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Boundary disputes; where do you draw the line?

Posted by Jessica Thompson on 2nd February 2017

Becoming involved in boundary disputes with your neighbour can be both stressful and upsetting for you and your family. In extreme cases, it can even lead you to feel you have no other option but to sell your home to escape the problem.


Starting point – check your title

When you are buying either a residential or commercial property, you will normally have visited the property and had a thorough look around to make sure you are satisfied that you know what you are buying.


It is likely that you will then have gone to a Property Solicitor to seek advice, and of course, proceeded to buy it! During the course of the transaction, your Solicitor will have discussed a number of things with you, but (in this context) most importantly, the title to the property. The title document, normally known as ‘Official copies,’ consists of information about your property, including basic details, and for example, whether there is a right of way across the land or a covenant that you are obliged to comply with.


You will also have had a chance to see an overall title plan of your property which is lodged at the Land Registry and based upon Ordnance Survey maps. The plan will show the general boundary of the property by a red line.


You must always check this carefully to ensure the plan mirrors the extent of what you think you are buying.


When a problem occurs…

So, you are satisfied you know your property boundaries and you have now completed your purchase and are in occupation. Out of the blue, you receive a letter from your neighbour stating that a fence you have erected is across his/her land, which you thought was yours, and asking you to remove it. You are sure that it doesn’t cross the boundary line – what can you do?


Come to an agreement with your neighbour

You should of course talk to your neighbour before taking any action. An independent surveyor could perhaps be jointly employed to determine the boundary and the result be recorded by either an informal or written agreement (specimens are available from the Land Registry). You can then apply to the Land Registry for it to be recorded on your title.


Application to the Land Registry

If you can’t agree the boundary or the appointment of a surveyor with your neighbour, you can make an application to the Land Registrar to ‘determine’ the boundary under the Land Registration Rules 2003. This will require a thorough examination of yours and your neighbour’s property together with a survey of the land.


To make the application, you must supply both a plan identifying the boundary and any evidence you have to establish an exact boundary line. The Registrar will then give notice of the application to your neighbour, giving him/her time to make any objections to the application. If the Registrar is satisfied with the evidence, the boundary can be determined and noted on your title and title plan, as referred to previously.


Making an application to determine the boundary isn’t guaranteed to be successful and can be time-consuming and hard work, particularly when you are emotionally involved in it. You should be aware that if a dispute arises out of an objection to the application, this can be referred to the Land Registry Tribunal.


If you find yourself in a heated debate with your neighbour about a boundary, you must carefully consider your options before taking action. Determining the boundary does allow for a public record to be kept (i.e. on your title) of the extent of the boundary, but will not necessarily resolve the ongoing dispute with your neighbour.


If you are considering making an application, have been served with one, or are currently involved in a neighbour dispute (boundary related or otherwise), please speak to one of our specialist property Solicitors about what options are available to you and how best to achieve a satisfactory conclusion.


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