Shared fences and uncooperative neighbours.

Shared fences and uncooperative neighbours.

Postby Eegee » Tue May 24, 2016 9:15 am

Hi

This may be a bit of a long one so I'll apologise in advance.

We bought our semi-detached property in August 2014 - to make it a bit easier to follow, I'll name the neighbours A, B and C. We all moved in around the same sort of time, which is why everyone is at the point of wanting to replace fences now.

Neighbour A = across the driveway - bought their property a few months before us.
Neighbour B = attached - bought their property a few months after us.
Neighbour C = at the end of our garden - bought their property a few months after Neighbour B.

All the fences are shared according to the deeds. We knew A wanted to replace the fence between our gardens, and we agreed to this but made it clear that we could not afford to do so at the time and it was way down our list of priorities, but perhaps we could contribute when we were in a better financial position. They didn't mind as they would at least get to choose what it looked like. They agreed they'd have it looking nice on both sides since it was their choice to replace it (although to be fair, it wasn't in good condition and some panels were missing). They reckoned it'd cost around £1,000.

Towards the end of last year, B said they were thinking of putting a new fence up. They described it as horizontal boards and it sounded okay, so we agreed. They reckoned the whole front and back garden would cost about £1,000, so we figured we could contribute a couple of hundred and share the fence properly as that was more within our budget. They also mentioned removing their 'outhouse' (it was attached to the back of the house and to the other side of ours) - they said they'd render the wall properly as we use ours for storage and didn't want it leaking.

C never really mentioned anything about a fence - we just got back one day and they were putting a new one up a couple of months ago. They left the old one - just three horizontal bars with huge gaps - but because of the style of it they were able to still put the posts on the boundary. We've since removed the old fence (the end was left with nails hanging out of it which was great for our toddler!) but won't put anything against/onto the fence or paint it as we consider it to be theirs despite the lack of communication and the fact it's on the boundary.

A told us they wanted decking coming straight out from their back door - we're on a bit of a slope, so this means it'd be a metre high at the 'shortest' point and because the patio area is already raised, it'd be 2m higher than the grassed areas of both gardens. They said the deck would be 3m x 5m and I expressed my concerns, but we agreed if they did it legally - i.e. got planning permission - we'd not object. They had planned on not bothering to save money, and then applying for retrospective planning permission if necessary. If they hadn't got PP my husband would have reported them once building work started - he works for the council and has a moral duty to not ignore things like that, and was getting quite stressed at the thought of it not being done 'properly'. A said they'd send the plans through for us to confirm before submitting. They never did - at the end of last month we got a letter showing a decked area of 5m x 5m. Not what we agreed to so my husband and I have both objected as we are going to lose a lot of privacy as a 2m fence will be barely anything from their side and they'll have a perfect view across most of our garden. Obviously they're now sulking.

B started doing their fence - they extended their patio and left a load of broken pieces of slab holding the soil in, propped against an old piece of fence. My husband removed these as they were fairly loose and dangerous, and tried to prop it with a paving slab buried in the ground as a temporary fix until we can sort something nicer, since they obviously have no intention of sorting it and leaving it safe at our side. The wife came out and asked him what he was doing and he explained - she got a bit stroppy (I think they are also sulking about our objection to the planning permission as A and B are buddies now). We asked if they were going to improve the look of the fence from our side since it was a shared fence and they'd left it with huge gaps at our side, and we were prepared to pay towards it, and she very kindly said, "Why do we care what it looks like from your side?" We agreed to pay towards the posts and put whatever we wanted on our side. They've put up a 1.8m fence on 600mm ground spikes but they have 'researched' it and this is more than secure enough according to them. I can't see the fence lasting long since 600mm is apparently suitable for 1.2m fences. They left a small section of the old fence at the end of the garden, so my husband was securing this and the wife came out again and asked him what he was doing - "You should ask us first, he was going to sort that tomorrow!" Funny, because they never ask us anything despite it being a shared boundary and the old fence being equally ours. My husband was only trying to secure it so it wasn't dangerous for our daughter, but she deleted me off Facebook so I took the hint that they'd fallen out with us lol... We put up 2m bamboo fencing by our patio area as their fence provides little privacy - proven by the fact she is constantly coming out of the house to ask him what he's doing in our garden. It stuck out about a foot higher than their top board so the fence has suddenly sprouted a bit more. Which is fine - but I am a bit concerned about those ground spikes and the strong winds we get in the back garden with it facing over a valley...

B also removed their outhouse (no notice - party wall agreements mean nothing to them), promised to put up the shared drain pipe again and never did (apparently the drain it goes into is "only a surface drain" so it wasn't important, but my husband is fairly sure it's connected up properly according to the paperwork and so we are now having to get a handyman to put up the downpipe - our gutter section was already missing and B has given us theirs that they no longer need, but I suspect that's only because it was one less thing to dispose of!). The 'render' turns out to be foam filler and a coat of paint. The wall is now inaccessible from the outside because of their fence, so fingers crossed it never leaks.

A started their fence yesterday. They described the fence on several occasions - arched double paling panels set in concrete posts with gravel boards. We arranged to replace and dispose of the wobbly wall at the front of the house between the drives and spoke to them a number of times to ensure it was okay and that it matched their plans as close as possible - because the drive slopes, we couldn't use panels but we had a fence built from scratch and ensured it looked equally good on both sides (the only minor difference is the posts are slightly visible on their side as they stick out ever so slightly, but it means they also gained a little bit of space since the posts were right on the boundary). The posts are wooden (thankfully concreted in) and I strongly suspect we're getting the rubbish side. I'm not even that bothered as at least it'll stop our daughter running off into their garden, but we paid quite a lot of money for the front fence doing to a decent standard and I'm annoyed that they think it's okay to do whatever they like to the back after we've spent our money. It's the wife's dad doing the fence so it's not even like they're having to pay a fortune for labour costs.

Am I being unreasonable to be cross with all three neighbours? A and B seem to be particularly spiteful - C's garden runs across the back of all three of ours and they also have neighbours either side, so I can kind of understand them not bothering to get permission as they'd have five neighbours to speak to, but A and B know us well and have no real excuse other than being stroppy about the decking. B even rolled his wheelbarrow across our garden when he removed the old fence to take some of our rubble, squashing a load of plants in the process, and again when he wanted some stone slabs from A's garden - it was embarrassing looking out of my window to find him casually standing there on a few occasions. We've been particularly good to B in the past - we even took delivery of his entire bathroom since they were out, and let him leave the bath in our hallway for a few days as they didn't have room, despite it being an inconvenience for us. I just feel like we get walked all over constantly because they both seem to think they are above the law (with regards to boundaries, party walls and planning permission) and that they can do as they please without speaking to us. Or perhaps it's just that they don't understand the law...

Will all these fences cause any legal issues in the future? The deeds obviously say that they are shared fences, but if we sell, what would that mean for the new owners - would they get into trouble if they assumed they could secure plants to the fence etc? I'm going to screenshot any relevant text messages from A and B if possible, but that's the best I can think of at the moment and I'm not sure how useful that'd be.

Thanks!
Eegee
 
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Re: Shared fences and uncooperative neighbours.

Postby mr sheen » Tue May 24, 2016 6:11 pm

Please could you clarify...are you saying that your neighbours paid for new fences of their choice and you paid nothing...but you expect to have a say?
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Re: Shared fences and uncooperative neighbours.

Postby Eegee » Tue May 24, 2016 6:17 pm

No. What I am saying is that neighbours B and C gave us no option to contribute towards the fence, and we just got what we were given, despite us specifically trying to come to an agreement with B. Neighbour A wanted to replace the back fence with a style of their choice, which we agreed on, and we replaced the front section of the fence. We stuck to our part and now that we've spent our money they've completely changed the back fence to a style we did not agree on. We also spent extra on the front fence to have both sides looking nice and they've left us with the rubbish side of the back fence.
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Re: Shared fences and uncooperative neighbours.

Postby Conveyancer » Tue May 24, 2016 9:23 pm

All the fences are shared according to the deeds.


That is the source of the problem. It is folly to provide for a fence to be shared.
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Re: Shared fences and uncooperative neighbours.

Postby Collaborate » Tue May 24, 2016 11:17 pm

My understanding of shared fences is that one owner may act unilaterally but only to repair the fence or to replace it with a similar type. They cannot make it higher or lower, or for example make it out of a different material. If they want to change the fence to a completely different stye and do not have the consent of the neighbour they would have to build it on their side of the boundary.

Neither neighbour can force the other to contribute financially.
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Re: Shared fences and uncooperative neighbours.

Postby arborlad » Wed May 25, 2016 6:32 am

Eegee wrote:Will all these fences cause any legal issues in the future? The deeds obviously say that they are shared fences, but if we sell, what would that mean for the new owners - would they get into trouble if they assumed they could secure plants to the fence etc? I'm going to screenshot any relevant text messages from A and B if possible, but that's the best I can think of at the moment and I'm not sure how useful that'd be.

Thanks!



Yes, the fences have a purpose of defining the land of its owner, it's seldom good to have them shared. Your financial input is less important than being able to establish where the boundaries are now.
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Re: Shared fences and uncooperative neighbours.

Postby Eegee » Wed May 25, 2016 10:17 am

Well A's fence has gone up and I was right - we did get the rubbish side. I'm cross that we paid for the front end doing, and even spoke to the neighbours to agree on a place to put our gate to the back garden (I basically asked them where they wanted us to put it) so that they could put theirs in the same place rather than having to faff with small sections of tall/short fence. I feel like we've gone out of our way to be decent with them and they've thrown it all in our face.

Not only that, but the section by our patio is 2m tall after we'd agreed for it to be 6' max., and it's closed boards rather than double paling. We specifically discussed this with them as by early evening the sun is around that side, so the fence will block our light completely.

On the first morning my husband caught the FIL kick a log, which was on the boundary to act as a deterrent to stop my daughter running around next door's garden, into a newly planted tree (thankfully it didn't snap) and then in the evening noticed two small bushes were missing - they'd buried them under soil. They were planted last week so he was fairly annoyed, but has managed to find and move them although one has been snapped down to a few inches. He also noticed that they had written measurements on our brand new WoodBlocX retaining wall, in Biro, right on top of the capping so not even somewhere discreet. Thankfully it seems to have washed off. I feel they are trying to intimidate us by causing little bits of damage here and there - I mean what other explanation could there be for vandalising our property? They had tons of wood in their garden to write on - or they could have just written on their hand.

My husband sent a text to them last night as they have also moved the boundary line by a few inches our direction, so the fence is no longer straight at the top end. They replied 'talk not text' and then all three of them came out to discuss it with him (I stayed in as our daughter was having a paddy!) and told him they had photos proving that the 'old fence posts' - presumably hidden by the more recent fence that they were replacing - were actually further our direction. Pretty sure the decent thing to do would have been to discuss it with us beforehand, but no.

They also had no explanation for the fence being totally not as described, claimed they were going to fill in all the holes they had left in our side once they'd finished (hmm, how would they get into our garden after building the fence?) and had a bit of a rant about how 'disgusting' my objection to the decking was because I had mentioned the risk of having a 1.1m screen with a 3m drop (screen, raised decking and the already raised patio area beneath) the other side - it doesn't take much for a child to climb on a chair (likely to be found on decking) and fall over, but apparently I was implying that they would be terrible parents and all their friends were also 'disgusted'. They reckon a child could be injured just as much falling off our WoodBlocX wall - 80cm high. Logic is not their strong point. Worst thing is, it was actually my husband who mentioned that point but he'd already submitted his objection so I added it to mine, and I only did so to emphasise the fact that the garden is sloping and that this decking will be much higher than implied by their drawings. But he's 'made up' with them and I'm not allowed to say anything apparently.
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Re: Shared fences and uncooperative neighbours.

Postby Eegee » Wed May 25, 2016 11:43 am

nothingtodowithme wrote:Making up is a good start and making yourselves available for open discussions with the neighbours is a good way forward!
8)


I've been open for discussion the whole time but they've been ignoring us (denied it, of course, but she behaves like a stroppy teenager and flicks her head away every time she sees me and he has been ignoring texts/emails) and then they spent ten minutes ranting about me last night by the sounds of it. They made some other comments about me too (e.g. how mad another neighbour was that I'd told a 'lie' - when in actual fact A had misunderstood what I'd said and has obviously passed it back incorrectly... like Chinese whispers!), and now I'm even more reluctant to speak to them in any way. I was bullied throughout school and it feels like it's starting all over again - I was up worried about it half the night which is not what I need at 7.5 months pregnant :(

My husband is a pushover so he repeated all this back to me but never once properly defended me and now I'm embarrassed to have to live near them. The thought of having to come into contact with them makes me nervous about leaving my house!

On the plus side, I looked into our garden and the FIL was wandering around - presumably filling holes and not damaging more of our belongings, but who knows.
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Re: Shared fences and uncooperative neighbours.

Postby COGGY » Wed May 25, 2016 4:31 pm

Hi
You have my deepest sympathy. Feeling everyone is against you and that you are not being supported by your husband is not good. But you say you are pregnant. That should be your very first priority in life. Never mind the neighbours, never mind the fence. In ten years either you or the neighbours may well have moved. Your health and that of you unborn baby must come first. Your husband does not wish to fall out with the neighbours. That is good in one way as you do have to live next to them at present. Would it be possible to spend some quality peaceful time with your husband and try to explain to him that you need to feel supported. Try not to criticise either him or the neighbours, just say calmly that at this time in your life his support is vital to your peace of mind. Then agree to ignore the position of the fence, it is not worth the aggro. Your health must be your priority.

Try to go out each day, or invite a friend round, but the subject of any fence is taboo. You should have a calm approach to life at present and ignore anything that conflicts with this. Having a baby is stressful, fun, happy, tiring and plays havoc with your hormones. You do not need any other problems. Concentrate of what is important at this moment in time.

Best wishes Coggy
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Re: Shared fences and uncooperative neighbours.

Postby Eegee » Wed May 25, 2016 6:39 pm

Thanks Coggy :) The worst thing is she is also pregnant - 5 days ahead of me, so I can just picture us in beds beside each other in hospital! :roll: My husband mentioned yesterday that I was a bit stressed about things (I've only just finished my third year of university and we have to try and finish all the DIY off in the house before the next baby arrives) and that obviously I was pregnant as well - he meant like she is, but she took it the wrong way and apparently dramatically indicated to her own bump in a really childish way. She's in her 30s but you'd think she was half the age, the way she behaves.

My daughter (nearly 22 months) wanted to look out of the bedroom window earlier, so we were stood watching the birds and next door noticed me - no doubt he'll think I was staring at him. They seem to think that having windows that high is comparable to the decking they want, apart from I don't tend to sit at my window for hours on end...

I'm tempted to write down a list of things they have done so I have a record, and then just try and forget about it for now :)
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Re: Shared fences and uncooperative neighbours.

Postby mr sheen » Wed May 25, 2016 9:52 pm

He who wants a fence, chooses his fence, pays for it and erects it, and that seems to be what the neighbours have done.

In reality there isn't much that you can do. It is ok contributors saying 'they should do...ought to do...even....must do' because if they DONT do any of the 'shoulda, oughta, musta...do' and do what they wanna do, in reality there is little anyone can do about it.

In general the only redress for a dispute is to seek a civil ruling. However this comes under the civil dispute rules that say one should negotiate and seek a resolution. In the case where there was a fence before and there is a fence now (even though it may be different) there are no losses so no real case. Yes it would have been nice for them to consult you....but they didn't and chose the fence they wanted, paid for it and replaced the old one ...effectively giving you a new fence for no cost...so a court would be very unsympathetic to you.

If you can't live with the fence they have erected that cost you nothing, you can always erect your own up against it and pay for it in full.

The personal issues that are now taking over are taking the matter to a completely different level and are irrelevant to the fence issue. Before this escalates to silly proportions, it is time to stop, take stock and get things back to civility.
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Re: Shared fences and uncooperative neighbours.

Postby MacadamB53 » Thu May 26, 2016 10:50 am

Before this escalates to silly proportions, it is time to stop, take stock and get things back to civility.
+1
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