Is the fence really worth fighting over? The fiercest boundary disputes can be fought over the smallest piece of land, and they are not uncommon among homeowners.
If a boundary dispute is not easily resolved, legal fees can run into the thousands of pounds, and end up costing far more than the piece of land which lies at the heart of the dispute. Here we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about boundary disputes.
What is a boundary dispute?
A boundary is a line that marks the extent of land ownership by a property owner as decided by HM Land Registry. In most cases, the line will constitute a hedge, fence or wall.
Boundary disputes occur where the owners of neighbouring properties disagree on where the boundary line lies. Boundary disputes tend to arise when a new owner moves into a property and takes issue with the boundary agreement between the neighbour and the former owner. But boundary disputes can arise at any time.
How do I determine a boundary line?
When you buy a property or acquire it through some other means, such as inheritance, you must register the property with HM Land Registry. The property will then be registered and the ‘general boundaries’ of the plot will be defined by HM Land Registry and included in the final document, otherwise known as the title plan.
However, it might be that the previous owners of the property established definitive boundaries to the property, having entered into a ‘boundary agreement’ with the neighbour. You can agree with your neighbours where the exact boundaries are, but make sure to have everything in writing and signed by both parties, should a dispute ever arise. You can then have the details of this new agreement added to the title plan of your property.
Can I build over the boundary line?
The Party Wall Act permits you to build up to or astride the boundary line with your neighbour, but the correct processes must be followed. If you want to build a party wall near to or on the boundary line, you must tell your neighbour in writing. You have no right to build astride the boundary line, so if your neighbour objects, you may have to alter your plans.
How can I resolve a boundary dispute?
Whether you are trying to enter into a boundary agreement with a neighbour or trying to determine the exact boundaries, disputes are not uncommon. If there is a disagreement between neighbours, an objection must be made in writing to HM Land Registration. At this stage, it may be useful to seek legal advice. There will then be an opportunity for all parties involved to enter into a negotiation to reach an agreement. If no agreement can be achieved through negotiation, the case may be referred to a tribunal.
To resolve a boundary despite both sides need to be willing to compromise. Talk to your neighbour calmly, try to maintain friendly relations and avoid a full-scale dispute. When boundary disputes get personal, they can become more difficult to resolve. Unless the land is worth a lot of money, the legal costs can quickly exceed the value of the land in dispute.
To avoid legal action, you and your neighbour could jointly appoint an independent chartered land surveyor experienced in boundary disputes – and agree to accept their decision. They will survey the land, check deeds and the plans attached to them, and refer to historical documents and aerial photographs. The chartered land surveyor will prepare a new plan marking out your agreed boundary line for submission to the Land Registry as a Boundary Agreement.
How much does a boundary dispute cost?
Boundary disputes can cost a considerable amount, especially if the dispute goes to a tribunal or court hearing. If this is the case, it is not uncommon for both sides to run up legal costs into the tens of thousands of pounds. We recommend you think carefully before starting legal proceedings and attempt find an amicable resolution to the dispute.
How can I avoid a boundary dispute?
Given that resolving a boundary dispute can be costly and time-consuming, it is wise to try to avoid it occurring in the first place.
Make sure you firmly establish the boundaries before you change anything, be cautious and always check your plans with your neighbour first, as even work you think won’t cause an issue could be contentious. For instance, replacing a hedge with a fence will set a more specific boundary, and your neighbour may disagree with where you chose to put it.
If you need guidance on property boundaries or you’re looking to buy a property in the Wimbledon area, contact us today.