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Fence Down … Who Pays?

Photo of a fence damaged by winter storms

During gusts and gales – and we haven’t been short of them this year – one of the first things to bear the brunt is the humble garden fence. Take a look around after a storm and you’ll see plenty of them either floored or precariously propped up waiting for that final blast of wind to finish them off.

If any of your fences have lost the battle and there’s a gaping hole where they once proudly stood protecting your property, you will no doubt be thinking about the cost of repair and whether you have insurance cover for it.  In some cases you may be able to claim on your buildings insurance for a fallen fence, although it really depends on your level of cover. However, unless the fence is particularly extensive, it may well be cheaper to pay for the replacement without making a claim, as your premium could rise as a result.

Who Owns the Fence?

Of course, whether you decide to make a claim or not, the big question is, whose fence is it anyway? Who is actually responsible for either claiming, or paying for the repair or replacement, is something that’s been sparking great debate for many years.

 Myth surrounds the subject of fence ownership. You are probably thinking, or may have been told or read it on the internet, that if the posts are on your side, then it’s your fence. Or that as you look at your property from the front, any boundary features that sit to the right – including fences as well as walls and hedges – are yours. But all of this is pure hearsay and is by no means a definite way of determining ownership.

Checking the Title Deeds

Another thing you’ll probably have heard is that the title deeds will spell out who owns what. But if you do manage to track them down, and accept the fee for taking them out of safekeeping, you may be disappointed because the fact is it’s actually quite rare for deeds to indicate where a boundary lies. Sometimes they will, and you should look out for what are called T-marks. If a ‘T’ symbol extends into your property, then you will own the boundary feature it extends from and the responsibility for maintaining it will usually be yours.

However, even this is not the be all and end all of the matter, because there may be some wording in the deeds that spells out a different situation altogether, or there may have been a verbal agreement between neighbouring properties that wasn’t recorded. There may even be a covenant which places responsibility for boundary feature maintenance with another party.

Talk it Through

So, the best thing to do is discuss the matter with your neighbour and see if you can decide between you – amicably – who the responsibility lies with. You could also talk to other people in the street who have lived there for some time, as they may be able to provide some insight for you. Even if you can’t be sure, splitting the cost would be a good compromise and would definitely be cheaper than getting into a legal dispute.