I have just finished building my home and I recently heard that it was my responsibility to look after the boundary between the house on the right hand side of me, and that my neighbour is responsible for the boundary on the right hand side of him. Is this true? Does this practice have legal standing in Ireland or is it just good practice? Or is the responsibility for the boundary split 50/50 between both parties?
Responsibility for physical boundaries such as hedges, walls, post and wire fences generally depends on which side of the legal boundary they are located. The legal boundary is defined by the deed map.
Physical boundaries such as concrete block walls are frequently constructed on the legal boundary so that half of the wall is located on each property. It is then a party wall with shared responsibility.
In other instances, physical boundaries are located to one side of the legal boundary. This is more likely to be the case with hedges, in particular if they have been planted alongside a wall or railing which was positioned on the legal boundary. As stated, the location determines responsibility.
However, as appears to be the situation in your case, there may be an informal arrangement or convention whereby neighbours agree to accept responsibility for the boundary to one side of their garden/property, irrespective of which side of it the legal boundary is located. Although it does not usually have a legal basis, it is good practice provided that everyone acts responsibly, for instance, in controlling the height of a hedge for which they are responsible.
If you decide to maintain your boundaries strictly in accordance with your ownership as defined by your deed map, it may result in your neighbour having to take full responsibility for the boundaries on both sides of his property or, alternatively, not having responsibility for any boundary. Your neighbour on the other side may be likewise affected.
As the new owner of a house, it is desirable that you have a good relationship with your neighbours. Your concern over boundary responsibilities may be interpreted as indifference to established practices.
It may be advisable that you consider following the practice already established by your neighbours — especially if it is seen to work.
Patrick Shine is a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland.