Everything you need to know about boundary wall rights

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Disputes over property boundaries are commonplace in the UK.

Understanding your property boundaries, why disputes crop up and the regulations around them is important for any property owner. Therefore, when you purchase a property, it is vital your solicitor clearly identifies where the property boundaries are located and who is responsible for maintaining them.

Our guide is designed to help you understand your rights regarding property boundaries and help you ensure you avoid any issues and disputes.

How do I know my where my property boundaries lie?

The boundary of every property is marked out in the Title Plan for your property. Boundaries are always marked in red on the Title Plan, so this is the best place to start when you want to determine your properties boundaries.

Unfortunately, finding the boundary lines for an old property is not always straightforward. Over time the lines can become blurred making it difficult for neighbouring property owners to determine ownership. Exact boundary lines aren’t always apparent but demarcation from a stream or any other type of fixed natural feature can provide a reliable guide.

You can access the Title Plan for your property from the Land Registry website, in exchange for a small fee, which should show you basic information regarding the boundary.

The extent of the data available is likely to depend on the age of the property so it may only show you general boundaries. If the property is not registered, then you will need to look at the Title Deeds. You may have the paperwork, or it maybe held by your solicitor or your bank on your behalf. Boundaries of property is usually clearly marked in Title Deeds. If your property is unregistered we would recommend you register it with the Land Registry.

What causes most disputes?

Disputes between two neighbours can arise from any type of boundary infringement or proposed work within or near those boundaries.

Common examples include:

  • One property owner’s fence may cross the boundary of another property owner
  • Overhanging trees
  • High hedges
  • High fences
  • Public footpaths across private land

What do I do if I have a problem with my neighbour’s hedges or fences?

If a hedge grows out of control, it could easily become the subject of a boundary dispute. There are no regulations when it comes to the height of a hedge and a hedgerow may even have legal protection preventing you from trimming it without the permission of the owner or local authority.

If a hedge does grow out of control and cross into your property you may trim it back to the boundary line. You also have the right to ask your neighbour to trim the hedge on their side to prevent it hanging over into your property. If your neighbour is not forthcoming, you may want to consider filing a complaint with the local authority against the property owner, but this should be a last resort.

If the fence that divides two properties becomes damaged, you must first determine who has ownership of it. Once you have, you may ask the owner of the fence to repair the damage to prevent anything from small animals to invasive plants passing through onto your land and causing damage to your property.

The RICS advise that a hedge is always considered to be a general boundary and not a precise one. Should you wish to replace a boundary hedge with a fence, or wall, the only way to decide on the position of the new structure is by agreement between the two parties that have use of the boundary.

If there is a dispute between two neighbours regarding a boundary separated by a hedge it is advised a RICS Chartered Surveyor is appointed to draw up the precise boundary plan of both properties.

What is a party wall and can I make changes to it?

The wall that is shared between two properties is referred to as a party wall. This includes everything from walls that divide two properties (e.g. semi-detached properties or flats) to garden walls. This type of wall can quickly become the subject of a dispute between two neighbours if the correct process is not followed when undertaking building or renovation work. If this happens you may have to consult an expert for advice.

If you plan to carry out construction work on the party wall you must give a Party Wall Notice to the adjoining owner before starting the project, under the Party Wall Act 1996. This should include the details of the proposed work, when the work is beginning carried out and that it is an official ‘Party Wall Notice’. We would highly recommend discussing the proposed plans with your neighbour first to boost the chances of them consenting to the work.

Your neighbour has 14 days to respond. If you receive written consent in that time, you are in the clear to proceed. If there is no response from your neighbour within this timeline or if there is disagreement, the best course of action is to appoint an independent surveyor to advise you on the next steps.

Please note you should never make changes to the position of the boundaries without consulting your neighbour.

How can I resolve a party wall dispute?

If you and your neighbour cannot come to an agreement it is best to appoint an independent surveyor can be appointed jointly or by each side. The surveyor will look over the proposed plans, assess the existing party wall and come up with an ‘award’ (Party Wall Agreement).

The agreement is legally binding and lays out what work will be done, when it will be completed and how it will be carried out. In the case of joint appointment of a surveyor, the agreement will also confirm who will pay the surveyor’s fees.

It is important to remember that after a dispute is resolved you will still have to live next to your neighbour so try to keep things amicable.

How to resolve a property boundary issue?

If a dispute arises regarding the position of the boundaries, then initially you should consult the Title Plan to your property. If the property is unregistered, then check the Title Deeds.

Seek to reach an agreement with your neighbour to set out the precise boundaries of your respective properties via a Boundary Agreement. We would strongly advise obtaining independent advice from a RICS Chartered Surveyor before you enter into a Boundary Agreement.

It is possible to apply to the Land Registry to have the exact boundary recorded, by applying for a determined boundary. You can only do this if your property is registered and a determined boundary will remain valid on-going, even if you or your neighbour sell your respective property later. To apply for a determined boundary you will need to appoint a RICS Chartered Surveyor to draw up a to scale plan showing the exact dimensions of the land. The application would need to be supported by photographic evident and possibly a Statement of Truth.

Contact us

In most cases property boundary disputes can be easily avoided via constructive communication. This can avoid large legal fees and stress.

If you have a query regarding boundary walls please get in touch with one of our team here.