Avoid a pitched battle over garden fence

Our lawyer, Fiona McNulty, advises on the best way to handle a nieghbour dispute over a shared garden fence
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Question: My neighbour has just replaced two panels in the fence between our gardens. The post between the panels is now on my side and the fence very noticeably does not run along a straight line following the boundary as it did before but buckles into my garden, encroaching on my land.

Is there anything I should be doing about this? I don't want him to acquire any rights through me doing absolutely nothing.

Answer: How good a relationship do you want with next door? A neighbour dispute can be stressful and expensive. You could ask your neighbour to replace the post correctly and if he fails to do so you could take action such as court proceedings to force him to do so. But I think this would be a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

However, if you do nothing you do risk this land becoming his after a time. To avoid this (a claim based on adverse possession or squatters' rights) you can put your neighbour on notice that the land is yours and he is encroaching, but you consent. Make sure he understands that you are permitting the encroachment and you can at any time terminate that permission and insist he moves the fence into the correct position.

By doing this, you are making it clear that he doen't not own the land, and your are preventing him from claiming adverse possession. If you choose to do this, you should write and renew the permission periodically. If he sells his property, you must write to the new owners.

Alternatively, you could sell him that bit of land or agree that he may keep the fence as it is, until the next time it needs replacing, when it can be returned to its correct position.

What's your problem?

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

Fiona is a partner in the residential real estate team at Thring LLP www.thrings.com.

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