Boundary Disputes: A Quick-Fire Guide to Law and Practice + Boundary Disputes Protocol

Boundary Disputes: A Quick-Fire Guide to Law and Practice | Jamal Demachkie | Hardwicke Chambers | 12th February 2020
Boundary Disputes: A Quick-Fire Guide to Law and Practice

Much like the equator, the tropics, or the UK’s “red-lines” in Brexit negotiations, a boundary is just another imaginary line. In this case a two-dimensional one separating two or more properties. It does not exist in any physical form, yet it has the ability to render perfectly rational neighbours senseless.

Stories are legion of neighbours falling out and incurring tens of thousands of pounds of legal costs arguing over this imaginary line. Sometimes the encroachments are substantial; more often than not, however, the trespass is entirely disproportionate to the value of the land. And even after the parties have their day in court, the matter often does not end there. Frequently, the decision taken by a judge leaves neither side happy; it may have ramifications over future ownership of boundary features, and you can all-but guarantee that the neighbours (who, after all, must still live next door to one another) never revert to “neighbourly” relations.

Nevertheless, on some occasions there is no alternative. If a neighbour encroaches over an already small garden, or trespasses over a boundary so as to prevent the owner from constructing an extension, then an encroachment of a few centimetres may well lead to a justifiable dispute. This author has had personal experience of a judge awarding a party £10 nominal damages for a trespass of 10cm (offset by a hefty order to pay the other side’s costs on an indemnity basis), and also of a judge granting a mandatory injunction and substantial damages for an encroachment of 1.75 inches. The latter case involved reducing the size of an alleyway to render it virtually unusable. As with so many things in the law, context is everything.

So, if you are faced with a boundary dispute, where do you turn? This article provides some practical guidance on where to start, where not to start, and the role of the judge if the matter reaches court.

Boundary Disputes Protocol
[see below]

A good place to start would be the Boundary Disputes Protocol, a non-binding pre-action protocol developed by a number of leading practitioners in the field. Unlike the CPR pre-action protocols, this protocol has no status in law; nevertheless, it provides a “best practice” guide to the early resolution of these disputes, and compliance with it is likely to be looked on favourably by any judge.

An expert surveyor

Poor quality boundary surveys are rife. A large proportion of disputes could be avoided by obtaining a high-quality survey at an early stage; this will inevitably involve a detailed plan (which should be in electronic format so that it can be reproduced, and from which detailed dimensions can be taken).

In many cases, specialist chartered land surveyors should be used. All too frequently, experts without specialist experience produce poor quality plans and reports, which do little to elucidate the position on the ground and, oftentimes, cause further confusion and entrenchment of positions.

RICS provides a useful search function on its website from which specialist surveyors can be located.

Presumptions, rules of thumb and myths

“You own the left-hand fence when facing your house.”

“You own the right-hand fence when facing your house.”

“A T-mark on a plan shows that you own the fence.”

“The Land Registry title plan lets you scale up to confirm measurements.”

Firstly, let us begin by destroying some commonly believed myths concerning boundaries. In spite of the best efforts of certain people to tell you, quite categorically, that you always own the left (or sometimes the right) fence in your garden, this has no basis in law.

Then there is the cause of so many boundary disputes: people scaling up from their title plans at the Land Registry to show that their boundary fence is in the “wrong position”. There are many things wrong with this:

  • The Land Registry title plans do not (save in the uncommon situation of a “determined boundary”) establish the legal boundaries of the properties with any precision.
  • The plans used by the Land Registry are based on ordnance survey maps and are deemed to show only what are described as “general boundaries” (section 60, Land Registration Act 2002 (LRA 2002)). In such cases the exact line of the boundary is left undetermined, irrespective of what appears to be shown on the title plans.
  • Furthermore, the thickness of the line on the plan itself approximates to 0.3m on the ground; this is even ignoring the knotty problem of relative accuracy and margin of error on OS maps (which, on a 1:1250 map means that a boundary feature may be inaccurate by up to approximately one metre).

All of this shows that reliance on Land Registry title plans will, in the vast majority of cases, be virtually worthless.

Not even T-marks provide the assistance perceived by many. Contrary to popular belief amongst many practising in the field, a T-mark on a plan does not raise a presumption of ownership. Although T-marks may indicate ownership of a boundary feature (see Seeckts v Derwent [2004] EWCA Civ 393), that is not to say that they raise a presumption in law that the boundary feature belonged to the landowner (Lanfear v Chandler [2013] EWCA Civ 1497). After all, the T-Marks may simply identify the subject matter of an express repairing covenant and not indicate ownership of that feature itself. Instead, the T-marks are simply one of a number of admissible factors which assist in understanding the ownership of boundary features.

There are some presumptions which do have a place in law. The Hedge and Ditch rule provides that where two properties are separated by a hedge and a man-made ditch (or a bank and ditch), there is a presumption that the boundary is along the opposite edge of the ditch from the hedge or bank (see Parmar v Upton [2015] EWCA Civ 795 for a modern application of this rule).

Land abutting a highway is presumed to extend to the middle of the road (subject to the surface vesting in the Highways Authority, if appropriate), and the same presumption applies to owners of property abutting a natural non-tidal river.

There is also some merit to the presumption that “if the fence panels face away from you, the fence is yours” (see Hawkes v Howe [2002] EWCA Civ 1136).

It must be recalled, however, that these presumptions are all rebuttable and some (such as the fencing presumption) appear capable of rebuttal on the slightest of evidence to the contrary. In the vast majority of cases, the presumptions will not provide anything like a definitive answer.

Where then, does the court begin?

Determining a boundary: the law

Anyone looking to understand a boundary dispute would be well advised to consider the judgment of Mummery LJ in Pennock v Hodgson [2010] EWCA Civ 873, which sets out the law succinctly and adroitly, and begins with the simple phrase: “How to construe a conveyance”.

When determining the position of a boundary, the court’s task is to ascertain the historic boundary line at the date of the earliest conveyance (that is, when the land was first divided). In construing that conveyance, the court must adhere to various principles. It must ultimately consider what a reasonable person, standing in the position of the parties with the relevant objective factual background knowledge, would have understood it to mean. The parties’ subjective beliefs about the position of the boundary are inadmissible.

It has been said that the topographical features of the land at the time of the conveyance are often determinative of the position of the boundary; as courts frequently state: “having the conveyance plan in your hand” to identify the features at the date of the conveyance is an appropriate method to ascertain the boundary.

Of course, how easy it is to understand the lay of the land at the appropriate time depends on the date of the operative conveyance itself. The boundary features of a new-build property a few years old will be easier to determine than those of a house constructed in the 19th century!However, this really comes down to a question of quality, and probative value, of evidence; it does not impact on the legal principles to be applied.

Adverse possession

Once the paper-title boundary is established, this should be the end of the matter. However, it frequently is not. Those involved in boundary disputes must be wise to the principles of adverse possession.

In respect of unregistered land, a “squatter” may have acquired title to their neighbour’s land (so as to “move” the paper-title boundary line) if they have been in exclusive possession of the land for 12 years. Even in respect of the more prescriptive rules for registered land, the third condition to paragraph 5 of Schedule 6 to the LRA 2002 permits adverse possession of land if a neighbour has been in possession, for at least ten years, of land adjoining a general boundary and the squatter “reasonably believed” that they owned the land over that time.

What is meant by “reasonable belief” has been subject to two Court of Appeal decisions: Zarb v Parry [2011] EWCA Civ 1306 and IAM Group Plc v Chowdrey [2012] EWCA Civ 505, which make it clear that the mere fact that a neighbour has challenged the position of the boundary will not of itself render the squatter’s belief unreasonable, or defeat a claim for adverse possession.

Relief

Assuming that the neighbours cannot reach a resolution, and the matter progresses to court, a judge will apply the law and reach a decision on the boundary line. The judge will, in many instances, need to grapple with adverse possession of the land. However, that does not mean that the court will necessarily grant the remedy that one side, or the other, wants.

Firstly, the parties may find that the judge prefers a boundary line which neither side put forward: one which might involve both sides “losing out”, and potentially being ordered to remove encroaching structures from either side of the declared boundary line.

Secondly, even if the trespasser has constructed a structure over the boundary line, there is no guarantee that the aggrieved party will be granted the injunction they seek for its demolition. The little known Court of Appeal case of Harrow LBC v Donohue [1995] 1 EGLR 257 provides that courts cannot refuse an injunction where a claimant has been dispossessed of land to which he or she has title (the ratio seemingly on the basis that it would be unacceptable to sanction the expropriation of the claimant’s land).

Harrow was doubted (but ultimately distinguished) in the High Court case of Site Developments (Ferndown) Ltd v Barratt Homes Ltd [2007] EWHC 415, and it is suggested that the ratio cannot now survive the Supreme Court case of Coventry v Lawrence [2015] UKSC 50, which restated the law on damages in lieu of injunctive relief.

Indeed, the recent Court of Appeal case of Rashid v Sharif [2014] EWCA Civ 377 overturned an order granting a mandatory injunction and substituted it for damages in lieu in respect of a modest trespass.

These recent cases show that judges are not obligated, in boundary disputes, to order the removal of any encroachments and could merely award damages in lieu. This may well amount to a pyrrhic victory for the “winning” neighbour.

Costs

Of course, by the time parties reach court, the trial is often more about costs than recovery of the land itself. Again, the court retains a general discretion on costs under rule 44.2 of the Civil Procedure Rules. It is by no means unheard of for a judge to disallow costs of a “successful” party in a neighbour dispute who has exaggerated or inflated the importance of the claim (or even order the winning party to pay the other side’s costs). It is common for a judge to say “a plague on both your houses” and make no order as to costs.

As always, “without prejudice save as to costs” offers, compliance with pre-action protocols, and an early offer to mediate will always stand a party in good stead in a boundary case.

Reform

As can be seen, boundary disputes are fraught with difficulties and, in the majority of cases, litigation costs will dwarf the value of the land itself. There have been calls, for a number of years, for a more refined and cost-effective process of determining boundary disputes, or at least narrowing the issues before they find their way to court.

RICS has long been at the forefront of efforts to promote alternative dispute resolution for property disputes. It is understood that later this year, RICS, in conjunction with the PLA, will launch a joint ADR service for boundary disputes. As with most forms of ADR, use of the process will be voluntary and there is currently no means to force parties to seek resolution of their boundary disputes outside of court.

The Property Boundaries (Resolution of Disputes) Bill seeks to alter this. This is a private members bill which has been making its way slowly through Parliament since 2015. This Bill provides for the mandatory expert determination of boundary disputes by a surveyor before the commencement of any court proceedings (much like the Party Wall etc. Act 1996), and is intended to provide a quicker and cheaper alternative for the resolution of boundary disputes. Unfortunately, with the prorogation of Parliament in 2019, the passage of this Bill was halted.

On 15 January 2020, the Bill was re-introduced. Time will tell whether this long-running Bill will make its way onto the statute books.

This article was first published in the Thomson Reuters Practical Law Property Column.

This content is provided free of charge for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of Chambers or by Chambers as a whole.
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Protocol for Disputes between Neighbours about the Location of their Boundary (The Boundary Disputes Protocol)

1. Preliminary

1.1 This Protocol applies where neighbours are in dispute about the location of the boundary between their properties.  It applies both to residential and commercial properties. It assumes that attempts to resolve the dispute by informal discussions have failed, and that a more structured dispute resolution process is therefore needed.

1.2 The aim of this Protocol is to provide such a process, which seeks to ensure that neighbours exchange sufficient information in a timely manner to minimise the scope for disputes between them; and to enable any such disputes to be readily resolved, keeping costs to a minimum. 

1.3 Boundary disputes usually involve issues both of legal interpretation and of surveying judgement.  Adjoining owners should bear in mind that, in order to investigate these matters properly, legal and surveying advice may well be required, and that the cost of obtaining such advice is frequently out of all proportion to the value of the land at issue. 

1.4 It is not the function of this Protocol to provide advice to the parties. However, some guidance is set out in the accompanying Guidance Note and the Supplementary Guidance Note.  Land Registry Practice Guides also provide useful guidance – see Useful Links.

1.5  If there is a dispute about the location of the boundary, or there is reason to believe that there might be one, neither party should interfere with any physical feature which might be a boundary feature, or with any land (or anything on the land) which the other party claims to be theirs, until after the dispute has been resolved.  Both parties (and any professional advisers) should avoid doing anything else which might unnecessarily exacerbate the relationship between the parties, and/or which might increase costs unnecessarily.


2. Exchange of Information

2.1 As soon as it appears that there is a dispute about the location of the boundary, the parties can agree to adopt this Boundary Disputes Protocol.  The date on which this occurs will be referred to hereafter as the Start Date.

2.2  Dates by which certain steps are to be taken are set out below, by reference to the Start Date.  If at any stage either party cannot comply with the timetable, they should notify the other as soon as possible of the reason for that, and, if there is a good reason, the parties should seek to agree a revised timetable.     

2.3  Within 2 weeks of the Start Date, the parties should:

(a) if their property is registered, provide  the other party with official copies of the Land Registry title information relating to their own property; and

(b) seek to agree whether any determined boundary exists, or whether there is any note about a boundary agreement in the official copies.  If there is, then no further steps should need to be taken, because such information should resolve the dispute[1].  

2.4  If the dispute is not resolved at that stage, each party should assemble all the information they have in their possession, or which they can procure, within 4 weeks of the Start Date.  This will include:

(a) past conveyances of either property (for example in a deed packet given to them on purchase, or held by their solicitor or lender);

(b) any further conveyances which are referred to in the official copies relating to their property which they are able to obtain, for example from the Land Registry;

(c) Photographs of either property which show the disputed boundary features.

The parties should exchange copies of such documents within 4 weeks of the Start Date[2].   

2.5  At the same time, if either party considers that they may have an adverse possession claim which will render further investigation of the paper title position pointless, they must inform the other party, and set out the basis for their claim, supplying the following information:

(a) a description or plan of the area which that party claims is or has been in in their possession;

(b) the period during which it is claimed that the land has been in the possession of the party or their predecessor, and whether the claim is an “old-style” claim or a “new-style” claim. (This is explained in the Guidance Note.)

(c) if the claim is a “new-style” claim, the basis for contending that the party had a reasonable belief that the land belonged to them, or, if they do not rely on the third condition in Schedule 6 paragraph 5 of the Land Registration Act 2002, which condition they rely on, and on what basis. 

2.6  Where a claim for adverse possession is made (whether a “new style” claim or an “old style” claim: see the Guidance Note), or where one party relies on a historic boundary agreement, the other party should explain the basis for opposing this claim within 6 weeks of the Start Date.

2.7  Within 7 weeks of the Start Date, the parties should:

(a) seek to agree whether they have the first conveyance by which the properties passed into separate ownership (“the First Conveyance”), and if so, which one it is; and

(b) if they do not have the First Conveyance, discuss what other steps can or should be taken, when and by whom, in order to find the First Conveyance;

(c) seek to agree, if an adverse possession/boundary agreement claim is made, whether to proceed to investigate the paper title position, the adverse possession claim/boundary agreement, or both. 


3. Appointment of professional advisers / Negotiation

3.1  Many boundary disputes will involve a claim for adverse possession.  This is a complex and specialist area.  Anyone claiming adverse possession should seek legal advice as soon as they appreciate that an adverse possession claim is likely to arise to make sure that their position is protected: see the Guidance Note.         

3.2  In simpler cases which do not involve adverse possession, the parties should consider:

(a) whether they can exchange information in accordance with this Protocol without needing professional input;

(b) having exchanged information, whether they can reach an acceptable resolution by direct negotiation or with the assistance of a mediator before incurring the cost of legal and surveying advice, bearing in mind the value of the land at stake, even if that means accepting something less than they would ideally like.   In preparation for such a negotiation or mediation, the parties should ascertain (preferably by asking the advisers that they will retain if the dispute cannot be settled) what costs they will incur if the matter cannot be settled. 

3.3  In all cases, the parties should within 8 weeks of the Start Date discuss whether they wish to negotiate or mediate at this stage, or proceed with the next steps in the Protocol. 

3.4  If legal advisers are not instructed on both sides within 8 weeks of the Start Date, but are subsequently instructed, the legal advisers should consider whether a further negotiation or mediation is appropriate, and inform the other party, within 2 weeks of appointment.  If agreement is not reached at that stage, the parties and the legal advisers should keep under review whether a further negotiation or mediation is appropriate.


4. The Paper Title Claim 

4.1 Once the First Conveyance has been identified, each party must consider what evidence they will be able to adduce about the physical features which existed on the ground at the date when the First Conveyance occurred (and any other relevant issues of fact).  The parties should exchange any documentary evidence they have (eg old photographs/aerial photographs), and identify the proposed witnesses of fact, and what they will say, within 3 weeks of the date when the First Conveyance is identified.   

4.2   If the First Conveyance provides accurate plans, and the parties cannot settle the dispute, it is likely that expert surveying evidence will be needed.  In some cases, other types of expert evidence will also be needed, for example, to assist in the interpretation of aerial photographs. For convenience, all such experts are hereafter referred to in this Protocol as “the expert”.

4.3 In most cases where boundaries between gardens are disputed, and in some other cases, it will not be proportionate for the parties to have an expert each.  In these cases, an expert should be jointly appointed (which means the expert owes the same duties to both parties, and the parties share the costs).  The expert should be instructed within 5 weeks of the date when the First Conveyance is identified, and should be asked to produce a short report within a further 4 weeks.  Instructions should be given on the basis of Part 35.3 of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR).

4.4  A jointly appointed expert who is a surveyor should carry out the following tasks:

(a) produce an accurate, computerised, plan of the physical features existing on the ground at the date of inspection;

(b) plot onto that plan the line shown on the First Conveyance plan, or, if there is more than one possible interpretation, the various possible boundary lines;

(c) explain why the various possible boundary lines arise – ie what interpretation of the First Conveyance and/or the other evidence leads to that line being chosen; and

(d) produce any photographs which the expert considers will assist.    

4.5 In other cases (for instance, where there are proposals to develop one or both of the properties and the precise location of the boundary is important for the development proposals), it may be appropriate for the parties to instruct an expert each.  Instructions to the experts should be given within 5 weeks of the date when the First Conveyance is identified.  As above, instructions should be given on the basis set out in CPR Part 35.3, so that the experts are aware that in the event of litigation the duty of the experts is to help the tribunal which decides the dispute on matters within their expertise and that this duty overrides any obligation to the person from whom instructions are received or by whom they are paid. 

4.6 Short reports should be exchanged within 4 weeks after instructions are provided to single experts.  The experts should, within 2 weeks of the exchange of reports, have a discussion in order to identify to what extent they are able to agree, and agree a short summary of their discussion which should be provided to both parties.    

4.7 Whether an expert is a single joint expert or an expert instructed by one party, they should be provided with everything which the parties have exchanged in accordance with the Boundary Disputes Protocol. 

4.8 Further guidance about what to expect from surveyors can be found in the Supplementary Guidance Note


5. Adverse possession

5.1 Where this issue arises, each party should, within 14 weeks of the Start Date, provide to the other party all relevant documentary evidence and information about who the witnesses of fact will be and what they will say. Relevant documentary evidence might include photographs, aerial photographs, and receipts for works done on the boundary.

5.2  In some cases, expert evidence may be necessary – for example, if there is a difference of interpretation of plans, or there are aerial photographs.   In cases where a boundary between gardens is disputed, it will usually be appropriate for the parties jointly to instruct a single expert. This may also be appropriate in other cases. In some cases, it may be proportionate for each party to instruct their own expert. In either case, the expert or experts should be appointed within 16 weeks of the Start Date, and should be asked to report within 4 weeks of their appointment.  If each party has an expert, the experts should, within 2 weeks of the exchange of reports, have a discussion in order to identify to what extent they are able to agree, and agree a short summary of their discussion which should be transmitted to both parties.    


6. Dispute Resolution

6.1 The parties should meet again within 2 weeks of the date on which the last of the steps set out above is taken, in order to see whether they are able to agree the boundary.  If possible, that meeting should take place at the location of the disputed boundary with the expert (or experts if more than one was instructed).  Any discussions should be on the basis that they are “without prejudice” and so cannot be relied upon in subsequent legal proceedings, unless a binding agreement is reached: see section 7 below.

6.2  If they cannot reach an agreement in principle, the parties should consider whether some form of alternative dispute resolution procedure would be more suitable than litigation and, if so, endeavour to agree which form to adopt.  The options for resolving disputes without litigation include:

(a) arbitration by a suitably qualified and experienced lawyer or surveyor agreed upon by the parties or appointed in default of agreement from the Property Panel of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators by the President of that Institute;

(b) expert determination by an independent third party (for example, a barrister, solicitor or surveyor experienced in the relevant field); or

(c) mediation – a form of facilitated negotiation assisted by an independent neutral party. 

6.3    If the parties cannot reach agreement after complying with this Protocol then the final step will be for the dispute to be referred to the appropriate tribunal; either the Court or (by way of a Land Registry application) the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) (Land Registration) for determination.  Parties should be aware however of the substantial costs consequences of taking such action and that the risk of paying costs may be greater if they have failed to take steps equivalent to those set out in this Protocol, particularly alternative dispute resolution.


7. Agreement

7.1  In reaching an agreement, it is important that the parties are clear about what is being agreed.  Agreements can be reached by reference to lines on plans or lines on the ground.  If the parties are negotiating by reference to a line on a plan, they should be clear that they understand where on the ground this line will lie.  It is generally wise to negotiate by reference to a line on the ground (ie to mark out on the ground the line being proposed), to ensure that there are no misunderstandings.  

7.2  It is also important for the parties to be clear, if “an agreement” is reached on site or during the course of a without prejudice meeting, whether the agreement is intended to be immediately binding (and followed by a written document recording the agreement); or whether it is intended that the agreement will not be binding until a written document is executed.  It is suggested that the former will often be more satisfactory. 

7.3  If the parties reach an agreement (or an agreement in principle) by reference to a line “on the ground”: 

(a) The parties should ensure that the line is marked, by stakes where it does not accord with existing physical features, at the time they reach their agreement.  As disputes are often about a few inches of land, the parties should make sure that they agree on which side of the stakes the boundary lies. 

(b) The expert (or experts – or if none have previously been instructed, a jointly instructed expert) should be instructed to survey the line agreed, and produce a plan within 1 week, showing the agreed boundary line coloured in red.

7.4  Conversely, if the parties reach an agreement (or an agreement in principle) by reference to a plan, unless the line follows an existing physical feature, the expert (or experts if more than one was instructed) should be instructed to transpose the line on the plan onto the ground, for example, by placing stakes along it, in order to bring home to the parties, for the avoidance of doubt, the position of the line in relation to existing physical features. 

7.5  In all cases a written document setting out what has been agreed will be required.   The parties should annex the plan to a written agreement and record that in order to settle a dispute as to the location of the boundary, the parties have agreed that it should run along the line shown, for example, coloured red on the plan annexed.  It will often be wise to have the agreement drawn up by a lawyer.   

7.6       Each party should apply to Land Registry to note the agreement against their titles.

Written by:

Stephanie Tozer

Guy Fetherstonhaugh QC

Jonathan Karas QC

Nicholas Cheffings

Mathew Ditchburn

Date:

September 2017 


[1] Disputes concerning boundary agreements, particularly where it is alleged that there was a boundary agreement in the past which is not noted in the register, are possible but beyond the scope of this Protocol.

[2] The parties should also consider at this stage whether there is anyone other than their neighbour who should be involved in the resolution of the dispute, for example their own or their neighbours’ mortgagee, or any tenants.

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Property Protocols

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Drawing the line on boundaries | Adam HookwayHM Land Registry | 27 February 2018

Boundary white line on a sports pitch

I often get asked questions about boundaries and they tend to be some of the hardest to answer. A boundary feature can be a fence, wall, hedge, ditch, piece of wire, or sometimes even just the edge of a driveway. They can be the cause of heated debate and trigger arguments between neighbours, sometimes over just a few inches of ground.

In my experience, the boundary can often become the weapon of choice when neighbours have fallen out over something such as noise, pets, parties, or BBQs when the washing is out.

I always start by explaining that we can’t tell you exactly where your legal boundary is, as our title plans show general boundaries. The information is based on large-scale Ordnance Survey mapping and is generalised to some degree. For instance, it may not show small juts in the boundary or bay windows.

We can’t tell you which boundary feature you are responsible for either, though some registers may refer to this. If you want to check if we have any boundary information, you can get a copy of the title register, title plan, and any ‘filed’ deeds we have for your own property and your neighbour’s property. A deed plan may refer to measurements but these have to be interpreted, as the land may not be level and you don’t know where they were measured from or how.

People often think they are responsible for the left (or right) hand boundary wherever they live, but there isn’t any legal basis for this. Sometimes deeds lodged with us when we first register the property may have information about it, in which case it may be mentioned in the register. In a lot of cases though, the deeds make no mention.

Then there are cases where the deeds refer to ‘T’ marks on a plan and include wording such as ‘to maintain the boundaries marked with an inward facing T mark’. Larger developments tend to have some indication provided by the builder, but there are no hard and fast rules, I’m afraid.

If you want to change an existing boundary, such as replacing an old fence with a new one, we always recommend discussing with your neighbour first and making sure it is all agreed. The registered titles can help you to reach an agreement, but only if this information has been added.

Suburban fence panels have fallen down, making the boundary unclear.

Who can help with boundary disputes?

Boundary disputes can be complex and I always suggest getting some legal advice if a dispute is in danger of flaring up. If a dispute continues, it is ultimately a Court that makes decisions, but they do not like such disputes being put before them.

There are other organisations that can help you before things get to that stage, such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) who have a boundary dispute helpline: 02476 868555. They can’t solve the dispute for you though, so do remember if you can reach an agreement with your neighbour it can be a lot less stressful and certainly a lot less costly.

Call the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Boundary Dispute Helpline on 02476 868 555

Important points to remember

The main things to remember are that:

  • our information can sometimes help, but is only part of a bigger picture
  • the title plan will only show you the general boundaries of the property
  • there’s more guidance on property boundaries if you need more information
  • we cannot help you resolve your boundary dispute or provide legal advice. If you need help, contact RICS or call their boundary dispute helpline on 02476 868555. If you need legal advice, see a solicitor

Tags: boundarygeneral boundaries

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3 thoughts on “Boundary Disputes: A Quick-Fire Guide to Law and Practice + Boundary Disputes Protocol

  1. First-rate information always crucial and necessary. Especially in the ever-increasingly hostile environments of relentless territorial disputes. Whether concerning large or small territories or privately owned lands/property, the context and legal aspects, within domestic, as well as international, laws, are relative, recognizable and adaptable globally to any and all boundary/border disputes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on HUMANS 4 HUMAN RIGHTS and commented:
    First-rate information always crucial and necessary. Especially in the ever-increasingly hostile environments of relentless territorial disputes. Whether concerning large or small territories or privately owned lands/property, the context and legal aspects, within domestic, as well as international, laws, are relative, recognizable and adaptable globally to any and all boundary/border disputes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on | truthaholics and commented:
    A timely reminder of the foibles of the human condition and the need for sensible resolution instead of escalation ,. The raison d’etre of healthy living is good neighbourliness, whether domestically or nationally in our post-colonial post-WWII construct. Good neighbours turning bad is a nightmare for all concerned, because 2 simple words learnt by all infants in the school playground cease to apply: ‘Not Yours!’. Good neighbours share coffee not hostilities.

    Liked by 1 person

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