Boundary disputes – a brief guide to defending your castle.
An Englishman [and Englishwoman’s] home is his/her castle; truer words were never spoken – especially when boundary disputes between neighbours arise.
A house purchase is likely to be one of your most significant purchases and when a neighbour encroaches on your territory, it is important to know the rights and recourse available to you.
How do boundary disputes arise?
The most common boundary disputes occur when one party builds a fence or wall on land which another person claims belongs to them. Other common causes include disagreements over the location of boundary lines and overhanging trees/foliage. Whilst the majority of disputes can and are resolved amicably, there is always a danger that protracted and expensive disagreements can develop.
How do I determine my boundary lines?
Unfortunately, this is not a straightforward task. The first port of call is to check the Land Registry title plans for the property. However, title plans only show general boundaries and attempts at scaling up the boundaries from the title plan will likely lead to inconsistencies.
The correct approach when determining the location of a boundary is identifying and interpreting the relevant conveyance or deed. This will be the approach of a court if called upon to determine the question of legal boundaries. If it can be found, the earliest relevant conveyance will be determinative of the position of the boundaries. This of course raises its own problems. It is often difficult to interpret old conveyances and it is likely that the the lie of the land will have changed significantly. For modern or new build properties, the conveyance/deeds should be sufficiently clear to identify boundary lines with certainty and ease.
How do I record boundary lines?
The best methods for determining boundary lines are either drawing and agreeing boundary agreements with your neighbours or applying for a determined boundary with the Land Registry. Depending on the nature of the circumstances, properties and the boundary lines in question, a simple agreement may suffice. In complex situations, or if you need assistance with the Land Registry, contact your solicitor.
What happens when boundary disputes escalate?
When boundary disputes escalate it might be time to instruct a solicitor. A solicitor will be able to review the dispute and advise you on the best course of action going forward.
There is a protocol for boundary disputes called the Boundary Disputes Protocol. This is a voluntary process that provides structure and guidance in boundary disputes. It is likely that your solicitor will adhere to this protocol to ensure that you are in best position possible to resolve the dispute. If it ends up in court, your solicitor will guide you through the process. However, this should always be a last resort due to the time and expense involved.
How to settle boundary disputes?
Your solicitor should always encourage settlement and will help you get to that point and negotiate the best possible settlement. Even if a settlement is not possible or not achieved, the court will look favourably upon a party that has attempted to settle. Having a solicitor in your corner will not only provide expertise and guidance, but should help in removing the emotion involved in boundary disputes. This will increase the chances of a resolution and settlement.
If you are involved in a boundary dispute and need assistance, get in contact today.