What To Do With A Boundary Dispute
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Do you want to find out what to do if you have a boundary dispute? We look at ways to avoid disputes and how to resolve boundary disagreements with your neighbour.
How can I best avoid a boundary dispute in the first place?
When two people, most often neighbours, dispute the other's rights to a piece of land, this is a boundary dispute. These boundary disputes often arise when one person places a fence or other delineating structure on land which the other person thought was theirs.
One of the easiest ways to avoid a boundary dispute in the first place is to correctly determine where the boundaries of your land lie before you begin to change anything. Even actions or work that you do not think will be intrusive can lead to trouble down the line if you are not careful.
For example, if you plan to take down one of your hedges and replace it with a fence. This new fence will create a far more solid and notable boundary position than the hedge did, which could lead to a boundary dispute with your neighbour if they disagree with where you have placed it.
Again, determining exactly where the boundary of your property lies before you start is the best way to avoid these disagreements. Checking with your neighbour may also be a good place to start. By agreeing beforehand on where the boundary of your two properties is, you can begin working with the knowledge that no trouble will come from it.
If you disagree with your neighbour about a wall or fence
You can take steps to remedy any neighbour disputes you may have concerning fences or walls. Further examples of possible boundary disputes could be that a fence or wall needs repairing or a disagreement about who should pay to replace the fence or wall.
If you are not the owner of your home but are renting it, contacting your landlord to have them resolve the boundary is the best course to take. It is their property, after all, and they should act on your behalf regarding boundary disputes. Additionally, it would be best to not change any fences or walls on the property without your landlord's permission.
Try to find a solution with your neighbour.
Again, discussing your boundary with your neighbour is the simplest way to resolve any possible boundary disputes. If the two of you can come to an agreement about any fences or walls that lie between your properties, there will be no need to take any legal litigation or action, such as party wall agreements.
A party wall process is a method of delineating the boundary between your and your neighbour's piece of land. This is typically done between terraced or semi-detached houses, where ownership of the wall between your two houses is shared exactly in half. This can also be done for garden fences and walls.
Talking with your neighbour face to face will help you avoid any legal process such as party walls. However, it would be best if you were careful to note down what you and your neighbour agreed to regard your boundary.
If you feel uncomfortable talking with your neighbour, submit your questions to them in writing, or have someone question them on your behalf. But be sure to keep a record of any letters or emails you have sent and received to keep track of your boundary agreements.
Compromise is the easiest way to keep things civil. Agreeing to share the costs of any repairs to adjoining fences or walls will serve to maintain a good relationship between you and your neighbour. Resolving the dispute this way will also save you both money, compared with hiring a solicitor to provide legal advice or resolve a boundary dispute for you through mediation.
If you're not sure where the boundary is
When neither you nor your neighbour is sure where the boundary of your property is, it can be far trickier to resolve any disputes.
Searching the legal documentation you were given when you first bought your property can help determine whose property the boundary line fence or wall stands on. You may even find that you share responsibility for the boundary between you.
If neither you nor your neighbour has the relevant legal title deeds to determine your boundaries, you can purchase them cheaply from the Land Registry. It may also be a good idea to buy the relevant documents for your neighbour's property as well.
There may be information in their records that are not detailed in yours. If this does not resolve the dispute, you may contact any previous owners to see if they dealt with a similar disagreement and how they resolved it.
If you have the necessary documents, but they do not resolve the issue between you and your neighbour, it may be helpful to contact the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). They can send a chartered land surveyor to assess your and your neighbour's properties, as well as the title plans or documentation from the Land Registry, to discern where the boundary lies, ultimately resolving your boundary dispute.
If you want to do work on a wall that's on a boundary
Most times, any fences or walls between your properties will be subject to a party wall agreement.
These agreements apply to both internal walls within your home and outdoor boundaries in your garden.
Again, party walls ensure that the responsibilities and rights for the boundary wall are divided in half between you and your neighbour.
Given the shared rights of the party wall agreement, if you plan to work on the boundary wall, you will need to give written notice to your neighbour beforehand.
If you are unsure whether your boundary is subject to party wall agreements, you can check the GOV.UK website.
It is always best to seek the agreement of your neighbour before carrying out any work on the boundary between your properties. This is especially true for party walls. Therefore, if you can come to a civil agreement with your neighbour regarding any work you wish to carry out, this will be the easiest way to go about it.
How much does a boundary dispute cost?
Given the variety of circumstances and complexities that boundary disputes can often entail, it is difficult to say how much it should cost to resolve them.
While the length of string analogy is often overused, it is fittingly appropriate for such disputes.
The length of time and subsequent costs of resolving a boundary dispute has the potential to be considerably lengthy and expensive. This is especially true if you or your neighbour should take the disagreement to the Land Tribunal or the law courts for them to decide.
If the boundary dispute does make its way to the courts, resulting in a legal trial over the rights to the boundary, the solicitors and legal costs for both you and your neighbour can easily run to the tens of thousands of pounds. You can see why resolving the dispute civilly by first discussing it with your neighbour at the early stage is the best option.
Attempting to reach a reasonable agreement with your neighbour regarding the boundary dispute is the easiest way to establish who has the right to work on the boundary. Most professional property experts will take this initial approach.
At a personal level, coming to a reasonable agreement is the best course for both you and your neighbour. Naturally, saving legal proceedings and court hearings as a last resort will help maintain a happy relationship between you and your neighbour. And, of course, it is the cheapest way to go about alternative dispute resolution.
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.