neighbour refuses to make any repairs, you can report the problem to your local council. The council can take enforcement action to force the neighbour to put matters right, but this is a time-consuming process that can take months or even years.
What the law says about fence disputes
The law offers no assistance to neighbours over boundary disputes.
There is nothing to say your neighbour must have a fence and you cannot force them to erect one unless the deeds specify there should be one.
One solution is to put up your own fence as close to the boundary line as you can. This would be on your property and your responsibility to maintain.
If the deeds say the boundary is shared, you could take legal action to claim costs or to force them to put up a fence. Again, the time, money involved and stress of taking legal action could far outweigh the cost of replacing the damaged fence yourself.
And going to court is unlikely to improve your relationship with the neighbours.
It’s better to come to some agreement in writing and lodge the document against the title deeds of both properties to avoid any future misunderstandings.
Fence and boundary dispute FAQ
My neighbours have put a trellis up on my fence, what can I do?
If the fence is yours and you have the responsibility of paying for the maintenance, then your neighbours should have asked permission to put up the trellis.
Speak to them about your concerns and try to resolve the problem amicably.
Who can help me prove who a fence belongs to?
The best way of proving who a boundary belongs to is to ask an expert surveyor to draft a plan for your lawyer, but this is expensive and may show you have no way to make your neighbour pay for any fence repairs.
Does a Land Registry plan show who owns a fence?
No, the Land Registry plan is based on an Ordnance Survey map that shows general, not precise, boundaries.
The scale of the maps and thickness of the lines drawn on them mean where the boundary is marked could vary between 0.3 metres and 1 metre when measured out on land.
Can anyone talk to my neighbour on my behalf?
If you have tried to resolve your fence dispute without success, you could ask a mediator to referee rather than go to a lawyer.
A mediator is a trained negotiator who will approach the problem impartially.
The mediator may charge a fee, but this is likely to be cheaper than consulting a lawyer or going to court.
The service is offered by some councils or the Civil Mediation Council across England and Wales.