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How Do I Resolve a Boundary Dispute?

Most properties have boundaries like walls, hedges,fences, edging and stones; however, it can become unclear over time who the boundary belongs to and who owns the land between two properties.

Boundary disputes often occur when one homeowner replaces a boundary without gaining permission or consulting their neighbour first, or when new people move next door and take issue with a boundary that the old residents saw no problem with. You should never make changes to a boundary without talking to your neighbour first.

Boundary disputes also often occur when a homeowner wants to build right up to a boundary. A dispute can be settled by simply talking to your neighbour about your intentions as they too may be affected by your plans, and you need to ensure your building work remains within your boundaries and on your land.

You should maintain these boundaries and clearly define them. Amicable solutions are always best, so talk to your neighbours and agree with them the location of the boundaries, as this will help prevent a boundary dispute.

To maintain these boundaries, there are a few simple measures you can take. Cut hedges to ensure they do not grow taller than 2 metres. Fences too should be no higher than 2 metres high without planning permission, and fences facing the street can be up to a metre without planning consent. Any plants or trees that overhang into your land can be cut off and returned to your neighbour.

Rules and regulations relating to driveways can be found in your shared driveways title documents. If you plan to separate two driveways with a wall on your land and partly on your neighbour’s, you need to gain permission from your neighbour to do so. Those in semi-detached or terraced houses who share a wall with their neighbour is known as a party wall, and you will also require permission from your neighbour before work can be carried out.

However, sometimes it can be difficult to decipher a boundary and define a boundary line. Boundary lines can change over time and these changes are rarely recorded.

It is believed that the way a boundary is constructed dictates who owns the land. Yet, a boundary does not always belong to whoever’s land it is on, and a boundary does not necessarily outline a border.

Boundary lines on Land Registry plans are generalised and not accurate enough to resolve a dispute as they often only show the approximate location of a boundary. Further, it is difficult to find legal documents and deeds that indicate the precise location of the boundary and whose responsibility that boundary is. Ordnance Survey maps are also not clear enough to define the precise legal border.

Hence, this lack of clarity of the exact location of boundary lines leads to boundary disputes.

If a boundary dispute does occur, seek expert advice from a chartered surveyor. Don’t rush to court, as you will pay thousands in legal fees for a few centimetres, which is a mighty price to pay for ownership of a fence, overhanging branches, hedges, shared drainage or driveway.

A chartered surveyor will survey the land, check deeds, investigate historical documents and legal documents, and refer to features of the land and photographs to resolve the dispute and provide evidence for who owns the land.

Once the dispute is resolved, they will then draw up an accurate plan to mark out your new agreed boundary line and submit it to the Land Registry. The boundary line will now be legally binding under the Land Registration Act 2002 as a Boundary Agreement.

If the dispute remains unsolved, the chartered surveyor can act as an expert witness in court. If there is not enough evidence to resolve the boundary dispute, the boundary will belong to both property owners as a party boundary.

Get in touch today or call us on 0333 200 7198 for more information regarding boundary disputes and find out how our RICS chartered surveyors can resolve your boundary dispute.