Boundary Disputes in Lockdown
Our skilled and experienced solicitors can assist you if a boundary dispute should arise between you and your neighbour.
One of the most common, and potentially costly, disputes that arise between individuals and homeowners are boundary disputes. Lockdown means that we are spending more time at home. As a consequence, we are becoming more aware of the actions of our neighbours: devoting more time to the garden, carrying out maintenance and gardening works, pruning hedges and painting fences may lead to disagreement between you and neighbour over the ownership of that hedge or fence.
Ownership of approximately 85% of land in England and Wales is recorded at HM Land Registry. The documents recording land ownership, as well as plans, historic documents and deeds are publically available on the HM Land Registry website. It is a common misunderstanding that the title plans produced by HM Land Registry can be relied upon to show accurately the boundaries to your property. However, this is not true. These title plans are usually subject to the “general boundaries” rule. There is no standard tolerance or measurement that can be used to work out how accurate these general boundary lines are. This means that there is no limit to the quantity of land that can fall within the scope of the general boundaries rule.
Determining the Boundary
When a court is required to determine the boundary between properties, there are several factors that will be taken into consideration.
1. Historical Documents
Firstly, the starting point is to look at the historic title documents and deeds. The court will interpret where the parties at the time of the conveyance intended the boundary to be.
2. Physical Features
Secondly, if the deeds are inconclusive, the court will take into consideration extrinsic evidence, which includes physical features on the ground.
3. Legal Presumptions
Thirdly, the court will take into consideration legal presumptions which have been established in historic case law. Once such presumption is the ‘hedge and ditch presumption’, which implies that a boundary will be on the side of the ditch furthest from the hedge. These presumptions are rebuttable if evidence can be adduced to suggest that it should not apply.
There are a number of myths surrounding boundary ownership such as ‘you own the left-hand fence when facing your house’ (or sometimes on the right!), or ‘the posts and rails of a fence are on the owner’s side.’ These presumptions do not have any legal standing. Often, deeds confirm whose responsibility it is to maintain a boundary wall or fence but this does not automatically imply ownership of that boundary wall or fence.
Boundary disputes are known for being notoriously expensive and in many cases, legal fees will be grossly disproportionate to the value of land in dispute. The court expects all litigants to fully explore alternative forms of dispute resolution, such as mediation before court proceedings can be issued.
How we can help
Our team has extensive experience in this area and are available to assist you if you believe your neighbour has encroached upon your land or has suggested that you have. Please do not hesitate to get contact our dispute specialist Annabel Mayer on 01284 727118 or Annabel.Mayer@ashtonslegal.co.uk who would be happy to take some initial details from you.
Please find below examples of recent matters we have acted on in the local area.
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