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  • Writer's pictureTomlinson's Landscapes Limited

Which side of the fence is mine?

A common question asked by homeowners, particularly those with shared boundaries, is, "Which side of the fence is mine?" It may seem trivial, but the fence question can ignite disputes that go beyond aesthetics and neighbourhood harmony, reaching into the realms of law, property rights, and psychology

This blog will shed some light on the complexities surrounding this question and offer some guidance on how to navigate these tricky waters.

The Law of Fences

Navigating the legal landscape of fence ownership in the UK can be confusing, mainly due to the absence of specific legislation dictating ownership based on the orientation or positioning of a fence. Nonetheless, there are general norms that may offer some clarity. A widely held belief among homeowners is the 'left-hand rule.' This guideline implies that the fence on the left side of your property - considering you're looking at it from the street - falls under your responsibility.

However, it's crucial to note that this rule isn't backed by law and doesn't always hold true in every situation. It may act as a helpful starting point in most cases but should not be relied upon entirely to settle disputes or make definitive decisions. Therefore, it is always recommended to consult with a legal professional or seek advice from a local authority to understand your precise rights and responsibilities concerning fences. This understanding can help avoid potential disputes and ensure harmony among neighbours.

Property Deeds

Sifting through property deeds and Land Registry documents can be a somewhat daunting task, particularly for those who aren't well-versed in property legalese. Whilst these documents often provide invaluable insights into the ownership of boundaries, it isn't always a straightforward process. They often contain 'T' markings that signify ownership of fences and walls. However, these markings may not always be included, or they might be perplexing, leading to further confusion.

The 'T' markings typically indicate the side of the boundary you are responsible for. If a 'T' is present on your side, it generally implies that you are responsible for the fence or wall on that boundary. Conversely, if there's no marking, then it's likely that the boundary is shared.

Nevertheless, it's worth remembering that these markings are not the ultimate authority on the matter, and their absence does not necessarily mean a shared responsibility. Furthermore, old deeds may have outdated or incorrect information, which can further complicate the situation.

Hence, when faced with challenging-to-decipher deeds, it might be worthwhile to enlist the help of a property lawyer or a local land registry office. They can provide clarity and accurate interpretations of the deeds, thereby ensuring you have a correct understanding of your boundary responsibilities. It’s an investment that can save potential headaches and neighbourly disputes down the line.

Boundary Disputes

Disputes over fences may seem to be purely about legal matters or property rights, yet they are often deeply intertwined with psychological aspects. Understanding the mindset behind these disputes can assist in navigating and potentially avoiding them. In many cases, disagreements arise from a sense of territory, privacy, and control, inherent instincts inherited from our ancestors. Fences act as symbolic barriers, clearly delineating our space from that of others and providing a tangible manifestation of our property rights. The assertion of ownership over a boundary can be seen as an act of asserting one's independence and control over their environment.

At the same time, fences also hold significant emotional value, offering a sense of security and privacy. Infringements upon these can lead to feelings of vulnerability and anxiety, causing friction between neighbours. It’s important to remember that empathy and understanding can go a long way in resolving such disputes. Recognising that your neighbour’s insistence on fence ownership may not merely be about the fence itself, but perhaps about deeper psychological needs, can pave the way for more effective communication and resolution. It's not about conceding or winning but understanding and empathising, which can foster better neighbourly relations.

Striking a Balance: Compromise and Collaboration

When there is ambiguity surrounding fence ownership, it can be a breeding ground for potential disagreement. The key to resolving this uncertainty lies in finding a middle ground via compromise and mutual cooperation. Instead of embarking on a legal battle, consider starting a dialogue with your neighbour. Openly discuss any concerns about privacy, safety, aesthetics, or costs related to the fence. Finding a shared solution not only maintains the neighbourhood harmony but could also strengthen relationships. Moreover, shared decision-making may result in a more balanced, aesthetically pleasing and cost-effective outcome. For instance, you could agree to share the costs and responsibilities of maintaining the fence. Alternatively, you could come to a mutual agreement about the type, style, and positioning of the fence that satisfies both parties. Remember, a cordial compromise and collaboration are often more effective and less stressful than drawn-out disputes. But, if disagreements persist, it might be worth considering mediation or legal advice to aid resolution. After all, neighbourly relationships and peace of mind are priceless, and worth every effort to maintain.

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