Boundary Disputes – Where to draw the line?
Boundary disputes: If you have a disagreement about boundaries with the owner of a neighbouring land, it is important to know what you can do to establish where the boundaries of your property are and know how to deal with any disagreements with the owners.
The best approach is to avoid boundary disputes at all cost. This may seem a strange thing for a litigation solicitor to be saying but often these disputes are very disproportionate when balancing the legal fees involved and the land at stake.
Avoiding Boundary Disputes
Boundary disputes occur when two parties both believe they have the right to a piece of land. Disputes often surface where one party erects a new fence or hedge, builds a wall or even paves their driveway.
The best way to avoid a boundary dispute is to ensure that you are certain where the boundary is, if in doubt speak to your neighbour or instruct an expert. You will, in theory, be living next door to your neighbour for many years to come and it is always advisable to try to amicably seek resolution to any disputes which arise.
For example, if you intend to replace a hedge with a fence, you should bear in mind a fence will set a far more specific boundary than the hedge did, and this could lead to a boundary dispute if your neighbours do not agree with where you have put it. For this reason, you should never change or add a boundary divider without checking with your neighbours first.
If a dispute does arise it is important you gather as much evidence as is possible to assist in identifying the extent of the land in question and the properties surrounding it. It would be advisable to examine the title deeds as this should include a parcels clause. A parcels clause sets out in the title deeds the land that is conveyed to you.
Unfortunately, in many cases, the boundaries of property are sometimes only vaguely defined, so existing documentation may not give you exact information and often the title plan is described as “for identification purposes only”. It should be borne in mind that if there is inconsistency between the parcels clause and the plan and the plan is described as ‘for identification purposes only’ then the parcels clause will prevail. However, where the parcels clause is inadequate the court may consider the plan, despite it being ‘for identification purposes only’ in determining the boundary of the land.
Photographs, boundary agreements, Ordnance Survey Maps (‘OS Maps’), statutory declarations from somebody with knowledge of the title, such as the previous owner, and a site visit may all assist in determining the boundary of the land. The best way however to deal with this situation is to try to reach an amicable resolution with your neighbour and agree where the boundary should be. If no resolution is possible with your neighbour, then discussing matters with a solicitor or surveyor would be the next sensible step.
If you can reach an agreement then it would be a good idea for all parties concerned to sign an agreement stating their acceptance of the location of boundary and attach a plan, drawn up by a suitably qualified surveyor, and submit it to the Land Registry to ensure the boundary is clearly established in the records.
Handling a Boundary Dispute
If you are already involved in a boundary dispute, you should seek the advice over the issue from a Chartered Surveyor (‘surveyor’) who specialises in boundary disputes. As set out above, identifying the extent of the land can be difficult and would in the first instance involve looking over the title deeds to the properties involved and consulting the Land Registry’s records.
It may be that the boundary can be established by the surveyor’s reports and accepted by your neighbour. Boundaries are however not always clearly defined by the title and plan and as such the surveyor may need to consider OS Maps, photographs and aerial photographs to assist in establishing the boundary. Your neighbour may also instruct a surveyor to carry out the same exercise who may end up disagreeing with your surveyor. When no agreement can be reached between you and your neighbour the matter will likely proceed to Court for determination.
There may also be issues with adverse possession which will need to be considered.
As I’ve already highlighted above, this can be a costly exercise and often far outweighs the value of the land in question.
Daniel Crate – rhw Solicitors llp
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Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute, legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss because of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact rhw solicitors in Guildford for the latest legal position.