What To Do When Your Neighbor’s Fence is Leaning on Your Property

  • By: Mike Hale
  • Date: July 17, 2022
  • Time to read: 7 min.

Leaning fences are a major cause of friction between neighbors. Understandably, your neighbor’s fence leaning over into your property can cause a lot of trouble for you. Some of the time, the leaning fence can cause damage to your belongings. Like a child swing set, or toys, or even an outdoor garden.

However, the fence may be put up by your neighbor or the previous occupant of your neighbor’s property, and it has no connections to you. In such a case, it is their responsibility to take care of the fence.

From a legal perspective, your neighbor’s fence leaning on your property is a trespass. Therefore, you could send them a letter to that effect, giving them a specified number of days to fix the leaning fence or face legal action.

Alternatively, you can take photographs of your neighbor’s fence leaning into your property and show it to them. Let them know that they need to have it repaired before it falls into your property or damages any of your property or belongings. Also, tell them that if the fence causes any damage, they are legally obligated to pay damages. 

Seeing as arguments with neighbors can be both expensive and uncomfortable, you may want to explore an unproblematic way of getting the desired solution. Have a chat with your neighbor, explain to them that it will be less expensive for them to fix their fence before it causes you any damage.

However, if you decide to take the legal way out, you should know that you can do that by serving a writ. However, it is preferable to proceed with caution even if you’re sure that the law is on your side. As such, it is safer for you to engage the services of a lawyer, preferable a property attorney.

Which Side Of The Fence Is My Responsibility?

Generally, the owner of the fence is responsible for its maintenance. But how do you know who owns the fence, especially if it was already there before you came into ownership or possession of the property? Quick check, are the posts visible? Usually, the side where the posts are visible is the owner’s side. 

Sometimes, the property’s legal document may explicitly state which homeowner is responsible for which part of the fence or boundary. Whether the right one or the left. 

However, in some cases, the legal document does not make such a provision. In such a situation, one of the best ways to know which part of the fence is yours is to look at the title plans. Additionally, you know which is your responsibility in terms of maintenance and care. 

When you take a look at the plans, you’ll notice a “T mark.” So, a T mark on any side of the fence indicates that the person on that side of the property is responsible for maintaining the fence. The plans should be in some of the documents you got when you came into ownership of the property. If misplaced or lost, ask the solicitor who did the legal work. Still can’t find them? You may need to check the land registry.

The ownership of any property is indicated by the alphabet T, and the T is usually on one side of the fence. In such a case, it is usually easy to know who is responsible for maintaining the fence. So if the T is on your side of the fence, you are responsible for maintaining the fence. But if the T is on your neighbor’s side of the property, then the fence is your neighbor’s responsibility.

In addition, you may find that the property deeds do not show a T. Instead, there is the alphabet H, which is two Ts joined together. That means that the fence is the joint responsibility of the two property owners. In such a case, you and your neighbor will just have to agree about maintaining the fence.

Another way you can find out which part of the fence is your responsibility is simply by looking carefully. Although this isn’t a legal or even guaranteed method of finding out, it can work. You can guess the owner of the fence by looking at the way the frames are installed.

The fence owner is likely to have built it facing away from his land so that the neighbor can have the “good” side of the fence. However, this isn’t a hard and fast rule because you can’t just assume that every neighbor did that.

Fixing a leaning fence

Who Is Responsible For Leaning Fence?

Legally, both parties are responsible for a leaning or damaged fence. The law provides so because both parties derive benefits from or make use of the fence. So they should both be responsible for its maintenance and repair.

As such, when a fence is leaning or requires repair, the cost is to be shared by both property owners. Nevertheless, the case is different if the property owners have already reached a prior agreement.

However, you may want to determine whose boundary the garden fence is on. It could be that the fence is on your neighbor’s property entirely. That is, in situations where your neighbor constructed the fence entirely for his use. In such a case, he is solely responsible for its maintenance unless there is an agreement otherwise.

Knowing that can help determine the action to pursue regarding the leaning fence. In such cases, your neighbor is solely responsible for the leaning fence.

However, you should keep in mind that your neighbor is not legally obliged to put up a fence at all. And if your neighbor decides to take down the fence, there is little you can do about it. Since removing the fence may be even more aesthetically unpleasant, you may want to reach a compromise regarding the action to pursue regarding the leaning fence.

So, if you are on good terms with your neighbor, you might want to have a conversation with them and most likely contribute to the repairs since you may not want your neighbor looking into your yard either.

When A Fence Falls Down, Who Is Responsible?

Generally, when a fence falls, the two owners or occupiers of the properties in question bear the costs because they co-own the fence. As such, they are jointly responsible for a falling fence. 

There are circumstances where the fence is owned by one homeowner individually. In such a situation, the owner of the fence alone is responsible for the fallen fence, except the other party has been using the fence.

Furthermore, fences are commonly damaged by the elements like heavy rains, strong winds, erosion, severe downpours, and unavoidably wear and tear especially if it’s a simple wooden backyard fence. So there is no way of attributing responsibility to any party.

However, if the other party who isn’t the fence owner is responsible for the destruction or damage to the fence, they will singlehandedly bear the cost of repairs or putting up a new fence. 

If, on the other hand, both neighbors are responsible for the fallen fence, then it is only right that the costs be split right down the middle. Suppose your neighbor responsible for the damage refuses to pay for the repair or refuses to contribute to the repair or replacement in cases where the fence is jointly owned. Then there are few things that you can do. 

  • You can start by writing a letter to your neighbor, explaining the condition of the fence. In this case, you don’t just assume that he already knows or has already seen the state of the fence. Just put it in the letter, and make suggestions for repairs, which will involve him making his financial input.
  • Alternatively, you can decide to have the repairs done yourself and then ask your neighbor for reimbursement. You should still keep in mind that you can only do that of the fence is a shared responsibility between you both. You can ask your neighbor to repay half of the cost of repair.
  • You and your neighbor can also use Alternative Dispute Resolution to arrive at a workable solution for repairing the broken fence. The commonest method of ADR used in such situations is mediation. With the help of a mediator, you can reach a solution that will work for everyone.
  • If you cannot get your neighbor to contribute to the repair of the fence, you can sue them for reimbursement. If you do, they will pay half the expenses you incurred in repairing or replacing the fallen fence since the fence is both your and your neighbor’s responsibility.
  • You can also check whether local fencing laws have requirements or provisions for the appropriate action to pursue in such a situation. They can also recommend that you have a fence viewer appraise the situation and determine what should be done.