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COVID-19: Crossing the line – Boundary disputes!

Staying safe by spending more time at home during lockdown has been spoiled for some homeowners and tenants who are facing a dispute with their neighbours(!)

Unfortunately, lockdown has increased the number of property and neighbour disputes – we have seen a noticeable increase in enquiries from clients who face what can become an extremely unpleasant situation. 

Whilst property disputes encompass a whole range of issues, boundary disputes are the most common.

What is a boundary dispute?

A traditional boundary dispute arises when individuals believe they have ownership or rights over the same piece of land. On occasions, there can be a trigger event such as erecting a new wall or fence which divides the properties. Sometimes it can be the simple action of restoring or replacing an old fence which has had its day.

Boundary disputes can also arise at the time of purchase or sale of a home: this is a crucial time for any property owner as their home and the space around it is open to more investigation and scrutiny.  Boundary issues are therefore not an uncommon feature during the conveyancing process.

If you propose to make any changes which might impact on the boundary, it is extremely important to obtain the neighbouring landowner’s input. Communication is key at this early stage to avoid later disputes.

How can I solve a boundary dispute?

To facilitate discussions with your neighbour, it is advisable to obtain as much information as possible about the area in question. Understandably, your first step might be to obtain the Title Plans which are held at HM Land Registry (if it is registered land). Whilst this is a helpful starting point it will not give you the complete picture because the Land Registry Plan does not normally determine exactly where the true boundary lies. To develop your investigations further, it is advisable to consider the full set of Deeds to the land/area in question which will give you a fuller picture. The Deeds will describe the events which have affected the land over the years including the time when the area was divided to create a boundary. On occasions, you will find that the Deeds contain some very detailed plans and descriptions, but please be mindful that these can be difficult to interpret.

It is also important to bear in mind that whilst the plans/deeds are key, this is not the end of the story. There can be events which occur over the passage of time and may affect land such as agreements between various owners or the occupation of land to the exclusion of all others over a period of time (adverse possession).

It is therefore important to seek advice on these issues if you believe they could be relevant when determining a boundary line and any other issues associated with it.

If these issues remain unclear, it might also be advisable to obtain a short report prepared by an expert such as a chartered land surveyor who will often undertake a site inspection and consider the features on the ground when marking out the true boundary line. If parties are sensible and serious about resolving a potential boundary dispute, they often agree to share the cost of instructing a chartered land surveyor.

Regrettably, some boundary disputes do not resolve between parties despite their good intentions.   

At this stage, you might find that you have little option but to reach out and seek expert legal advice once you have exhausted other avenues. At Emsleys, we are experts in dealing with boundary disputes. We take a pragmatic approach to resolving disputes and devise cost-effective case plans for clients as we understand their needs.

If you have attempted to resolve a dispute with your neighbour amicably and now require legal support and assistance, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team by calling 0113 232 1030 or emailing dispute.resolution@emsleys.co.uk.

 

Gurpreet Birdi

Written by

Gurpreet Birdi

Associate Director

Gurpreet is an Associate Director. She is a solicitor in our Dispute Resolution team with significant expertise in civil and commercial disputes. She specialises in contested wills and probate, financial service litigation and professional negligence.

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