How To Stop A Boundary Wall Becoming a Fight With Your Neighbours

Boundary Wall in between houses

Boundary walls and other structures are a frequent source of disagreement between neighbours. 

Disputes between those living next door to each other can be some of the most entrenched and difficult to resolve if they are not dealt with quickly. Small irritations can quickly escalate and there are many acrimonious legal cases that show just how strongly people feel about their property.

If you are involved in a disagreement over a boundary, you are advised to seek legal advice early on. An expert property disputes solicitor will often be able to step in to help you and your neighbour resolve matters before the situation degenerates, avoiding months or even years of difficulties and animosity.

Why do boundary disputes arise?

When people live next to each other, different opinions over the condition, position or maintenance of boundary structures regularly occur. 

The following are some of the most common reasons for boundary disputes:

  • A wall or fence falls into disrepair and neighbours cannot agree on who should pay to replace or maintain it
  • One party is accused of moving a boundary or occupying land that is not theirs
  • A boundary structure is bigger than one person wants, for example, a new wall is too high and blocks light or a hedge has been allowed to grow too tall or too wide
  • A hedge or tree has become overgrown or is overhanging a garden or land
  • Neighbours want to erect or carry out work on a boundary structure but cannot agree on what should be done
  • One type of boundary structure is replaced with another without the consent of the neighbour, for example, a hedge is removed and a wall built

What is the law relating to boundary walls, fences and hedges?

It is often the case that there is little clear evidence as to who owns a boundary and where exactly it is on the ground. Plans that accompany title deeds are usually on a general scale that does not accurately show where a boundary runs, leaving large scope for disagreement.

Title deeds are also often silent as to which neighbour has the responsibility of maintaining a boundary. If a plan referred to in the legal title of a property shows a ‘T’ along a boundary, it is usually the case that the property where the tail of the ‘T’ is shown will be responsible for repair and maintenance of any boundary structure. However, it does not mean that that party owns the boundary structure. Where there is a ‘T’ on both sides, which could be seen as an ‘H’, then responsibility for maintenance will be shared.

There is no rule that homeowners should maintain the boundary on one particular side, despite some belief that this is the case. 

Which neighbour should maintain a boundary wall, fence or hedge?

If you have checked the title deeds and they do not state who should maintain the boundary wall, fence or hedge, then the best option is to try and reach an agreement with your neighbour. 

Unless the title deeds impose an obligation to repair a wall or fence, a property owner cannot usually be forced to do this, except in limited circumstances including where the property is adjacent to a railway, where there is a building site or where livestock are kept.

If your neighbour refuses to repair a boundary structure that they own, you can erect your own fence on your land alongside theirs. 

How to deal with a boundary wall dispute

When the Ministry of Justice wrote a report on boundary dispute resolution, it noted that ‘Disputes about the position of a boundary … can too often be unduly bitter, expensive and time-consuming.’

Protecting boundaries can raise strong emotions and it is very easy for a disagreement to develop into a potentially long-running dispute, making living next door unpleasant and stressful. Early intervention can help prevent this from happening and help relationships to be mended.

You are always recommended to speak to your neighbour first to try and talk matters through and reach an agreement. If they are not prepared to discuss matters, you can set out your thoughts in writing together with your proposals, to see if they are willing to enter into correspondence with you.

If the problem is not easily resolved, involving a solicitor can focus minds on finding a solution. At Lockings Solicitors, we have experts in boundary disputes who can work to resolve matters by way of negotiation.

If you ask us to help with your boundary dispute, we will first examine your title deeds to see whether it is clear what the legal position is. We can then write to your neighbour to try and explore the next steps, which could be negotiating who will deal with boundary maintenance or arranging shared payment for works that are required.

Where the issue cannot be solved in this way, we can advise you of your options. Alternative dispute resolution such as mediation can often be effective. Mediation involves using a neutral mediator who will meet with you and your neighbour and help you to consider how the situation could be resolved.

Another option is to ask a surveyor to prepare a report on the boundary giving their opinion as to its location, if this is the disputed issue. This can be used to support your claim and to help you put your case to your neighbour.

We are often able to resolve matters without the need for a court hearing. If you do need to go to a hearing however, we can prepare a robust case on your behalf and ensure that you have expert representation. 

For more information, see boundary disputes solicitors.

 

Contact our boundary dispute solicitors in Beverley, Hull and York.

 

At Lockings Solicitors, our expert boundary disputes solicitors have extensive experience in resolving even difficult disagreements with a minimum of legal intervention.

If you are involved in a boundary dispute and you would like to discuss the situation with one of our East Yorkshire legal team, ring us on 01482 300 200, email us at welcome@lockings.co.uk or fill in our contact form and we will call you back promptly for a FREE initial chat.

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If you are a customer of Lockings Solicitors and we have contracted with you online you may be entitled to use the EU Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) Platform to assist in resolving any dispute with us. This service can be found at https://ec.europa.eu/odr.

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