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Family Forum – Neighbours and Fences

Fence work could strain relationship.

Question:

My next door neighbour wants to renew the fence that separates our back gardens. While I acknowledge the fence is old, from my side I can’t see it. Over the years I have planted and lovingly tended a variety of attractive shrubs, most of which produce bright coloured flowers at various times of the year. I get much joy from its colourful display which I look at daily through my large kitchen window.

I can’t see how the present fence can be removed and replaced without damage to my plants. Most would have to be removed. I dread the thought of viewing an ugly wrought iron fence while waiting for new shrubs to grow. I believe I have no legal obligation but my neighbour is a friend. We have lived side by side for many years and share a cuppa occasionally. I shall be very unhappy if I say yes, but I will feel guilty if I say no.

Answer:

Your neighbour needs your agreement to replace the fence in the first instance, although she could try to force the issue under the Fences Act. The Act provides for the cost of repair or replacement of a fence to be shared by adjoining property owners.

Your neighbour may have an entitlement to a new fence of the same or similar type to the one you now share, if the existing fence is dilapidated, but your neighbour is not entitled to remove, damage or cut your plants back any more than may be necessary in erecting a new fence. The courts can order compensation for damage, although it is unlikely the amount would be significant.

As your neighbour is a friend, we suggest you talk to her, perhaps inviting her in to see the view from your side of the fence. You could consider mediating with your neighbour, to avoid the stress of legal proceedings.

If the fence needs to be replaced, we suggest you agree to the work and request the workers exercise care with your garden.

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