Boundaries are everywhere. For our homes and properties, the boundary lines indicate the extent of what we own or live in. The physical boundary could be a wall, a fence or a hedge and there is usually some indication of where the boundary lies. Sometimes the cause of disagreements with your neighbours, it’s important to understand where the lines are to know the extent of what you own and who is responsible to repair and maintain those boundaries.
The plan attached to a property that has been registered at the Land Registry (and most are) indicates where the legal boundary lines are. Those legal lines may reflect the physical boundaries on the ground, then again they may not. In either case, you need to be aware the Land Registry’s “general boundary” rules mean that the boundary lines shown on the plans for most registered properties are not exact.
The title to a property sometimes stipulates which property owner is responsible to repair and maintain a shared fence. Traditionally, this is denoted on an old conveyance or transfer plan by “T” marks. However, more often than not a property’s title makes no mention of repairing obligations and in these cases it gives rise to a presumption of joint responsibility.
If the responsibility for boundary maintenance and repair is shared, you should reach agreement with your neighbours about the work and the cost. Even where a title indicates that one home owner is responsible for the maintenance of a shared boundary, it is always advisable not to do any work to it without the consent of your neighbours.
Different rules apply to hedges, ditches, streams, lakes and rivers. Retaining walls have their own presumptions too; that the owner of the land who has the benefit of the retaining wall is under a duty to repair and maintain it.
As with anything used in common with your neighbours it’s always best to check with them before doing any work to shared boundaries. Where the responsibility to repair and maintain is shared with your neighbours or falls entirely on them, there is no guarantee that they are able or willing to pay of course!
If you think that the Land Registry plan for your property is not correct, you can apply to the Registry to have it corrected. Or you can submit a boundary agreement to the Land Registry if you and the adjoining owners agree.
For further guidance, the Registered Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) have created a useful Boundary Disputes Consumer Guide which outlines three simple steps to avoid getting into a costly battle with your neighbour.