Council houses come with the basic necessary infrastructure required by tenants but if you require any changes, your local council office will be able to guide and advise on the possibilities. Through this article, we will learn about the fencing rules that apply to council homes and the rights and responsibilities of tenants in this regard. We will also explore whether council homes can have solar panels, kitchen replacements, small refurbishments to improve the home decor and how the responsibilities for home improvements are divided between council and tenant. 

What Are Council House Fencing Rules?

Council authorities will provide fencing on your property in case of the following situations:

  • the property is adjacent to a public path or public alleyway
  • the property is intended is for communal areas
  • the property opens onto a public highway

However, maintenance of the fence is the tenant’s responsibility. If you want a higher fence or a more secure one for your pets than the one that is provided by the council, you will need to erect one on your one and bear its cost. You will need the council’s permission before you make any alterations to council property even if you have purchased the council house you live in.

Similarly, if you need a fence to divide your side of the garden from your neighbour’s, remove, change or alter an existing fence, you will have to bear the expense on your own, while the council will only grant permission to do so. 

Below are some basic rules that apply to council homes:

  • Fences should be 1.8 to 2 metres in height at the rear and 1 metre at the front.
  • If a tenant intends to have a higher fence than the suggested guideline, they will need to seek approval from Planning Permission.
  • The tenant must get permission from the Tenancy Services Team before constructing a fence on the premises.
  • Your fence wall should be inside your boundary wall.
  • Tenants cannot remove existing fences without written approval from local council authorities.

When council houses with gardens are rented out to tenants and a boundary mark is not viable, the council authorities will usually install a basic fence such as a wire and post fence to mark the boundary line. However, in case of brand new properties being built, council authorities provide fencing along garden boundaries connected to a public footpath or communal area.

You do not need permission from the Building Regulations to install a fence; however, tenants must be careful that the structure is sound and continues to be maintained by them.

How Often Do Councils Replace Kitchens?

As a general rule, kitchens in council houses are meant to last a minimum of 30 years. In addition to the age of the property, the below criteria are essential for kitchen replacements in council houses:

  • A new kitchen has not been fitted in the past 30 years (these include referrals from social services).
  • No major repairs have been carried out in the recent five years.
  • The tenant has not applied to purchase their council house under the Right To Buy scheme.

Unless there is a dire need for a kitchen replacement due to unforeseen circumstances, kitchen replacements are not undertaken before the end of a 30 year period. However, small scale alterations and instalments can be carried out by tenants with approval from the council.

Any installations that are required will be prioritised depending on the age of the property. Once a tenant’s request for kitchen replacement is approved, the council assigns a design consultant to visit the property and discuss the layout/requirements.

Can I Install Solar Panels On My Council House?

Yes, council houses can have solar panels. Not only that, the installation and maintenance of solar panels on council houses is the responsibility of the landlord, therefore there is no additional expense to be borne by the tenant(s). In most cases, local councils have been known to provide solar panels free of cost to tenants with the aim to help them reduce their energy bills.

As a council housing tenant, you might be required to provide access to the pathway leading to where the installation is to take place and perhaps access to your loft. Other than that, you will not be required to be physically present during the installation process; which is usually three hours long.

Can I Decorate My Council House?

Yes, not only can you decorate the council house that you live in, but in some cases, the council provides you with a voucher when you move into a council house to purchase items for home decor. You may be able to use this voucher for specific items only. However, with certain items paid for, you can allocate your own finances to other areas of home furnishing.

However, the permission to decorate council houses and the extent of the work carried out in this regard depends a lot on the type of tenancy agreement that you have in place. For instance, introductory tenants may only be allowed to conduct minor repairs inside their house, while fixed-term tenants may not be allowed to make any changes to the council house. Secure tenants on the other hand can carry out interior and exterior decor as well as home improvement tasks such as installing new bathrooms or a fireplace or even building of an extension or greenhouse. 

Can I Use My Own Furniture In A Council House?

Yes, you can use your own furniture in a council house but sometimes the council can also help tenants with furniture by giving vouchers to purchase furniture through certain schemes or charities. Sometimes this furniture is available at an extremely low cost; while at other times, charities may pay for them while residents claim to use it. 

This means that while councils may not directly pay for the furniture that a council house resident requires, they can connect them to charities who can either offer the pay for the furniture while the resident pays them back in instalments or sometimes they may simply make the payment on behalf of the resident(s) who is not expected to make any payment at all. 

Some social housing providers provide council homes that are furnished. In the case of any changes or repairs needed for the furniture, they are also willing to offer to repair or replace the items without any additional cost to the tenants. However, the furniture may be preloved and not brand new.

Can Home Improvements Be Done In Council Houses?

In case of home improvements to be carried out in a council house, you may have to seek permission from the council authorities prior to work commencing on the property. The expense of most of the following may be reimbursed by the council:

  • Toilet, bath, shower, wash-basin
  • Kitchen sink and work surfaces 
  • Storage cupboards 
  • Heating equipment 
  • Radiator valves
  • Insulation
  • Draught-proofing 
  • Double glazing or other window replacement
  • Rewiring, and fixing electrical fittings (including smoke detectors)

Who Pays For Home Improvement In Council Houses?

In some cases, certain home improvement tasks need to be carried out prior to home decor. These may include rewiring, extensive re-plastering or fitting central heating systems. You should make sure that there is a thorough assessment of the kind of home improvements that are required so that such work is complete before you start decorating your council house.

In most cases, your council or social housing landlord will bear the expense of major home improvements. However, tenants are expected to pay for basic essentials such as fixing a curtain rail or putting up a shower curtain in the bathroom.

Can Council Inspect My House?

Yes, council authorities have a duty to visit houses; both privately rented ones and especially council housing premises. Such visits are scheduled in advance and residents are informed ahead of the visit to expect a visit by the council authorities at a specified date and time.

The nature and purpose of this visit may vary. For instance, sometimes visits by council authorities are an informal assessment before a formal inspection is carried out for home improvement or extension work to be carried out.

The reasons for a council visit may include any other following:

  • Inspection or assessment prior to home improvement/restructuring/modification/extension tasks is planned.
  • Inspection or follow up on complaints of pest control.
  • Inspection or assessment in response to complaints by the tenant(s).
  • Inspection or assessment in response to complaints by the neighbours against the tenant(s). 
  • Inspection to check multiple occupancy status (if the resident claims to be a single occupant for the property).

Conclusion:

So far, we have learnt that there are certain specific guidelines regarding fencing of your council house boundary that need to be met. In the absence of a fence, you will have to check with your local council office or refer to your tenancy handbook whether the council will bear the responsibility for a fence or is it termed as the tenant’s sole responsibility. As long as you meet the given guidelines, you will not need Planning Permission’s approval before setting up a fence; however, you must attain written approval from council authorities before you proceed with the installation.

FAQs: What Are Council House Fencing Rules?

Which side of the fence is mine?

There are no rules regarding the ownership of a garden fence and whether you own the right or left side. The best way to proceed is to talk to your neighbours on both sides and mutually agree on terms to maintain the fence.

What is the law regarding garden fences?

Firstly, fences should be 1.8 to 2 metres in height at the rear and 1 metre at the front. Secondly, The tenant must get permission from the Tenancy Services Team before constructing a fence on the premises. Thirdly, your fence wall should be inside your boundary wall. Finally, tenants cannot remove existing fences without written approval from local council authorities.

What is the maximum height for a dividing fence?

According to the guidelines given by Planning Permission, fences should be 1.8 to 2 metres in height at the rear and 1 metre at the front. If someone intends to install a fence with different dimensions than these, they will need to attain written approval from Planning Permission.

Who is responsible for a boundary fence?

Installing a boundary fence on a new council property is the council’s responsibility. However, its maintenance n the long run will be the tenants’ responsibility.

What is the 7-year boundary rule?

There has been a general assumption that if squatters occupy a property for more than 7 years, they will become owners of the premises. However, there is no such rule in place for the illegal occupation of a property.

References:

Fences & gates

My council home has a garden – what do I need to know?

Which side of the fence is mine council house?

Garden Fencing

Kitchen and bathroom replacement

Council housing: Repairs and maintenance – GOV.UK

Council House – Applying for a new Kitchen and Bathroom – Home Swap.

Solar Panels For Council Houses 2021 | The Eco Experts

Carrying out improvements and alterations to your council home | Ipswich Borough Council

Decorating and improvements to your council home – Epping Forest District Council

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John has 22 years of experience in financial services. This spans across financial research, financial services (As a qualified mortgage broker and underwriter), financial trading and sales at global investment banks. While working as a publishing research analyst, he covered European bank credit and advised institutional clients on investment strategies at both JP Morgan and Societe Generale. John has passed all three levels of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) programme.

John has 22 years of experience in financial services. This spans across financial research, financial services (As a qualified mortgage broker and underwriter), financial trading and sales at global investment banks. While working as a publishing research analyst, he covered European bank credit and advised institutional clients on investment strategies at both JP Morgan and Societe Generale. John has passed all three levels of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) programme.