One of the most emotive areas of property disputes is that of fences and boundaries between neighbours. Unfortunately they are a common occurrence and often lead to strained relationships between neighbours over what is sometimes a relatively small piece of land.

Not only can they create unwanted tension with neighbours but they can end up becoming very costly to resolve. The most common reasons for a fence dispute to arise are differences in aesthetics and responsibility for maintaining and repairing and where the boundary is uncertain both of which can lead to a dispute. In a recent case between the Hamblings and the Wakerleys where costs have reportedly exceeded £150k with the earlier decision having been appealed.

Recent Case

The recent case of Gibson v New has potentially changed the law on boundary agreements.

The case stemmed from a longstanding dispute concerning the replacement of a fence over which the neighbours had fallen out. The Court said that a Settlement Agreement (and therefore the boundary agreement) does not bind successors in title and has no proprietary effect binding third parties.

The result of this would mean that any boundary dispute which has been resolved by way of a boundary agreement could be reopened once one party to that boundary agreement sells their property.  In this scenario there is no conveyance of land, the parties are agreeing that this is where the legal boundary is and always was.

The Court of Appeal has refused permission to appeal and so this High Court decision is contrary to two previous Court of Appeal authorities and thus if the proprietary nature of the boundary agreements is central to a future case it will be up to the judge to decide whether the Court is bound by Gibson v New.

How to deal with a dispute

So what is a sensible approach to a fence and boundary disputes between neighbours?

A far less costly route is to try and reach a compromise or agreement with a neighbour by way of good communication early on and the use of formal or informal mediation to try and seek a resolution.

If relations are so strained that communication breaks down, seek expert assistance by way of a boundary surveyor and lawyer and mediate early to avoid what can be an extremely long and very expensive set of court proceedings.

For any advice related to boundary disputes or any issues regarding property disputes do not hesitate to contact me on or call on 01243 943203.

For more information on our Property Litigation services please click here.