Who is responsible for maintaining boundary structures?

Contrary to what many people believe, there is no ‘standard’ rule relating to the maintenance of boundary structures (like the old favourite “you are responsible for the fence on the left”) that is legally binding on property owners in the UK.

The legal position is that there is no obligation on a property owner to maintain any boundary structure, unless that obligation is imposed as a positive covenant designed to be binding on the property. Importantly, this means that the title documents for your property will only tell you whether you are responsible for any of your boundary structures. They will not tell you whether anyone else (i.e. adjacent property owners) is responsible for those boundary structures. Your title documents may simply contain no boundary maintenance covenants, so the only information you will learn from them is that you are not obligated to maintain any boundary structures.

It is not the Land Registry’s role to decide who has which boundary maintenance obligations; all the Land Registry can do is inform you of any obligations which already exist. The Land Registry will either hold a copy of the deed where that positive covenant was first imposed, or it will enter details of those covenants on the title register.

Therefore to be fully informed, you must review the title register, title plan and any filed deeds registered against the property (provided the land has been registered). The title register may not mention boundary maintenance if the issue is covered in one of the filed deeds.

If no mention of boundary maintenance is made in your own title documents, it simply means that you are not obligated to maintain any of the boundaries. It does not necessarily mean that an adjacent property owner does not have any obligations; To find out whether a neighbour is responsible for the boundary, you would need to check the title documents for the adjacent property.

Where none of the affected properties have any boundary maintenance covenants imposed, we would advise discussing the issue with the adjacent property owners and coming to some form of amicable agreement (which can be on any terms the parties see fit). It is then a good idea to have a solicitor record any such agreement in writing and file the same with the Land Registry so that future disputes are prevented.

By |2019-05-21T10:13:14+01:00July 20th, 2016|FAQs|0 Comments