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Boundary Disputes and the law

I specialise in property litigation, particularly neighbour disputes involving boundaries, adverse possession, nuisance, covenants and property rights,as well as claims for professional negligence. 

I am particularly skilled in resolving these disputes through mediation and other alternatives to Court. I have acted in a number of landmark cases including Chapman v Godinn properties [2005] EWCA Civ 941, Kupfer v Dunne [2003] EWCA Civ 1549 and Zarb v Parry [2011] Civ 1306

Kevin Morgan, Property Solicitor

Boundary Dispute Solicitor Kevin Morgan asks; where is the Boundary?

By Kevin Morgan on 04/09/2014 with comments

If you are letting your property then a disputes between neighbours over the boundaries or competing rights can be particularly problematic. You may have little or no day to day control over what your tenant does in relation to the neighbours. The legal fees in cases between neighbours can be prohibitively expensive, unless you have some form of legal expense insurance for that case.

Hedges that grow out of control, dilapidated fences, shared driveways and building works can all give rise to potential problems if not managed properly.

Most cases between neighbours arise when one party is trying to prevent the other from carrying out some sort of activity. This could be to move a fence that is blocking a shared drive, or crosses the boundary line. The Courts can grant an injunction to stop the wrong doer, or make then undo what they have done

However this is up to the court and is a decision based not only on who is wrong, but a balance of the convenience of both parties.

It is open to the court to award damages instead of or as well as the injunction, and you could be liable for these damages depending on the circumstances.

The existence of a dispute, whether current or historic, can also be something that you are required to disclose on sale of the property, and could put off a future buyer.

As with many things, prevention is better than cure. Maintaining a good relationship with your neighbours and having a clear understanding of your property rights are crucial to this. In particular, where are your boundaries?

Identifying where the boundaries to your property actually are sounds simple, but in fact may not be. There is no formal legal record of exactly where all boundaries are, though the Land Registry of course records ownership of all registered land. A short guide to determining your boundaries is as follows

1. The correct legal boundary can be found by referring to the transfer or conveyance that split your land from that of your neighbour. That might be recent if you bought a house on a new development, from the 1900s if you own a Victorian terrace house, or centuries ago if your property is older. If that document clearly defines the boundary, then that is where the boundary is. Beware though; the Land Registry and their plans to do not purport to define boundaries. See their General Boundaries Rule. They do give good general guidance though. Ordinance Survey maps do not do so either; they show a representation of what is on the ground, which may not be the true legal boundary.

2. If the transfer or conveyance does not, or is lost, then you can look at other evidence. This might be an original boundary feature such as the remnants of the first fence, aerial photographs or development plans.

 3. Adverse possession (squatters rights) can operate to legally shift the boundary from its original position to a new one with the passage of time and satisfaction of clearly laid down criteria.

Not a straightforward task, and if you have any doubts or are concerned that a dispute might arise, then take legal advice.