Who owns the hedge?

mentol
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2012 4:04 pm

Hedge ownership/maintenance and who owns the land

Post by mentol »

Hello All,

Some neighbours have been extremely prunning a hawthorn hedge between our land and theirs. We thought that the hedge was owned by us, or at least jointly owned, in which case they cannot do what they have been doing. This is an unusual situation because we have a fence on that side and the hedge is *after* the fence. Our house has been here for 8 years and the neighbour's was only finished last year. Before we bought the property (last year) we contacted the council and the sales office of the builder of the neighbour's property and all the information given indicated that the trees were jointly owned. We contacted the builder and they wrote to us explaining that the hedge is jointly owned and that the boundary is the center line of the hedge. They also added that we and our neighbours can trim the hedge in height and width (length not mentioned, thus we assume this cannot be touched) and that any major alterations need to be agreed between both parties. Furthermore, they say that the fence is in its current position as it wasn't possible to place it in the center of the hedge.

From the builder's letter, we infer that at least the land between our fence and the center line of the hedge belongs to us. However, our neighbours have recently turfed part of that land, filled it with their garden rubbish, left only the trunk of one of these trees and, finally, they basically destroyed the remaining hedge as it no longer forms one. This has spoiled the enjoyment of our garden and the view from our home. All the trees that formed the hedge are still here but they were reduced so much that now they are essentially small independent trees with large gaps between them.

We have tried to explain to the neighbours that they can't do this, but they couldn't care less and say that the land and the trees are theirs. They even prohibited us from accessing "their land" to fix our fence (it's our land, we believe). They sent us a copy of the plan in their deeds, but it does not show our land nor the hedge; it only shows a straight line and the plan ends there. There are no 'T' marks on their deeds. Furthermore, their title plan (that we bought from the Land Registry) shows a gap between our land and theirs.

Our deeds shows a lot more, but we are not professional surveyors and have no idea if our interpretation is correct. Here's the plan in our deeds:
deeds.jpg
The line marked with the red dot shows what we think to be our fence.
The one marked with the blue dot is our boundary and seems to fall somewhere within the hedge (the hedge starts right after our fence but the trunks are about 1 meter away in places).
The area marked with the green dot seems to be part of the hedge.

Thus, for us, it is clear that we own some land after the fence. Can someone please confirm/reject our interpretation? When we first looked at the plan, we interpreted the boundary as being our fence (we missed the line marked with the red dot), but now we think that the fence is clearly marked before our boundary.

Also, there are these 'T' marks which are mentioned in the text saying that they denote the responsibility for maintaining the boundary. What does this mean exactly?
1. That we have to keep the hedge trimmed?
2. That we are the only ones that can do it?
3. Could we remove it if we wanted to? (we don't want to)
4. Who has a saying about what happens to the hedge?
5. Do these marks indicate that we own the land where the trees are?
6. Do they indicate ownership of the hedge?

We thought the neighbours also had 'T' marks on their deeds but it is now clear that they don't.

We now believe that we own that land and we suspect that the hedge is ours. Furthermore, given that our boundary is, at least, the center line of the hedge and that their title plan shows a gap between our land and theirs, we also believe that they are not our immediate neighbours in terms of land.

I would really appreciate some help interpreting this and some info about what we can and what we cannot do regarding the hedge. We have already contacted a chartered surveyor and our home insurance (we are waiting to hear from both of them). In the meantime, we want to keep looking for information. Thank you for any help!
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arsie
Posts: 1957
Joined: Wed Apr 21, 2010 9:13 am
Location: Norfolk

Re: Hedge ownership/maintenance and who owns the land

Post by arsie »

From what you describe you for sure have some nasty neighbours who have set out to grab as much land as they possibly can. Boundaries are always uncertain and to actually determine them is not easy or simple but it looks fairly certain that in your case the old hedge marks - or rather, marked - the boundary.

When you have heard back from your insurer whether you have legal expenses cover you can better decide what to do.

If you want to go the all out war route, then a solicitors letter saying they have damaged your hedge and they must either reinstate or reimburse your costs in so doing and please respond within 28 days or you will report the matter to the police for criminal damage. You can mention (or not, as the solicitor advises) evidence - letters from developer, photocopy of your plans/deeds - for the hedge being yours and explain you have been maintaining the hedge: it is yours. You could also take out an injunction forbidding them from causing any more damage and requesting removal of their rubbish, turf etc from your land. Going to war will be expensive and I would only do that if you have great stamina and are prepared for months if not years of hostility - and confirmed legal cover. This sort of situation is precisely what legal cover should be for, as it is not an existing dispute when you bought the house and took out the insurance but has arisen subsequently. I believe most insurance companies disallow existing disputes from legal cover and often have a clause excluding the first months or year for this reason. If your insurance has been in place with the same company for more than a year you should be ok, assuming the insurance does cover legal expenses. Be aware that should you want to sell your house you will have to declare this dispute over land.

Sadly you have lost the nice hedge and, short of all out war and suing them to reinstate your hedge, the main issue is whether you now grub up the hedge and put a fence up along the line of the hedge, or simply replace your existing fence and concede the stumps and small amount of land to them. If the sliver of land is not going to make a huge difference in your lives I would simply replace or enhance your existing fence.

Personally, I would want a strong fence 2m high with at least concrete posts and concrete gravel boards (google 'fence gravel boards' and you get a good selection of fencing images!) They sound like the sort of neighbour who will abuse anything and you might have to sacrifice a nice to look at fence for hard-wearing. No one is supposed to attach to your property without permission or to damage it - but sh*t happens.
mentol
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2012 4:04 pm

Re: Hedge ownership/maintenance and who owns the land

Post by mentol »

Hi! Thanks for your reply. We have legal cover and we are now moving forward with more legal help. However, I would still like to know if anyone undertands these plans and what's their interpretation of these. I would also like to know what "responsibility" for the hedge entails. Thank you!
mentol
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2012 4:04 pm

Who owns the hedge?

Post by mentol »

Hi!
I have posted in another part of this forum the trouble I am having with a neighbour. He's destroying the hedge that we thought we owned or, at least, was shared.

I am posting here because I just need someone to help me interpreting our deeds. So here's are our conveyance plan (Plot 184):



Our property was built 8 years ago and there were fields to its side. This is why the plan shows a white area after the hedge. The neighbour is now situated on that white bit (house built one year ago).

What we have on the ground is (from our side) a fence followed by the hedge. The fence seems to be the original one and the builder has confirmed that it was placed in this position because it couldn't be placed in the middle of the hedge (the builder says that hedge is shared).
Thus, in this next picture, I have added some coloured dots to show what we believe to be depicted in the deeds:



The line marked with the red dot shows what we think to be our fence (note that there's a point where it joins our house and that's the point where we have a gate).
The one marked with the blue dot is our boundary and seems to fall somewhere within the hedge (the hedge starts right after our fence but the trunks are about 1 meter away in places).
The area marked with the green dot seems to be part of the hedge. The inward T is mentioned in the text: "Not to allow to fall into disrepair the fence wall hedge or other means of enclosure on any boundary of the Property marked with and inward "T" on the Plan (if any)".

We have the neighbours conveyance plan but I don't want to make it public as it is their documentation. Their plan, on the area that our property should be depicted, shows only a straight line, nothing else. There are no T's, there is no hedge depicted, there's nothing relating to our property.

So, my question is: Who owns the hedge?

Thank you!
Last edited by mentol on Wed Sep 18, 2013 2:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
pilman
Posts: 3182
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2010 4:08 pm

Re: Who owns the hedge?

Post by pilman »

Assuming that you do own land up to the centre of the hedge, which is what seems to be what is stated by the builder, then it seems that the other land owner owns all the air space on his side of that centre line and all the hedge that is growing over his land.

This is a far more complicated situation than it needed to have been, but it would appear that the builder bought land that was shown to extend up to the centre of an existing hedge, so that the land-owner on the other side of the hedge had equal rights to the land up to the centre of the hedge as well.

The buildre may have shown an inward facing T on the sale plan but that means nothing when he never owned the whole of the hedge.

Your only option now is to agree with the neighbour to have th ehedge removed in its entirety and jointly pay to have a close boarded fence erected along the centre line to define each boundary.
Then agree it will be a party fence.

Other than that I don't think there is anything you can do to stop the neighbour chopping back the fence to the mid point.
mentol
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2012 4:04 pm

Re: Who owns the hedge?

Post by mentol »

Thank you very much for your reply.

Even if it is shared, the neighbour cannot chop it to the middle of the hedge. If it is shared, that has to be agreed between the neighbours. He can trim it back but never damage the trees.

The title plan of the neighbours shows a gap between our land and theirs and a chartered surveyor says that there is a definite gap between our land and their's. So we are tending to think that we own the hedge and that a gap was left so that these issues didn't occur. The builder is the same for our property and the neighbour's.

If this was a shared hedge, wouldn't there be a 'T' on the other side of the hedge on our deeds? Also, doesn't the inward 'T' in our deeds mean anything?

Thank you!
kipper
Posts: 855
Joined: Wed Sep 02, 2009 8:10 pm

Re: Who owns the hedge?

Post by kipper »

is it possible the area marked by the green dot used to be a ditch?
mentol
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2012 4:04 pm

Re: Who owns the hedge?

Post by mentol »

Kipper: No, I don't think it used to be a ditch. I think that represents part of the hedge as it was quite large.

Pinkie: He can trim it back yes. He cannot trim its length as he did (that is, the hedge has to remain an hedge and not individual trees). If it is shared, then major alterations as he did, have to be agreed with the other part (confirmed by council, builder, cab and legal adviser).
My quest is for the truth. If the hedge is mine as the deeds seem to indicate, then I want the hedge reinstated but, above anything else, I want my land back. My land extends, at least, up to the centre of the hedge and I have lost all of the land between the fence and that center. When I bought the house, I was told the hedge was mine thus it should be.
mentol
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2012 4:04 pm

Re: Who owns the hedge?

Post by mentol »

What makes you think that the neighbour can trim it? I.e. what makes you think that he owns it or shares it with us?

Also, why would there be an inward T *after* the fence if it doesn't point to the hedge? What does it refer to then?
How is the ownership of hedge (and the hedges themselves) usually represented on the conveyance plan?

I won't be removing the fence nor the hedge. If the neighbour is not happy with the hedge, then he should be the one placing a fence on his side.

Btw, thanks for your time. I'm just really trying to understand your view.
mentol
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2012 4:04 pm

Re: Who owns the hedge?

Post by mentol »

Sorry to bother but is the inward T usually placed over the hedge, to indicate hedge responsibility? Usual, to denote that someone is responsible for a fence, the T appears next to it, just like it appears next to the hedge in our deeds?

So, in you opinion, is it at least clear that we own some land after the fence? We have the original fence place by the builder.

It is strange how these things are so unclear. I asked a legal adviser and she said that if I have a T next to the hedge, it denotes that it was placed within my boundary. I asked the CAB and they said that our deeds seem to indicate that the hedge belongs to us. We have also been told by many people that the person responsible for a boundary feature is the only one that can make changes to it. If that T does not refer to hedge, then I am lost as to what it refers to.

Edit: I just read online that a hedge should be represented without exception as a single line. Couldn't the thin line that is under our red line represent the hedge (the thin one that runs all the way up and down the deeds)? The trunks of the hedge are more or less on that area (in terms of relative distance to the fence).
pilman
Posts: 3182
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2010 4:08 pm

Re: Who owns the hedge?

Post by pilman »

It would be quite common to define the boundary between two parcels of land as being the centre line of an existing hedge.
That is how I interpreted the original posting.
The fence seems to be the original one and the builder has confirmed that it was placed in this position because it couldn't be placed in the middle of the hedge (the builder says that hedge is shared).
That highlighted section confirming that the builder did not convey anything other than that part of the hedge from its mid point, which is why the red line drawn on the plan appears to be in the centre of the hedge line

That means that the neighbouring landowner owns half the width of the hedge which is on the land he bought.
That means he can do what he wants to do with his property, without asking your permission, unless there was a clause inserted into each conveyance that this hedge was to be a party hedge.

When I moved into my current property I planted quite a few trees, shrubs and bushes.
12 years later thay have all increased in size both in height and width.
If the hedge you have referred to was left unattended after you had bought your property, it too would have increased in width so that if only one side was being trimmed, less useable land was available on the neighbouring land parcel.

This posting seems to be suggesting that the neighbouring land owner cannot maintain that part of the hedge within the parcel of land he bought from the same builder who sold the poster's parcel of land.

Why ever not?

A brutal trimming may not suit the poster, but it certainly seems perfectly lawful to decide what is to be done on land that has been purchased for use as part of a house garden.

This is a situation that has been caused by that original builder defining the boundary as the centre line of a hedge.
A newly erected fence one side of the hedge would have resolved such a dilemma with all of the hedge located on a single plot.
The fact that didn't happen is what is now causing the poster to feel so aggravated, but I can think of no reason why the neighbour has done anything wrong legally.

Pethaps unneighbourlyness is his biggest failing, if a mutually dicussed solution was possible, but deciding what to do on one's own property is still an owner's perogative despite what a close neighbour thinks about that choice.
mentol
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2012 4:04 pm

Re: Who owns the hedge?

Post by mentol »

Thank you very much for your post. I do not oppose to what he did on his side of the land. I oppose to him doing it as well on what appears to be my land. So if he trimmed only his side, we would still have a hedge. But he trimmed in between each individual hawthorn trees up to our fence. He also left only the trunk of one tree. He cannot do that, right? Or am I missing something?

And can he just turf the land up to my fence and prohibit me from accessing it? Isn't that legally wrong?

If he also owns the hedge, shouldn't he have T's on his side as well?

Sorry, for so many questions. I really don't want to take over anyone's land. I just want what is legally mine.
mentol
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2012 4:04 pm

Re: Who owns the hedge?

Post by mentol »

Just thought this might be important. It says in our deeds that:
"All fences walls or hedges separating the Property and the Estate (save for those adjoining Estate Roads or which are external garage walls or which are marked with an inward or outward "T" on the Plan) and any walls separating buildings on the Property from any other buildings on the Estate are party fences walls or hedges and shall be maintained accordingly.
mentol
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2012 4:04 pm

Re: Who owns the hedge?

Post by mentol »

Thank you Pinkie. Actually the builder told the neighbours exactly the same that they told us. And we have proof of that. And given that the land registry shows clearly that our plots are not adjoining, I think it should be clear to the neighbour what is what. I guess we'll have to go through the definition of our exact boundaries as we don't want to steal anyone's land either. It is sad that the law benefits the rude and bad people.

Pilman, do you think the sentence above (the one in our deeds) helps in anyway clarifying the situation? And do you happen to know the answer to any of my question? Thank you!
pilman
Posts: 3182
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2010 4:08 pm

Re: Who owns the hedge?

Post by pilman »

"All fences walls or hedges separating the Property and the Estate (save for those adjoining Estate Roads or which are external garage walls or which are marked with an inward or outward "T" on the Plan) and any walls separating buildings on the Property from any other buildings on the Estate are party fences walls or hedges and shall be maintained accordingly.
Your boundary is marked with an inward facing T mark, so cannot be a party hedge, wall or fence.
The fact that the red line is shown down the middle of the hedge doesn't really confirm that the builder did intend it to be a party hedge.
In fact I cannot understand what the builder intended, so really can't help resolve your particular situation.
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