Neighbour dispute over new fence

Neighbour dispute over new fence

Postby nibus » Sat Apr 09, 2005 12:51 pm

My mother-in-law is having difficulties with her next-door neighbours over the installation of a new fence, replacing the old fence which blew down during the winter. The work has already been done and the new fence is in situ.

The neighbour is complaining that:

a) the boundary (as defined by the new fence) has left a shared downpipe on her side of the fence, whereas with the old fence it was on my mother-in-law's side. We don't know whose legal responsibility the downpipe is.

b) the concrete fenceposts jut out on the neighbour's side of the fence although they are on my mother-in-law's land. The neighbour is concerned that this could cause injury to her grandchildren should they fall on the posts. They have at least one similar concrete post of their own elsewhere in their garden.

c) the height of the fence is now 5'5" whereas the old fence was 6' - therefore the neighbour is complaining about privacy.

The fence is wholly on my mother-in-law's land and she owns and is responsible for the maintenance of the fence. The fence was installed in January by a professional builder/landscape gardener who measured the boundary and states that the fence is in the correct place. As my mother-in-law is disabled she was not able to continually monitor the installation, although she had asked and was given permission for the builder to access the neighbour's garden. The neighbour was present while the installation took place and asked the builder to move the fence away from a small walled garden to avoid water/electricity pipes - he complied. The builder also moved the line of the fence away from some concrete slabs on the neighbour's side, not wishing to cut into them to follow the real boundary. By this, the neighbour has gained up to 3" of my mother-in-law's land.

The neighbour is threatening to sue my mother-in-law over the downpipe and has said she will sue if her grandchildren injure themselves on the posts. The neighbour has also said she may put a higher fence up on her side, adjacent to the current fence, and sue my mother-in-law for costs.

The neighbours are very litigious and have successfully sued British Gas, the local council and the builders who installed their drive - so they will carry out this threat of legal action. There is already bad blood, for various reasons, between my mother-in-law and her neighbours going back some years although no legal proceedings have ever been taken.

now the questions:

Do the fenceposts legally have to be on the owner's side? I know it is customary but I don't know if it is a legal requirement.

Does the fence have to be the same height as the original fence?

Can the neighbour sue if her grandchildren injure themselves on the posts?

Can the neighbour claim costs from my mother-in-law for the installation of her own fence on her side?

Is there anyone who can advise us for free as we have very limited funds, or organisations who could come and have a look at the fence and assess it for free/small fee, especially as my mother-in-law is a disabled pensioner?

If my mother-in-law is legally in the wrong, is she liable or is the builder liable? If she is in the wrong, could she sue the builder for not installing the fence correctly?

Are there any other things we should take into consideration?

many thanks and sorry for the essay :(
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Postby despair » Sat Apr 09, 2005 1:28 pm

I cannot for the life of me see what the neighbour can sue for
1) the fence and the posts are whiolly within your MILs land
2) she has complied with all the requests of the neighbour viz a viz not cutting into slabs etc thus giving the neighbour some 3 inches of her land
3) Concrete posts are accepted posts and its up to the neighbour to monitor her grandchildren at play in the garden

4) Unless the deeds require your MIL to erect and maintain a minimum 6ft fence her neighbour has no cause for complaint

5) if the neighbour wants to put in her own 6ft6 in fence adjacent to your MIL providing its within her own boundarys thats up to her she has no claim on your MIL

6) The shared downpipe has not been moved the neighbour cant sue because by her demanding the new fence was well into your MILs land if the downpipe lands up her side thats a situation she created

Carefully check all your MILs insurance policies etc to see if she already has legal expenses insurance

take photos of the fence and the old fence line etc etc
gather all the evidence you can

The Citizens advice Bureau can assist and put your MIL in touch with a solicitor who does free half hour interviews or legal aid etc

I seriously think this neighbour is trying it on and simply trying to cause stress and harassment
Can you imagine what a judge would say with a disabled person being harassed in such a way over giving up 3 inches of her land !!!!!!!
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Postby nigelrb » Sat Apr 09, 2005 7:30 pm

Hi nibus,
just following on from despair's advice, the downpipe should not be an issue - it must surely be a shared responsibility. However, the fact that it is now totally on your neighbours side offers ample evidence that the fence positioning has been moved AWAY from your neighbour's property thereby proving her gain of some 3" as you suggest.

If anyone injures themself, by their own negligence, on the property of your MIL, your MIL surely cannot bear any legal responsibility. What if they would have fallen against the fence before it was renewed? There is no avenue for legal recourse.

Their is no legal maxim for the placement of the fence posts or the 'good side' of a fence. It is generally discussed with the owner(s) prior to construction, with the 'payer' generally electing to receive the 'good' side.

A fence can be any height providing it does not exceed 6'6" or other planning conditions. However, there may be an issue if the original quotation was for a 6' fence and you've received only 5'5".

MIL's neighbour is quite entitled to install her own fence - at her own expense! Perhaps you may suggest adding some lattice or trellis to the area of privacy concern.

If you're in the Midlands area I'd be prepared to offer free time to your MIL to evaluate/discuss her problem. Your MIL really has no cause for concern. Citizens Advice Bureau may be another avenue for you to explore.
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