How do you determine who is responsible for a garden fence or wall

01:00 Tue 24th Apr 2001 |

A. Boundaries, and who is responsible for what is one of the most complicated parts of property law and the biggest cause of inter-neighbourly disputes. With modern properties it is usually clear from the deeds who is responsible for what. However, with older properties these details have often been lost or are not clear.

If this is the case, the next step is to try and establish responsibility by seeing on which side the wall or fence is posted (that side is usually deemed responsible) or on which side previous repairs have been carried out on. If even this can not be established then the wall or fence is likely to be deemed a 'party wall'.

Q. What is a party wall and what does it mean

A. A party wall is a boundary which is deemed to be the join responsibility of two neighbours, i.e. they each own the half nearest to their property and are responsible for its upkeep.

The Party Wall Act requires anyone doing work or making alterations to a party wall to give their neighbours notice in writing. The neighbours must then give their consent to the changes in writing. If this isn't forthcoming then it is said to be a matter of dispute. At this point, either both parties appoint their own surveyors who come to an agreement to suit both parties, or if agreement still can't be reached then a third surveyor is called in to mediate, with the neighbour wanting to do the work picking up the bill.

Q. What about hedges and trees

A. The number of neighbourly disputes caused by high-hedges, usually the dreaded leylandii, has been well documented. However, unlike with fences or walls, which require planning permission if they are going to be over two metres, there is no legislation ruling hedges, although this is likely to change soon. Disputes over high hedges can be taken to the civil courts, but this can be expensive and extremely stressful. If talking can't solve the problem try mediation. You can call UK Mediation on 0117 904 6661.

You have the right to cut back over-hanging branches from trees to the limit of your boundary, but, bizarrely, must return them to your neighbour. You are also entitled to keep any fruit that drops onto your garden.

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By Tom Gard

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