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How To Resolve a Boundary Dispute

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  • Admin
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  • residential property, boundary disputes, Establishing boundaries, boundaries
  • Posted date:
  • 07-08-2021
How To Resolve a Boundary Dispute

Do you want to find out how to resolve a boundary dispute in the UK? We look at common causes of boundary disputes and options for resolving the dispute.

Common causes of boundary disputes with residential property

Boundary disputes between neighbours in residential properties can arise for a number of reasons. Generally, these disputes occur after one of the properties has changed ownership or when the current owner wishes to make a development or add an extension to their home. 

Other reasons why a dispute may occur could include:

When fences, hedges, boundary lines, trees or borders are replaced or have changed position.

If a proposed extension or recently built development goes beyond the property's established boundaries. This is also often known as "encroachment". 

One of the property owners wishes to improve their home by adding space for parking a car or creating an extra storage room.

Establishing boundaries

The Land Registry cannot give you an exact title plan of where your and your neighbour's boundaries lie. The title plans the Land Registry has access to only denote the general boundaries of any property. 

The boundary information they have access to is created from mass Ordnance Survey mapping of the general area or piece of land and may not include specific boundary details, such as bay windows.

While some title deeds may tell you which boundary you are personally responsible for, this is not always the case. 

If you wish to find out which boundaries on your property you have the sole rights to, you can request a copy of your title register, title plan or any title deeds that the Land Registry has regarding your property.

It may be beneficial to request your neighbour's title plans and deeds as well. There may be evidence in their documents that also apply to your property. 

Being aware of these may better inform you of any trouble resulting from your proposed work on your boundary.

While the deed plans of your or your neighbour's properties may denote certain measurements regarding your boundaries, these will need to be interpreted. 

The boundary location may not be level, and it may be uncertain where the measurements were made from and how they were made.

People are often convinced that they are either responsible for their property's left or right-hand boundary, for example, if they live on a row of terraced houses. 

However, there is no legal precedent for this. When the Land Registry first surveys the land, it may detail which boundary you have the rights to. 

This is not common, but it will say so in the registry records if it was determined.  

The title deeds for some properties may denote "T" marks on the plan, suggesting that the property it relates to is responsible for the boundary's maintenance where the mark is. 

Some properties will have this relevant information provided by the initial constructor, but there are no ironclad rules. 

Suppose you consider changing your property's boundary, whether removing a wall or fence or repairing it. In that case, it is often best in the initial stages to check with your neighbour first. 

Coming to an amicable agreement is the best way to settle any dispute, and you can refer to your title deeds if necessary to establish ownership of the boundary later.

Options for resolving a boundary dispute

If you and your neighbour may be unable to come to an agreement or compromise regarding the jointly disputed boundary, there are other options open to you. 

Taking the commercial approach, you may offer to pay your neighbour to resolve a boundary dispute. You may think of this cost as just another renovation or construction cost for your proposed plans. 

Hiring lawyers or solicitors to act as the liaison between you and your neighbour will ensure the boundary dispute is properly conducted and documented. 

Legal advice and a properly formulated letter from your lawyer or solicitor may help to speed up the process. Any boundary agreements you can make must be registered in a deed with the Land Registry of England and Wales. 

The Land Registry is where to go when you need to resolve any boundary disputes with your neighbours. However, it is suggested that you seek legal advice beforehand to discover whether your claim is viable or not. 

Should your neighbour dispute your claims, your case will be sent to the Lands Tribunal and could potentially end up being decided upon in the county courts.

Cases that have been properly prepared and are legally sound will have a better chance of being accepted, and it will also mean that your claims meet all of the necessary standards. 

Taking your case to the first tier tribunal property chamber is often your best option, given that it is cheaper than the standard law courts and, so long as you are reasonable, you are less likely to have to pay for your neighbour's legal costs. 

Steps when confronted with an issue concerning a boundary

Being confronted by your neighbour's lawyer or solicitor can be an upsetting experience, especially if you cannot resolve your boundary dispute agreeably. 

Some lawyers actively avoid taking boundary dispute cases, while others enjoy the process of untangling what can often be a very complex and straining situation when resolving a boundary dispute. 

Given their complexity, the outcome of boundary disputes is often uncertain, but there are predetermined steps that you should take when first confronted with one:

The first thing to do is to establish where your boundaries lie using any conveyancing documents or title deeds you have regarding your property. You may need to request historical documents, such as the conveyancing report the solicitor created when the property was first sold. 

  Find any information you can on the ground. This could be previous investigations of the site, photographs, Ordnance Survey plans or even employing the services of an expert surveyor.

  It would also be best to consider any previous agreements or amendments that parties or previous owners may have made. These changes to the boundary between your properties may have been informal agreements, and contacting the previous owners may be helpful. However, since these agreements were made informally, their agreed boundary may not be binding when scrutinised by a lawyer or solicitor. 

Alternative dispute resolution

If, for instance, your neighbour refuses to pay for the maintenance of the fence or wall between your two properties. Even if it is not their responsibility, sharing the costs is usually the neighbourly thing to do. But when your neighbour refuses, boundary disputes may arise.

Here are a handful of ways in which you might resolve this kind of dispute:

The boundary owner may negotiate with their neighbour and attempt to resolve the dispute agreeably between them.

The owner could enter into an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), where they or their neighbour would then employ the services of a lawyer or solicitor to help with mediation and ultimately resolve the issue.

The final step you could take is to enter into litigation against your neighbour. In the words of the Ministry of Justice, this is an "unduly bitter" course of action, which will be extremely expensive and take up a vast amount of your time. 

Do you have questions about  resolving Boundary Disputes in Tonbridge, Kent or the surrounding areas? Would you benefit from the advice of a qualified RICS surveyor? Follow the link below to find out more.