Can I paint my side of a neighbour's fence? Experts urge people to think twice before picking up a paintbrush

Unfortunately, the law isn’t on your side…

Grey fence with yellow wire bench and pink stools
(Image credit: Future PLC / Colin Poole)

If you’re lucky enough to live in a detached home, you can rest easy knowing that you can paint your fences whenever and however you want. If you live in a terraced or semi-detached home, however, there are certain rules you need to follow. So, how do you know if you can paint your side of a neighbour’s fence or not?

Unfortunately, even the best garden fence idea can be ruined by inconsistency. If you have a freshly painted fence on one side but a grimy, faded fence on the other side, you may want to shake your fists at your neighbour and take the matter into your own hands. After all, it just takes one ugly fence to put a dampener on your whole garden design.

But while you may be inclined to pick up a paintbrush and paint the fence to match your own, it’s important to think twice before painting your side of your neighbour’s fence. After all, the law isn’t on your side, and you could get in a whole lot of trouble.

Can I paint my side of a neighbour’s fence?

The short answer? No, you can’t paint your side of your neighbour’s fence. The long answer isn’t quite as black-and-white, though.

When it comes to painting fences, it’s important to understand the various laws and planning permissions for garden fences. You should also ensure you know what fence is yours to avoid any difficult boundary disputes.

If you discover that the fence you want to paint belongs to you, you can go as wild as you want. You could paint a giant mural, you could go bold and paint it bright yellow, and you could even try out the viral hack of painting fence panels with a sponge.

Blue painted wooden fence surrounded by garden area

(Image credit: Future PLC / David Giles)

If the fence belongs to your neighbour, however, you don’t have the same level of freedom. Scarlett Wyatt from Wyatt Fencing explains, ‘Because of boundary laws and guidelines, you cannot alter your side of your neighbour’s fence without their permission. Only the owner can make changes, even if the other side of the fence is on neighbouring property.’

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t paint the fence at all. If you want to paint your side of your neighbour’s fence, you must always seek permission before doing so. It’s important to note that you must always ask the owner of the house - and not just the tenant if it’s a rented property.

Beth Boulton, home improvement specialist at Eurocell, also advises, ‘The best approach is to communicate with your neighbour and seek their permission before making any changes to the fence. This not only respects their property rights but also fosters a good relationship.’

‘If your neighbour declines, it's crucial to respect their decision. Exploring alternative options, like offering to contribute to the cost of painting or staining the fence, or agreeing on a colour both sides want, can be a way to move past this.’

If your neighbour does approve of you painting your side of their fence, it’s always a good idea to protect yourself in this instance, too. Simone Santaub, Property Expert at Property Rescue, urges, ‘You might want to get their approval in writing to prevent any future issues.'

black fence in garden with pot plants and pathway

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Just remember that your neighbour is also completely within their rights to deny your request, and you need to respect and comply with their decision if that’s the case. If you don’t, they can enforce legal action against you.

However, you do have options if your neighbour denies your request. If you truly can’t stand the side of your neighbour’s fence and want to hide an ugly fence, you could erect your own fence or garden screening in front of it. As this will be within the boundaries of your property, you can paint it however you wish.

You will have to pay for the privilege of doing this, however, and you still need to abide by fence laws to ensure your second fence is the correct height. It will also be your responsibility to maintain and fix this second fence.

Modern patio with horizontal slat fence panel

(Image credit: Future PLC/Still Pictures)

Alternatively, you could get planting. Gardening expert Lee Smith at Composite Warehouse suggests, ‘A vertical garden is another way to utilise the space you have on your fence and you don’t need permissions. Consider herbs or vegetables grown vertically along your fence, but potted bedding plants work just as well.’

The only downside to this is that your neighbour could potentially trim or cut down any climbing or trailing plants that are encroaching on their side of the fence. So, just be mindful and keep an open line of communication and respect between you and your neighbour.

What you'll need


Can I stain my side of the fence?

If the fence belongs to you, you can do anything you like to the fence - including staining your side of the fence. If the fence belongs to your neighbour, however, you legally cannot do anything to it.

Jenny Davis, Head of Marketing at Forest Garden, explains, ‘Regardless of the state of your neighbour's fencing, you are not allowed to do any repairs, including painting, staining, varnishing or installing new panels or trellis. Only the owner of the fence may make any changes to it, even where the other side of the fence is on neighbouring property.’

You can ask your neighbour if they’ll let you stain your side of the fence, but it’s important to note that they are completely within their rights to deny your request. They can also enforce legal action against you if you don’t comply, which can be costly.

Can I put things on my side of my neighbour’s fence?

No, not without asking first. If you want to attach garden screening or hang pots from your side of your neighbour’s fence, you need to seek permission before doing so.

Your neighbour can say no, but they may also say yes. If they do, it’s important to ensure that these additions don’t damage your neighbour’s fence in any way. Otherwise, you may have to pay to fix it.

So, while you may be able to paint your neighbour’s fence, you shouldn’t take it as a given. Always ask permission first.

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.