Boundary disputes can be awkward for everyone involved; the neighbours, the tenant and the landlord. Any arguments are uncomfortable but unfortunately, boundary issues are pretty common. Under the umbrella term of boundary disputes comes high hedges, dilapidated fences and walls and shared driveways, amongst others.

In the modern day, people are living in much closer proximity with more properties and more cars are squeezed into residential areas. The chance of running into some disputes with a neighbour is high. In rental properties, the majority of external and structural property issues are a landlord’s responsibility to handle. Fences that are falling down, walls that need repairs and queries about legal documents and land boundaries all fall up to landlords to resolve. So, it may be you as a landlord who ends up in sticky boundary disputes if you’re not 100% clear on where your property’s boundaries start and end.

What can be done about a neighbour’s high hedge?

High hedges can become quite the bone of contention but luckily, for this reason, there is legislation that can provide a solution. With any hedge-related issues, it’s a good idea to speak to the neighbour about it first to discuss if it is becoming a problem. Give them the benefit of the doubt, as they may not realise that their hedge is having a detrimental impact on your tenants.

If a neighbour has a very high hedge that is encroaching on your property, you are able to trim back any overhanging branches or foliage. If a hedge is very unkempt, with roots spreading to your property and becoming so high that it prevents sunlight from reaching the garden, it can become a real issue. In this case, again speak to the neighbour and try to come to a compromise. If the hedge is rooted in a neighbour’s property, made up of a minimum of two trees or shrubs, or is more than two metres tall and is obstructing light or views, then you can contact your local council and ask them to resolve the issue.

Image of tall hedges.

Partition wall or fence, who is responsible?

Many properties have partition walls or fences dividing them from neighbours, the legal documents obtained when purchasing the respective properties will detail which walls belong to whom. If the neighbour owns the wall or fence, they are the only ones who can make any changes, such as painting it for example. If you request any changes to be made to the wall or fence, the neighbour does not have to take action. If the wall or fence is structurally dangerous, however, it will need to be fixed; whether it’s your responsibility or the neighbour’s. If your neighbour asks you to fix it – or vice versa – and nothing is done about it, the council can take action against the person responsible. Dangerous walls or fences can be reported here.

Shared driveways laws

With shared driveways, always consult title documents such as the Land Registry title plan and your title deeds. They will include all the details surrounding use. A shared driveway is usually owned by each of the homes involved, and the maintenance of the entire driveway is shared by all properties. In more complicated cases, the driveway may be owned by one property but legal access is given to anyone who needs to use it.

Image of garage doors on shared driveway.

In all cases, common law dictates that a shared driveway should be used reasonably. So, what if your tenant’s access is being blocked by their neighbour? Always encourage them to speak to the neighbour about the issue first and foremost, or perhaps offer to speak to the neighbour on their behalf. Nine times out of ten, an agreement can be reached that keeps all parties happy. If not, then your tenant could be entitled to seek an injunction and/or damages for substantial interference with their right of way over the property.

How can you solve a boundary dispute?

Communication is key. Boundary disputes can usually be avoided by a simple discussion, preferably between you and the neighbour, as opposed to the tenant and the neighbour. The majority of the time, it will just come down to a simple misunderstanding.

The most important thing to remember is that any animosity or negativity between you and the neighbour or your tenant and the neighbour could easily lead to more problems and an unhappy tenancy. Awareness is also important. Be aware of what you are responsible for and let your tenant know. However, don’t let them make any changes to structural elements of the property that could affect the neighbours, because it’ll be partially your issue to fix.

Image of two people drinking coffee together at a table.

If communication just isn’t cutting it, the local council can intervene, however, this will usually come at a fee and they can refuse involvement if they don’t think that you or the tenant has done all you can to informally resolve the dispute. With hedge issues, the council can impose a remedial notice to the neighbour. A remedial notice requires the hedge owner to remedy the problem and prevent it from recurring. Failure to comply can result in a fine of up to £1000. To avoid any kind of neighbourly disputes, try and build up a good rapport with the property’s neighbours. Even if they clash with your tenants, it’s good to have a solid relationship of your own with them to fall back on.

Educate yourself on where your property boundaries are and what you are responsible for, and take these responsibilities seriously. In doing that, there’s no reason why you should get caught up dealing with boundary disputes.

If you’ve come across any other neighbourly disputes and you’re not sure how to deal with them, visit our advice centre. We offer expert guidance on topics such as property occupants, illegal activity, landlord insurance and more.

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