Having a fence between you and your neighbours can be a necessity.
Not only can the boundary provide a safe area for children or pets to play in, but it also provides you with privacy.
One of the most common ways adjoining neighbours get into complicated disputes is over the ownership, condition, and position of a fence or a similar boundary. These disputes often occur when one party has decided to do something specific with one part of their garden, and choose to remove the fence without consulting their neighbour.
In most cases, situations like this can be dealt with quickly, efficiently, and with civility. But of course, sometimes things become a little more challenging. That’s why it’s important to know what your rights are and what you should do if things do end up getting out of hand.
Can a neighbour remove a fence between our properties?
The answer to this question relies entirely on who legally owns the offending fence.
If it belongs to your neighbour, they are entirely within their rights to do whatever they wish with said fence. If, however, you are the fence owner, then nobody aside from yourself has the right to do anything whatsoever to your fence without your permission.
Establish who legally owns the fence
The very first thing you should do is establish who legally owns the fence. If you can secure proof of ownership, then the rest of the process will be a lot smoother. We recommend looking at your house deeds to ascertain if the fence is included and therefore your property.
Do be aware however that this is not a foolproof method. Past owners of the adjoining properties may have informally agreed on terms that meant they in some way shared the fence so you may need to take this into consideration.
If you do establish through the deeds that you are the owner, you may want to see if, as the owner, you are expected to keep the maintenance of the fence up to a certain level. If this is the case, then make sure you are adhering to those rules; otherwise, you may find that if the dispute continues, your neighbour or the council may take legal action against you.
Have an amicable conversation
Once you have established who owns the fence, the next step should be to try and have a friendly and informal chat with your neighbour where you can both discuss the issue and any concerns you both may have.
If a dispute gets out of hand and you end up going to court then you could be looking at spending thousands of pounds, so reaching a solution informally will be a lot healthier for your bank balance.
Consider asking your neighbour if they are planning on replacing the fence with another boundary wall. It may be that they are planning to put in a much more attractive separation between your gardens, and this may be somewhat beneficial to you.
If they are not replacing the fence, you may wish to enquire why. Perhaps there is an unforeseen reason that you will be able to understand and you will find an alternative solution.
Bring in a mediator
If you’ve found that an informal chat has not been successful in reaching a resolution, it might be a good idea to bring in a mediator. A mediator is a person, independent of both parties, who is trained to help guide the conversations towards a mutually beneficial result.
In order for this to work, both you and your neighbour will need to agree that you will both approach the conversation with a real willingness to engage, and an understanding that the resolution of this issue will require compromise by both parties.
This service is generally not free, but it’s cheaper and much less stressful than going through a legal battle in court.
Bring in an adjudicator
Adjudication is the procedure for resolving disputes without resorting to expensive and lengthy court procedures. Most barristers offer this service and for adjudication to work, both parties have to jointly appoint an independent expert who will decide on the outcome for you. Both parties will have to agree to be entirely bound by the expert’s decision regarding the fence.
Adjudication can be beneficial because it is a much faster method of resolving the issue, instead of trying to go through courts. You also know that once and for all a final decision will be reached.
That said, this option can end up being very expensive and can even, on occasion, cost more than taking the case to court.
See you in court
If absolutely all else fails, then you really are only left with one option and that’s to bring the case to court. This is sometimes the best way to resolve problems where both parties have been unable to amicably reach a solution.
However, it is essential to remember that this can be a costly option. You should also be prepared that, should your neighbour come out on top, you may be required to pay for some or even all of their legal fees.
Remember that you could also be waiting for many months for your date in court.
If all else fails – build your own fence!
Hopefully, this article has given you all the information you need to help settle a dispute where a neighbour wants to remove a fence between your properties.
In most cases, a simple chat will be all that it takes to reach a satisfactory solution for both parties, but sadly, sometimes you do have to go a bit further.
If worst comes to worst though, we suggest that you simply build a brand new fence or boundary wall on land that is definitely part of your property and enjoy the privacy and peace you deserve.
Please remember that the contents of this article do not constitute legal advice. You should always consult the advice of a recognised legal professional before taking action.