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Help me not be an AIBU neighbour!

(65 Posts)
HJ40 Mon 10-Dec-18 08:31:30

Hello, we have a potentially tricky conversation to have with next door and I’d love some mn ideas on how to broach the subject!

We’ve lived in our terraced house for two years and the fence between us and NDN on one side wasn’t in great shape when we moved in. NDN has lived there forever. She’s fit, healthy and about 70, so whilst older than us, definitely not elderly. We have never seen much of her, but always a friendly ‘hello and how are you’ between us when we do. She has once said something about the fence, in a nice way ‘it’s quite wobbly and you’ll need to do something about it’.

Said fence took a battering in some winds last winter so DH and I have supported it as best we can from our side with some planks which look like ugly buttresses in our garden.

We’ve finally had the fence looked at it as we want to get some work done on our garden and it can’t be saved. It needs to be completely replaced. The biggest problem is that she has some raised beds on her side which just have soil piled up against the wood without a waterproofing and the bottom 50cm is rotten all along.

Despite the fact the ‘back’ of the fence faces us, I’ve rechecked the land registry plans and it turns out it is her fence! Absolutely no doubt about it. Given she’s lived there forever, I suspect she assumes it’s ours because she has the ‘front’ of the fence rather than that she’s trying to be a CF.

DH and I want to remove the temporary buttressing from our garden so we can actually use it, but when we do, the fence will fall down so we need to talk to NDN. I can be a bit forthright so please can you help me with how you’d approach this? Don’t want it to seem like a blame game or holding her to ransom over the fence falling down but ultimately something needs to be done.

(And I don’t know if it helps, but the person we had look at it would do the work so we can offer them as a suggestion but don’t want to seem too pushy).

Burlea Mon 10-Dec-18 08:34:53

Why don't you ask if you and her could go halves for a new fence. That's what we have done for our 3 sides of fences.

HeyMacWey Mon 10-Dec-18 08:37:52

Just say that you've had someone come round to look at the fencing but now you've checked the deeds the fence is her responsibility

Tell her that you're removing the supports that you put up and that the fence is likely to fall down as a result. And then leave it with her. You can pass on your fence persons details.

She may just not realise that she has responsibility for it. She sounds like quite a friendly neighbour so there shouldn't be much of a problem.

ChasedByBees Mon 10-Dec-18 08:40:29

I think just show the deeds and open the discussion. You can also say that the mus against the fence is causing rotting. If she doesn’t replace it, do you have any alternative plans or mind there being no fence?

MarthasGinYard Mon 10-Dec-18 08:42:53

'We've looked at the deeds and are actually surprised ourselves to find it's your fence, can we come to some agreement and perhaps go halves on it'

AppleKatie Mon 10-Dec-18 08:43:33

I would open the discussion with what you were planning to do with the fence. Then tell her you’ve discovered it’s not actually your fence (show the proof!). And ask her if she would like the details of your fence people to see about getting her own quote?

AppleKatie Mon 10-Dec-18 08:44:04

Then leave it for a week for her to think about. If she doesn’t come back to you explain at that point that you intend to take the supports down your side on X date.

HJ40 Mon 10-Dec-18 08:45:24

We don't really want to pay towards it when we haven't caused the problem and are responsible for the fence on the other side.

We don't have an alternative. We'd love her to get it replaced.

I guess the conversation could go fine, I'm just nervous as we don't want to fall out and I don't know how she'll react. But I guess telling her the facts isn't unreasonable.

PurpleWithRed Mon 10-Dec-18 08:48:22

Awkward. As I understand it
- she needs to know the fence is actually hers
- you have the right to remove the buttresses holding it up
- BUT she has no obligation to provide a fence at all, in law. And any fence she does provide would be her choice of design.

Presumably in an ideal world she would willingly replace the fence at her cost and everyone would stay friends.

What's the worst case scenario? You have a row, angry neighbour issues, the fence falls down, she doesn't replace it, your garden is a mess forever.

For me I'd invest a bit of £ to prevent the fallout, but my strategy would be
- 'been looking at the garden and obviously the fence needs replacing' (wait for her agreement)
- checked the deeds for the boundary and to our surprise it's actually your fence. (wait for her reaction)
- take it from there, nicely - do you have any plans for replacing it, because when we take those supports down it's going to fall down
- depending on her response be willing to put something towards it to keep a good relationship and get a nice fence

Whatamuddleduck Mon 10-Dec-18 08:49:35

Firstly recognise that you aren’t being aCF. It’s her fence so she is responsible for up keep.
Just be clear about the situation (the fence is falling down and needs to be replaced), you have looked into it and found that it is her fence. Is she willing to get the work done? You are/ are not willing to contribute x amount to the cost.

We have this situation. A terrace so 2 neighbours. The fence which is our responsibility has fallen down but there is a stone wall there and neighbour doesn’t care. We will replace when we sort that section of the garden in spring. Other side wooden fence rotted through but has beautiful flowering vines on it. Neighbour can’t afford to replace and neither of us want to lose the vines so we have agreed to let it be for now!

Entirely possible to discuss just by being clear on situation and willing to compromise if needs be.

MarthasGinYard Mon 10-Dec-18 08:50:21

For me I'd invest a bit of £ to prevent the fallout'

Me too if she's not keen to sort

After all you were going ahead with sorting before you found this out re boundary etc.

CantWaitToRetire Mon 10-Dec-18 08:52:59

Just bear in mind OP that at 70, although 'fit and healthy, she probably only has her pension to live on and replacing a fence the full length of the garden may be hard for her to finance. What will you do if she says she simply can't afford it? Alternatively she may go for the cheapest replacement possible which may not be to your liking, and probably would not last long.

KatieKittens Mon 10-Dec-18 08:58:00

It’s worth asking if she wants to go halves on the cost of the fence.

She may be fit and healthy, but as a 70 year old pensioner she might not have money spare for this, especially in winter.

KatieKittens Mon 10-Dec-18 08:58:40

Cross post!

Ilovehamabeads Mon 10-Dec-18 08:59:51

We’ve always gone halves with neighbours when any fences need replacing. If you had someone out to look you were obviously considering putting some £ into it anyway.
I would say you were thinking of having it done as it’s falling down but can’t do so as it’s actually hers so you need to check it’s ok. Hopefully she will then jump in with an offer of payment.

HJ40 Mon 10-Dec-18 09:04:44

Really good to get all of your thoughts. Quite a few things here I hadn't thought of. Thank you

We weren't originally just going to do it ourselves. I always thought it was her fence but DH wasn't sure and it took us a while to find the plans. We didn't really have a plan. (which is why we've lived with planks in the garden all summer!)

Obviously don't know about her financial situation... but if you own a house you should expect to maintain it (also by having to take responsibility for this fence, she's dropping responsibility for the one on the other side she probably thinks is hers)!

MusterMark Mon 10-Dec-18 09:06:33

She is under no obligation to replace the fence, whatever its condition. If you want the fence replaced, and she won't do it, you'll need to get it done yourself.

dippledorus Mon 10-Dec-18 09:08:08

Legally she has no obligation to fix the fence.

What are your plans if she doesn’t want to fix it?

HJ40 Mon 10-Dec-18 09:08:36

Interesting that she doesn't have an obligation. Not planning on going down this route, but out of interest, doesn't home insurance require you to keep things well maintained?

minisoksmakehardwork Mon 10-Dec-18 09:08:50

I think offering to go halves would be a kindness to get the fence replaced and remove the buttresses from your garden. You can also make sure the fence is out the 'correct' way round as a reminder for future maintenance.

Given you had someone look at it implies you were prepared to put money in before you found out otherwise. You could offer to put whatever you were prepared to pay towards it to maintain neighbourly relations.

Alternatively, and I don't recommend this as it would be completely unreasonable, remove the buttresses and give the fence a shove over to her side. If it falls on her beds she might be more likely to fix it. But you will have to put up with no fence or the alternative she installs.

I do feel your pain. Luckily we are tenants but our landlord had to replace a fencepost on the boundary which we found to be a neighbours as the fence was falling into our garden. Their bushes kept pushing the loose fence over into our garden so we had it propped until repair too. The neighbour is elderly and I feel took advantage to get it done. The house is now on the market...!

There is another fence which needs repair or replace but again, it's another neighbour's (bottom fence for us). It's unsightly but doesn't bother me as much as it apparently bothers them.

dippledorus Mon 10-Dec-18 09:10:47

Her home insurance can’t be used to compel her to replace the fence. That’s ridiculous.

HJ40 Mon 10-Dec-18 09:11:20

If she doesn't want to fix it I don't have a plan. I'm asking here for thoughts in the hope of having a good conversation when the time comes so it's a good question you've asked me!

Off the top of my head, either we keep ugly planks in the garden or the fence falls down. If the fence falls down, there's obviously no fence and her raised beds slide into our garden!

MarthasGinYard Mon 10-Dec-18 09:11:50

'but out of interest, doesn't home insurance require you to keep things well maintained?'

Not really sure about fences but if so I'd press on and get it sorted.

If it was a rubbish fence when you moved in two years ago it's not being 'well maintained' I guess.

It's all hypothetical she may just accept it's hers. Personally I'd meet her half way as is I'd want some say in quality/structure that was going up.

MarthasGinYard Mon 10-Dec-18 09:13:16

'Given you had someone look at it implies you were prepared to put money in before you found out otherwise. You could offer to put whatever you were prepared to pay towards it to maintain neighbourly relations.'

And this

79andnotout Mon 10-Dec-18 09:13:20

I don't think a fence is a legal obligation? A lot of the houses on my street don't have fences marking the boundaries at all, they are open or have plants and beds at the borders.

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