Common neighbour disputes
Access to a neighbour’s land for repairs
If you want
to carry out repairs to property or land you may need to have access to your neighbouring property or land in order to carry
out these repairs.
There may be a right of entry specifically for
the purposes of inspection or repair in the property’s legal documents. If there is no such right, or no agreement can
be reached, the law allows you as the person wishing to carry out repairs to apply to the county court for an access order
allowing you to enter your neighbour’s land to carry out the repairs. There is a fee for the application.
If you wish to apply for an access order you should consult an experienced adviser,
for example, a solicitor or a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can
give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
Amenities which are
Who is responsible
There may be amenities shared between two or more properties, for example, drains and pipes, shared drives or the
roof of a block of flats. Responsibility for maintaining them and rights to use them, for example, putting up an aerial on
a shared chimney, are usually outlined in the property’s legal documents.
The legal documents may give you as a property owner rights over your neighbour’s property. Sometimes they
are not included in the legal documents but have arisen out of long, continuous and unchallenged use (usually 20 years). A
right to use, for example, a pipe through a neighbour’s property implies a right to go on that neighbour’s property
to undertake repairs, although any damage incurred to that property must be made good. If access is refused, an application
can be made to a county court for an access order - see above.
Where there is a shared amenity which is in need of repair the first step is to find
out who is responsible for repairs. However, the legal documents may not always provide clear evidence and, in this case,
it is probably best to settle in advance that the costs will be shared between owners.
The next stage will probably be to get a surveyor or architect to inspect and report on the part of
the property requiring repairs. Estimates will have to be sought and finally a contract made with builders. It is essential
that at each stage when a cost is incurred the household initiating the repairs has the consent of the other parties responsible.
If some or all of the property involved is rented, the landlord may be liable for repairs.
In England and Wales, for information on the landlord’s obligations to carry out
repairs, see 188.8.131.52. Common problems with renting.
For information on
how to get a landlord to carry out repairs, see Getting repairs done while renting.
Establishing the boundaries and ownership
If a dispute arises between neighbours about the boundary between their properties,
it will be necessary to establish who owns the disputed land. The primary evidence will be contained in the legal documents.
Clear evidence of this kind is normally conclusive.
boundaries between properties can differ from those described in the title documents or lease in certain circumstances. The
most common are where they have been changed by agreement or by encroachment (occupation without permission).
If you think that the boundaries are not defined in the title document or lease, or
that the boundaries have been changed by agreement or encroachment, you will probably need to get legal advice from a specialist.
For more information about using a solicitor, see Using a solicitor.
However, you may also
wish to try mediation first as a way of resolving your dispute with your neighbour (see under heading, How to deal with a neighbour dispute).
Duty to erect a barrier
Generally, as a property owner you do not have to erect and maintain any type of barrier,
for example, a fence, wall, trellis or railing, around your property. Some of the exceptions include where:-
- there is a clause in the title documents or lease
- the property is next to a street and may cause danger
- the land is used for dangerous purposes, for example, storing chemicals
- a barrier is necessary to prevent animals, other than domestic pets, from straying.
Who can use or repair a barrier
to decide who can use and repair a barrier, it is first necessary to establish who owns it. The rules for working out ownership
are the same as for other boundaries. In other words, the legal documents may specify who owns the fence, or you may have
evidence that it belongs to you.
If the barrier belongs to one owner,
they can use it as they wish, without the neighbour’s consent, providing it is safe. The neighbour has no rights over
the barrier. For example, they could not use it to support trailing plants without the owner’s permission. If a fence
is jointly owned, each neighbour can use it for support, provided neither makes it unsafe. Any repairs should be financed
As a property owner you do not have to repair your barrier
unless the title documents or lease contains such obligations. However, if the barrier causes damage or injury, your neighbour
could take you to court for compensation.
If as a property owner
you have a barrier next to the street, this should be kept in good repair to prevent it becoming a nuisance or danger to people
using the street. If a passer-by is injured by the barrier, for example, if it has barbed wire, or falls down on someone in
the street, that person can take you to court for compensation.
There are special rules covering structural work to walls
which stand across the boundary of land belonging to different owners, or which are used by two or more owners to separate
buildings. The owner must notify neighbours about any work they intend to carry out. These rules allow for the agreement or
objection to any work within certain time limits, and compensation and temporary protection for buildings and property. If
there is no agreement an independent surveyor can be appointed to decide what work can be done, and how and when.
Planning restrictions on barriers
permission is not generally needed before erecting a fence or wall, provided it is no more than one metre in height if next
to a highway, or two metres elsewhere. If you wish to exceed these limits, you will need to get planning permission from the
local authority. There are no planning restrictions on the height of hedges.