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Rules for fences on boundaries

Updated June 13, 2017

Boundary fences can cause much dispute and debate between neighbours. Knowing the rules and regulations for fences on boundary lines can help keep the peace. Before you erect any fence, you should confirm your exact property boundary lines. Many land owners are misinformed about their property lines, so have a surveyor confirm them to avoid a potential lawsuit.

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General rules

A fence built on a boundary is typically considered joint property of both property owners. Therefore, a landowner must first obtain the neighbour's consent to remove or alter the fence. Unless ownership and siting of boundary fences and walls is specifically stated in the deeds of each property, both parties share equally in the duty to maintain the fence. Upon failure of one property owner to repair and maintain his portion of the fence, the neighbour may repair the entire fence and file suit against the other property owner for half of the expenses paid to repair the fence. If someone builds a fence on someone else's land, that landowner may opt to destroy the fence.

Right-hand rule

The right-hand rule is an extension of the general rule that both landowners share responsibility to maintain the fence, as this can often become confusing. The right-hand rule is an informal agreement wherein the adjoining neighbours face one another at the midpoint of the fence and agree to maintain the half of the fence to their respective right hands.

Planning permission

Fences are not subject to British Building Regulations. Fences do not need planning permission if they are below 2 metres (80 inches) in height, however if they are adjacent to a public road or footpath that height exemption drops down to 1 metres (40 cm). The local planning authority has the right to impose an "article 4 direction" or planning condition on the use of fences irrespective of these rules, although such actions are rare.

Listing and Conservation Areas

Regular exemptions do not apply where a property has been listed as being of historic importance by English Heritage, or where the property adjoins, a listed building or is deemed to be part of an historic landscape or part of the precincts of an historic property. All fencing is subject to planning control if the property lies within a designated Conservation Area.

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About the Author

Rebecca Desfosse earned her bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies from Boston University in 2009. She is a writer and researcher in the fields of family, parenting, frugal living, health, beauty, fashion and style.

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