Ask the Legal Expert: Who owns my fence?
- AuthorBenjamin Davies
"The recent storms have broken the fence at the bottom of my garden, but who is responsible for replacing it?"
Fences can be a source of major disagreement between neighbours, especially when those fences become damaged and there is a need (and therefore expense) for repair.
There are a number of myths around fences which should be ignored. One common myth is that “you own the left-hand fence when facing your house”. This is not true. Either fence may belong to a property. The first thing to do to check if you are responsible for the repair and maintenance of a fence is to check the relevant deeds/title documents.
The deeds/title documents may confirm ownership and/or the responsibility of maintenance. The plans may also show T-marks and H-marks to illustrate the position. T-marks denote one party is responsible for the fence and H-marks denote the responsibly of the fence is shared.
If the deeds/title documents are silent both as to the ownership and responsibility for maintenance, much will come down to the facts and circumstances of that particular fence.
There are some presumptions which might assist in supporting who may be responsible for a fence, but such presumptions are rebuttable and it is therefore important and best to obtain specialist legal advice before accepting any such position.
It would also be worth making enquiries to try to ascertain when the fence was erected and who by, as well as seeking to establish who may have carried out repairs to the fence in the past. All of these factors may provide an indication as to who the fence belongs to and/or who may have assumed responsibility for keeping it in repair.
Overall it is always best try to reach an amicable solution with your neighbour and also take specialist legal advice early on to try to avoid a dispute arising. If an agreement is reached then parties can enter into an agreement with regard to the fence and its maintenance moving forward.
This question is based on a hypothetical situation.