One of the most common forms of disputes between neighbours relates to the issues of hedges.
Overgrown hedges encroaching on someone else’s land can cause big arguments between neighbours, as the hedge’s upkeep and maintenance is the responsibility of its owner.
It could be that an unkempt hedge is encroaching on your property, or even that your neighbour has cut or trimmed a hedge which was your responsibility to maintain.
Either way, relations can easily be soured and you’ll want to resolve your boundary dispute as quickly and amicably as possible.
Looking for legal advice on a Boundary Hedge Neighbour Dispute? Call our Dispute Resolution team on FREEPHONE 0800 1404544 or one of our four local office numbers for FREE initial phone advice – no strings attached.
We handle Hedge Disputes throughout Wiltshire, Hampshire, Somerset and Dorset and further afield from our offices in Salisbury, Fordingbridge Andover and Amesbury.
Hedges – a moving boundary
Bear in mind that hedges, unlike fences, are not strictly static boundaries as they have a tendency to grow and expand, which makes them a particularly contentious form of boundary and one which can often lead to a property dispute between neighbours. That means these kinds of disagreements can sometimes be trickier to resolve than fence boundary disputes.
Who owns that hedge?
When it comes to hedges, it’s vital that you check the ownership of the hedge before you trim it, move it or remove it. If it transpires that you have trimmed or moved a hedge which belongs to someone else, you could be held liable and forced to pay substantial legal costs.
There are no hard and fast rules with regards to boundary ownership, and the only way to find out who owns a boundary border is to check the deeds at the Land Registry.
Often, there’ll be no definitive answer and it’ll ultimately be a shared responsibility.
However, if one neighbour can prove that they’ve been the one to maintain the border over the years, without the consent of the legal owner, they may be able to prove ownership under the principle of adverse possession.
Click here to read more about how our adverse possession solicitors can help you defend or claiming ownership of land or property.
There have even been situations where a resident has taken out a bush which was up against a partition fence, believing that the fence must have been the boundary and that the hedge was in their garden. In fact, it transpired that the bush was the boundary and that the fence was entirely in the neighbour’s garden. By removing the bush, the resident had removed the boundary and had to pay substantial legal costs, as well as replacing the hedge.
Settling your hedge dispute
As you can see, each situation can vary wildly, so there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to boundary and hedge neighbour disputes. The only way to settle a dispute, often, can be to bring in an experience solicitor who will be able to look at all the information to hand and offer some advice as to how things could be resolved.
The short-term costs of hiring a solicitor at an early stage will usually far outweigh the potential costs of expensive court action – which could result in tens of thousands of pounds worth of expenditure as well as possibly taking many years to resolve.
Resolving your dispute – what should I do first?
The first step will usually involve initiating contact with the neighbour, who will usually want to seek swift closure once they realise legal avenues are being pursued.
Can mediation help?
So should a resolution still not be forthcoming, the next step is often to move towards mediation options. This tends to involve the two parties sitting down with an independent mediator and discussing the dispute in order to try and come to a resolution which suits all parties involved.
At this stage, both parties are able to put forward their views of the situation and to state their case in a way which they otherwise might not have been able to do up until that point, especially if emotions have been high. The mediation setup allows a reasonable resolution to be sought, with the independent mediator trying to find some common ground on which an agreement can be reached.
Your hedge dispute – court – the last resort
Should mediation fail, your last resort may be to go to court. It’s important that this is, indeed, your last resort, though.
A judge will not look favourably upon someone who has filed court papers without trying every possible other avenue to resolve the dispute before coming to court. Having engaged legal representation and tried mediation will help your case, especially if the other party has been unresponsive or unwilling to try and seek a reasonable resolution.
There will be costs associated with going to court and you could, of course, lose your case and be liable for the costs involved but your solicitor will be able to advise you about the specifics in your situation.
If you’re involved in a dispute with a neighbour over a hedge or boundary issue, call us today to speak to our team of specialist solicitors with experience in hedge disputes. We’ll be able to advise you as to the best way to move forward in your specific situation and seek an outcome which ideally suits all parties involved. That way, you’ll be able to return to feeling safe.