Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practicing lawyer in England with over 10 years experience.
May I ask roughly how old the property is please?
Have you discussed the issue with any neighbours to date?
property is roughly 1890's neighbours are unsure who owns what boundaries
Do any of the boundary structures currently need significant repair or replacement?
one fence that runs at the back of the property to the left is collapsing roughly 50 metres in lengh
Thanks. Finally is there any dispute about the location of any boundary structure or is it simply a lack of clarity regarding maintenance obligations that is at issue?
there is no dispute about boundaries, it is just we purchased this house last august and the title deeds had never been registered and we would like to know where we stand with boundaries as to who owns what. Is there anyway as to finding out if the land registry cannot tell us ?
Thanks. In terms of the fence English law is hopelessly deficient when it comes to responsibility and ownership of boundaries. There is no statutory law and the only way in which obligations are enforced are by way of covenants which easily lapse. The normal position with most second-hand properties, as opposed to new build properties is that unless either party can prove who erected a wall or fence, neither party can lay claim to it as their own property unless it is clear that it is built on their land - sometimes this is clear but often it is not. Even if one person can clearly establish who owns a fence or this is not in dispute, unless a binding covenant can be shown to exist which is rare in second-hand properties because positive covenants ("to do" something such as maintain a fence) do not bind purchasers after the original purchasers automatically, neither party can enforce the other to maintain a boundary structure or make a claim against the other for damage or removal of the same. The exception to this is if the neighbour accepts the fence is theirs and you can show that the structure is dangerous (as opposed unsightly or not fit for purpose). In those circumstances there is both a common law and statutory basis under which to potentially force the neighbour to rectify the danger.
It is therefore frustratingly, normally a question of reaching agreement with your neighbours on an informal basis or a case of whoever "blinks first" in terms of repairing or maintaining a boundary if one cannot show who erected a particular fence or structure.
So is there no way of finding out who owns what boundary, i understand the chap that lived here erected the fence so does that mean we own it now ?
Ideally you will be able to reach an agreement with your neighbours as generally it would be in both parties interests to maintain some form of boundary structure however there is no requirement for this. If you are unable to reach agreement, in the absence of a binding covenant (it would have been necessary for you to enter into covenants with your neighbours when you purchased the property for this to be relevant which very rarely happens) it is simply question of either doing nothing no fence between your respective gardens or the person who feels most strongly paying to put up a new fence or repairing the existing one. It very much depends upon the individuals concerned as to how much friction there may or may not be. As and when you come to sell, you will be asked which boundaries you have in practice maintained - it is simply a question of answering this question according to your customary practices. You may wish to refer to the property information form which your sellers would have completed when they sold the property to you in order to see what they ticked in terms of historic practices. Your solicitor will have a copy of this if you do not - it is the first question asked on the form.
If you have evidence that a previous owner erected a fence, or in default of any evidence your neighbours accept this, this makes the fence your property. This does not confer any obligation to maintain it on your part but it would mean the neighbour could not interfere with the fence without your consent.
The same would go for any other fences - however often evidence as to who erected a fence will have been lost over the years. In newer properties the term "party structure" is now commonly used which simplifies the position slightly but with older properties boundaries are a frustrating business though in most cases reasonable neighbours will come to an agreement between themselves on the issue.
Is there anything above I can clarify for you any further?
No thankyou, it is frustrating why as land registry cannot define who owns what, but there is nothing we can do about this , so thankyou for your time Joshua.
I tend to agree with you. The law is very unhelpful both in respect of maintenance of boundaries and also in respect of (not relevant here fortunately) disputes as top the exact location of a boundary. Unfortunately there is no appetite in Parliament to provide any legislation on the point and until this happens it will remain a frustrating business.
If I can assist any further as the situation develops please do no hesitate to let me know.
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