Garden Fences and the Law23rd April 2019
While erecting a garden fence may seem like a simple enough thing to do from a legal standpoint, it could potentially put you in very hot water, especially if you aren’t aware of the rules with regards to garden fences and property boundaries.
Do I need planning permission to put up a garden fence?
Planning permission is only required when erecting a fence that surpasses the height of 2 metres. If your garden fence is less than 2 metres tall, then you won’t need planning permission.
If you’re looking to install a garden fence on a public road, you may need planning permission if the fence is higher than 1 metre. Similarly, planning permission could be required if you’re looking to erect a boundary fence along a neighbour’s property line who owns a grade listed house. You can check if you need planning permission by visiting the Gov.uk website.
Which side of the garden fence do I own?
The answer to this isn’t as straightforward as people would often like it to be. Title plans and general boundary guidelines are based on information from a large-scale Ordnance Survey mapping which is somewhat generalised. It might not depict juts in your boundary or take bay windows into account.
The common misconception is that homeowners believe they’re responsible for one side of the fence or the other, but legally, there’s no basis for this. The best way to check is to see if the UK government has any boundary information regarding both your property and your neighbour’s. You could get a copy of the title register, title plan and any ‘filed’ deeds that are on their system to help clear up a few issues.
Be aware however, that a deed plan may only refer to measurements which have to be interpreted, especially if the land isn’t level. You also won’t know where the measurements were taken and how. Your property deed, or that of your neighbour’s, may well include information about who owns which side of the fence, but more than likely it won’t make any mention of it.
There are cases where the deeds could refer to ‘T’ marks on a plan and could include information which isn’t always easy to understand, such as ‘to maintain the boundaries marked with an inward facing T mark…’ for example. A larger development may have some indication, provided by the builder, as to who owns which fence, but unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules.
If you’re not sure where you stand, check the HM Land Registry for general boundary guidelines or to draw up a boundary agreement with your neighbour if you haven’t got one already. You can find out if you do by checking your property deeds, ensuring you aren’t breaching any preexisting arrangements.
Who can help with boundary disputes?
Boundary disputes could get quite messy. If the misunderstanding with your neighbour reaches boiling point, seek legal advice before letting it get completely out of hand. You can seek the help of The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) who have a boundary dispute helpline. Keep in mind that they’re only permitted to give you advice and not solve the problem for you.
To try and avoid disputes with your neighbours, always make them aware if you’re planning to replace an old fence, or treat one with stains or varnishes. Communication is fundamental in these circumstances; keep things as civil as possible and avoid any arguments or unnecessary confrontation.
Things to keep in mind
- The title plan may only show the general boundaries of the property.
- Ensure you do some research before replacing, erecting or maintaining a garden fence, even if it looks like it’s on your property.
- For more help, contact RICS or call their boundary dispute helpline.
- For professional legal advice, seek the help of a qualified solicitor.
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