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Garden Disputes Have Seen A Rise In The Courts Since The Pandemic Between Neighbours

Reema Chugh, Partner and Dispute Resolution Solicitor at Hodge Jones & Allen has spoken about the rise in neighbour disputes concerning:

  • Trespass, nuisance and property rights over their enclosed gardens, and in particular walls, fences, hedges, overhanging and root encroaching trees;
  • Access to neighbouring gardens for repairs to buildings, renewing drains and infringement of light between neighbours and between seller and buyer, or landlord and tenant, as to the boundaries or area of garden agreed to be sold, or about what was included with it, such as plants, ornaments or even flagstones.

Offering guidance on avoiding disputes Reema Chugh said:

“It is important to check the scope of your rights in the title documents and how the land is being used physically as that may be different to the legal entitlement. When purchasing a property, a physical inspection and friendly conversation with the neighbours to confirm your understanding regarding use of a garden can prove helpful. If a garden disputes arises during the course of your ownership, you will need to disclose it to a future buyer which can affect saleability of your property.

Garden disputes arise often due to lack of usage by one owner which results in the neighbouring owner gaining perceptive rights over it and or part of it may be adversely possessed. Therefore, it is imperative that as a new owner, tenant or long term resident to a property that benefits from a garden, you understand and appreciate the existing and new rights which you may have unknowingly allowed over your garden.

It is equally important to understand whether a wall or fence diving two properties which usually run through a garden are party wall or party fences/ structures. If so, then your title documents may show who is responsible for maintenance of the said party wall structures. In practice usually, parties will share/ and or contribute towards the cost of maintenance.”

In the case of Coope v Ward [2015] EWCA, the Court of Appeal held that property owners owed each other a duty of care in circumstances where a dividing and supporting garden wall collapsed.

Offering further guidance Reema said:

“When it comes to erecting a fence or a wall in the garden, it may be useful to note that garden fences can be erected under permitted development, so without needing express planning permission from the Local Planning Authority subject to limitation of the general rule that a fence that fronts a highway can only be 1m in height or 2m in any other case.

Garden disputes that can get escalated to courts which can very costly and time consuming as well as resulting in breach of various statutory obligations. Therefore, if in doubt, you must seek advice at the earliest opportunity to ensure that you are complying with the law”

Reema Chugh is a Partner in HJA’s Dispute Resolution Team with over 10 years’ experience of handling private, commercial and property disputes. An accredited mediator, Reema always works hard for her clients to find resolution outside of court, saving time, costs and relationships between parties in disputes.

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