Ask The Expert - Do issues over boundaries often cause problems?

Q.        Do issues over boundaries often cause problems?

A.         Not all that often, actually. But by their very nature, if and when boundary disagreements do arise, then they can quickly escalate into a serious dispute unless they are dealt with quickly - and as diplomatically as possible.

Sometimes, for example, neighbours will fail to agree on the ownership of fences. Deeds don’t always make this clear; neither do the plans available from the Land Registry. The quickest, easiest and cheapest solution is simply to ask other people up and down your street. Generally speaking, a pattern will emerge which will enable you to deduce which fence belongs to which property. Where this isn’t possible, then factors like the previous maintenance history will need to be taken into account.

Occasionally, a neighbour may have moved a boundary fence. Now of course, this may all be entirely above board, and done with the full agreement of a previous owner of your property. But then again, it may not – in which case, you are wholly within your rights to ask your neighbour to move the fence back to its original position.

Vegetation spreading over the boundary line can also sometimes cause problems. Here, the law actually entitles you to trim the offending tree or shrub back across the fence – and deposit the cuttings in next door’s garden. On balance though, it’s probably best to have a word with your neighbours first – unless a state of war already exists, in which case, prune away!

Meanwhile, as far as overhanging fruit is concerned, the law is perfectly clear: if it’s on your side of the boundary line, then it’s yours.

Finally, on the question of vegetation spreading over a boundary line, most councils understandably have restrictions on shrubs or trees overhanging the pavement or the public highway. How strictly they enforce this will vary, but they are perfectly entitled to demand that you cut back the offending plants. If you refuse to do so, then they’re liable to do it themselves – and they may be none too careful about it!

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