Articles about solicitors and legal services

House owner ‘not entitled’ to tear down fence that encroached on her land

The danger of taking the law into your own hands without getting legal advice was highlighted in a recent case involving a dispute between two neighbours.

There had been a longstanding boundary dispute between them which was eventually settled by a court order.

One of the homeowners then laid a concrete foundation to build a fence along the boundary. Unfortunately, it encroached a few inches into the neighbour’s property although the fence itself lay exactly on the border.

Later, the fence moved slightly so that it too encroached a few inches into the neighbour’s property. The neighbour declined to take any further legal steps but simply removed the fence posts and wire meshing.

The fence owners then began legal proceedings for damages. The judge ruled that the slight encroachment was not sufficient justification for the neighbour to take down the fence and so she should have to pay damages.

That ruling has now been upheld by the Court of Appeal which held that there was no emergency or urgent need that would justify the removal of the fence.

It is not uncommon for neighbour disputes to get a little out of hand so that the costs and energy expended in fighting the case are out of all proportion to the seriousness of the offence.

It is usually better for disputes to be resolved amicably but if this is not possible then both sides should seek legal advice before attitudes begin to harden.

Clarification of the legal position may help resolve the problem right at the outset. It there is still a disagreement then a solicitor may be able to help arrange mediation so that a settlement can be reached that is fair to both sides. This approach is usually far less stressful than going to court and it may help you to maintain a good working relationship with your neighbour. This is very important as you may have to live alongside each other for many years to come.

If agreement still can’t be reached then litigation may become necessary. It is then even more important to get sound legal advice so that the dispute doesn’t escalate to a point where the costs involved are out of proportion to the value of the claim.

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