How can I find out who owns a boundary fence?
The majority of land in England and Wales is registered at HM Land Registry. Land Registry documents reveal the boundaries showing the extent of the land. These include a ‘Title Plan’ of a property which shows either the general boundaries of the property, or the exact boundaries if the Land Registry has that information. It also holds ‘Office Copies’ of the legal title to property which gives information about the property and its ownership.
If you are unsure who owns a boundary fence you can look at any copies of title deeds you have in your possession, or ask the Land Registry for Office Copies and a Title Plan. This plan will show the boundaries to your land as officially registered at the Land Registry. The Land Registry may also have the historical title deeds relating to your property and, if necessary, these may help you to identify who is responsible for which boundary. The Land Registry will charge a small fee for providing documentation.
You could also consider obtaining Office Copies and a Title Plan relating to your neighbour’s property to provide a fuller picture.
The Office Copies (and any title deeds) often contain covenants setting out who is responsible for maintaining a boundary feature such as a fence. These should also be checked to see if they will assist.
It is important to note that the Office Copies and Title Plan are not conclusive as to ownership of boundary features.
Maintenance of a fence
The Title Plan’s may reveal a ‘T’ mark on all or some of the boundaries, indicating who is responsible for maintaining that boundary. If there is a ‘T’ mark on either side of the boundary, it is a party boundary and both you and your neighbour are jointly responsible. If, however, there is no ‘T’ mark, it may be unclear who is responsible for the maintenance of that boundary.
The question then is: has anyone assumed responsibility for that boundary, such as placing the fence there or maintaining it? If you or your neighbour has assumed responsibility for the fence, they remain legally responsible for it. If it has been jointly maintained by you and your neighbour (or not as the case may be) it may be regarded as a party fence and you will both be responsible for it.
If you are considering buying a property, it is important to establish as early as possible which boundary fences and walls you will be responsible for.
For more information on:
- Can responsibility for maintaining a fence change to a neighbouring property owner?
- Common misconceptions
- Do I have any rights in relation to my neighbour’s fence?
- Can I force my neighbour to maintain their fence?