The answer to this frequently asked question is that there may be no answer. The only certain way of knowing who owns a hedge or fence standing on the boundary of a property is if its ownership is stated in the Land Registry register entries for the property or in the title deeds if the property is not registered.

Often ownership, or responsibility for the repair of a boundary feature, may be expressly stated in the deeds or sometimes it is indicated by reference to a plan which would show “T” marks along the boundary edges of the property. If the “T” mark is pointing inwards towards the property then the boundary in question belongs to that property.

It is certainly usually the case that for all properties constructed since around 1980, ownership of the boundaries will be indicated either by reference to “T” marks on the plan attached to the first Conveyance or Transfer of the property or by that Conveyance or Transfer specifically stating that the ownership of a particular boundary is “party”, i.e. shared jointly between the owners of the properties which the boundary separates.

With older properties it is not at all unusual for the deeds to be silent on the question of who owns a particular boundary. Reference would then need to be made to information provided by the previous owners of the property at the time of the sale. The standard Sellers Property Information Form completed by all sellers during the conveyancing process contains questions as to the ownership and past maintenance of the boundaries. However, if the deeds are silent on ownership, then clearly the reply of the seller as to who owns a particular boundary will only be his or her own opinion of the position and will not necessarily be correct.

The question of maintenance of a boundary fence can be relevant because if a fence has been erected by a previous owner then the fence belongs to that owner and all subsequent owners of the property.

It is sometimes assumed that a fence belongs to the property which has the structural side of the fence closest to it. This is however not necessarily the case and this assumption has no basis in law.

If a boundary consists of a hedge and ditch then there is a legal presumption that a property boundary will be on the opposite side of the ditch from the hedge. The reasoning behind this is that when the hedge was planted, the owner would have stood on the boundary line, then dug the ditch on his own land up to the boundary, formed a bank on his land with the soil from the ditch and then planted a hedge on that bank of soil. This is, however, only a presumption and it can be overridden by evidence to show that the hedge itself forms the boundary line in the deeds.

The overriding factor in determining ownership is the evidence that can be obtained from the Land Registry Entries or title deeds to a property and if these are silent then in the vast majority of cases neighbours just agree to share equally the cost of any necessary repairs.

CAPTION: Tim Lester. Partner, Residential Property Team

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