Boundary and fence ownership

Boundary and fence ownership

Postby Zooty » Mon Mar 14, 2005 5:06 pm

Hello,

Not sure if this belongs in the "boundaries" or "fences" forum as it is a bit of both. I'm after a bit of advice and have a few questions I hope you can help with.

We are the first owners of a house on a new estate and have been there approx 5.5 years. We have a long plot (front to back) and are near a corner. Consequently, along our right hand boundary we have the rear boundaries of four other plots. The Land Register shows us as being responsible for this entire boundary.

The two rearmost properties were occupied six months before we bought our property and the owners replaced the builder's post and rail fence with their own larch lap fencing. The builder replaced the fence adjoining the remaining two properties with a more substantial fence before we moved in. All along the original line.

Now, one of the sets of neighbours who put up the larch lap fence want to replace (at their own cost) the panels with another type which is not 100% to our liking. Indeed, they have already ordered the panels (without consultation) on the (mistaken) belief that they were responsible for that boundary.

Our Land Registry entry states "The walls and fences separating the Property from the adjoining land included in the Estate shall be party walls and fences and the fences indicated by a 'T' (if any) within the boundary of the Property on the plan annexed hereto shall belong to the Property"

Now for the questions:

Does "party walls and fences" in the above mean that the fence line should straddle the boundary, or should the builder's fence line be on our side, which I think is the case? (I understand the difficulty in ascertaining the legal boundary, and have little faith in the builders' ability to put the fence in the right place anyway)

The above also indicates we own the existing fence - but surely the builders can't sell us a fence the neighbour's have bought and erected?

Do we need to worry about "squatters rights" if half or all of the fence is on our property?

Do we have any rights to prevent them changing the panels?

I'm pretty sure we can come to some amicable agreement. If we do agree to them replacing the panels should we get them to sign something waiving any claim to the land if we do have a squatters issue - this is more to do with potential trouble from future owners rather than the current occupants?

Are there any other things we should be aware of. There seem to be plenty of other options such as going halves and therefore having some ownership, or asking them to remove their fence, or buying them some new posts so they can put their new fence up on their side, etc

Thanks for wading through this and for any pointers you can give. I can't see this escalating into a major legal dispute, but I'd like to aware of our rights.

Zooty
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Re: Boundary and fence ownership

Postby Maverick.uk » Tue Mar 15, 2005 1:52 pm

Zooty

I dont uquite understand your posts, at one point you say the fence is your responsibility and at another you ask about party so im slightly confused. Maybe i have read it correctly.

In the UK most boundaries come under the general boundaries rule and their exact position is not defined. This means scaling from a map produces an error of approx plus minus 8 inches. There are some determined boundaries but this is very rare. You therefore are not likely to get the accuracy that you are looking for either way for you or any potential neighbour.

The choice of wether you let them take down what appears to be your property is your choice. If this fence looks the same for the total length, will it now not look odd? Why cant they jut put it up inside your fence?

Part wall fence means the fence is sat astride the boundary and is in shared ownership. Basically you have to agree with the shared owner before doing anything or spending any money. You would also be expected to contribute as and when it requires replacing.

If it is your fence then they need your permission to change, paint, fix to etc etc.

All IMHO

Regards

Mav
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Postby Zooty » Tue Mar 15, 2005 3:04 pm

Thanks Mav. I had a feeling my post might not make sense :( I'll try to clarify.

Our Land Registry entry states "The walls and fences separating the Property from the adjoining land included in the Estate shall be party walls and fences and the fences indicated by a 'T' (if any) within the boundary of the Property on the plan annexed hereto shall belong to the Property"

OK, so party means it should be astride the boundary? The boundary is marked with T's on our side, so the fence should be entirely our property and responsibility?

BUT the neighbours moved in a few months before us and replaced the builder's token fence with concrete posts and larch lap panels. Surely this means they own this physical fence, not us? Can they replace the panels without consultation? You're right - it will look odd on our side.

My main concern was that they'd erected a fence on our plot. If 'party' means it's astride the boundary then this isn't an issue... or is it - the fence should belong to our property.

Regards,
Zooty
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Postby Maverick.uk » Tue Mar 15, 2005 11:34 pm

Hello again zooty

My understanding from your quote from the deeds is that if you are in a property that does not abut another house but the estate then that boundary (unless marked with a T) is party. The others narked with a T abutting other properties would be per normal convention a be the owned by that propoerty. So the question is if that side has a T on that side then it would be your fence.

Having said that please take not of my earlier comment regarding general boundaries rule. The fence location can be plus or minus 8" and therfore when they reaplced it they could argue that it was theirs. I would argue however that if that were the case they should have left the original builders post and rail fence in situ.

Sorry but there is not a straight answer to this or many other boundary questions. I know from bitter experiance i have a NFH and we are just about to have our boundary determined. This will then be 1 of only about 50 in the whole uk as i understand it.

Cheers

Mav
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Postby Zooty » Wed Mar 16, 2005 11:53 am

Thanks Mav. I suppose part of the problem is not fully understanding that clause in the deeds. My wife, who has more experience in legal-speak than me, agrees with your interpretation. I'm going to get a solicitor friend to confirm. But, assuming the fence is ours, and not party, then it should be on our side of the boundary.

What we want to do is ensure we have no trouble over land ownership several years down the line. We could let them leave their posts in place, and replace the panels - they do need replacing and they're going to foot the bill. But we want to retain ownership and, I suppose, the right to remove their fence if trouble ever does happen. What can we do to retain our rights? Is there anything we must/must not do?

Thanks a lot for your advice so far.
Zooty
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Postby Cytania » Wed Mar 16, 2005 12:37 pm

Don't be tempted to 'go halves' this is always a recipe for argument somewhere along the line. A boundary is just a line across the soil but a fence is owned by either one or other neighbour, not both. There are rare examples or party owned fences but the mention of a T on your deed boilerplate seems to indicate an expectation of your owning outright. Look on the deed plan for T marks, the head will point towards the fences you are responsible for.

Your neighbour may have acted hastily and replaced a fence you own but you cannot simply remove it without proof. Consider the width of a fence, two inches, is that worth legal heartache when deed plans can be out by up to eight?

One way of addressing the confusion is to erect your own token fence right against your neighbour's (don't attach to it at all though).. Doesn't have to be solid, it could be a 1 metre width roll of chainlink on wooden stakes. Anything to show 'this is the boundary' and 'this is my fence'. This should eliminate confusion and ensure that if future neighbours fancy refencing they can't encroach on you at all.
They cut down all the trees, put 'em in a tree museum and charged all the people just to see 'em
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Postby Zooty » Wed Mar 16, 2005 1:15 pm

Thanks Cytania, but I don't want to proceed that way. By putting up another fence we are effictively giving the neighbours the land the existing fence sits on. This means our boundary will no longer be a straight line (there are three other properties along that boundary), and it may give the other neighbours ideas over fence/land ownership.

We'd like a single fence in the place where it is now. The neighbours posts are already there. They want to replace the panels. We're annoyed that they didn't consult us in the choice of panels, but they did this in the (I think genuine) belief that the fence was theirs. It's not - the T marks are very definitely on our side. If we agree to the neighbours going ahead (goodwill gesture) is it feasible to get them to sign an agreement that the land remains ours? Or something that means ownership of the physical fence passes to us when they sell the property?

Zooty
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Postby Cytania » Wed Mar 16, 2005 3:01 pm

If the the T shows the fence line is your responsibility is yours then it is always best to erect the fence yourself and forbid your neighbour from painting and attaching to it. Ask them to remove their posts and put in your own and use your own panels. That way you get the choice of paint and don't have to put up with drips off their side. They can use their panels to double fence their side if they want.

If you can work this amicably you could buy their materials off them if they go off the whole idea but avoid legal action at all costs. Look for and photograph any tell-tales on the ground of where the odl fence went. It's the old fence that really established the boundary not any notion of straight lines.
They cut down all the trees, put 'em in a tree museum and charged all the people just to see 'em
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