Written by Jess Nield
In England and Wales, there is usually no record of the exact boundary between two properties and who owns the tree, fence or wall that divides the two. This is because boundaries can change greatly over time and often even if the boundary started as a straight line, it may have shifted slightly or changed direction as a result of the removal or replacement of it and because of any agreements between the predecessors of the properties. This makes it more complex to resolve a boundary dispute as there is not a formal boundary that can be evidenced in order to prove who is right. In fact, the problem is often worsened when people rely on Land Registry Plans to find out where the boundary falls as the majority of the plans are not drawn to scale and therefore cannot give an accurate representation of the boundary.
If you believe your plans are incorrect or you are unhappy with the boundary arrangement in place, you should primarily discuss it with your neighbour and see if you can come to a decision about it together.
If an informal discussion does not resolve the issue, most disputes can be settled by the instruction of an expert who would consider the Title Deeds and various other information such as old photographs, witness evidence and the actual property to give their assessment of where the boundary is. However, it must also be noted that sometimes when you and your neighbour both obtain such an expert, they can give contradicting views.
After receiving advice from an expert, the next step would be to apply for a determined boundary which would require you to submit a plan of your property (completed by a Chartered Surveyor) with evidence to attest as to why the boundary is correct. If your neighbour objects to your application the Land Registry office will then have to assess whether or not their objection is valid and if it is, they will give you and your neighbour the chance to come to an agreement. If you cannot, your dispute will then be passed on to a tribunal. If the tribunal approves your application, the Land Registry office will send you a copy of your updated title and register and the determined boundary will be recorded. However, if the tribunal rejects your application, it will either set the exact boundary or decide not to set any boundary and if this happens you may need to pay your neighbour’s legal costs.
Boundary disputes are fairly complex matters due to the changeable nature of boundaries which makes them difficult to classify. Although it is always advised that you try to resolve the matter simply with your neighbour, if this is not possible you should seek legal advice for the best way to proceed with the claim, advice should be taken sooner rather than later to try and minimise any dispute.
If you have any questions about boundary disputes, please contact Alison Rocca or Hannah Vachre in our litigation department
Edited by Alison Rocca