Boundary disputes and your property rights
Sometimes neighbours disagree about the rights that they have over each other’s properties and often about the boundary between their properties. Unfortunately such disputes can be very distressing and resolving them can be difficult and costly. This is why it is important to understand your property rights and where you can find help in enforcing them.
If possible, it is better to avoid going to court, especially as you will still need to live next door to your neighbour; a friendly agreement would make the most convenient solution. This article has been written to help you understand your rights and suggests other ways you should consider resolving your boundary dispute before seeking litigation.
What is a boundary dispute?
It's fairly common for neighbours to dispute the precise position of a line between their properties. Generally such a boundary dispute relates to a strip of land that runs between yours and your neighbour’s property. A dispute occurs when both you and your neighbour believe you own the same piece of land. Such disputes tend to arise as the result of a fence being erected or changed, an extension or conservatory that covers what you believe to be your land, changes to the boundary features, or even overhanging trees and bushes.
How can a boundary dispute be resolved?
The best way to resolve a boundary dispute is by a mutual agreement between you and your neighbour. If you cannot agree between yourselves then you could consider mediation, which is a cheaper alternative than going to court. If all else fails, court may be your only option, though it is likely to be expensive.
Do the plans show the true position of the boundary?
Unfortunately discovering the legal position of the boundary is rarely as simple as looking at the property plans as they are not usually very accurate. Plans held by the Land Registry are of only limited value, as are those used for conveyances and new builds; even supposedly accurate plans attached to the original deed could be out by two to 20 metres.
What about the deeds to the property?
If you have the original property deeds that relate to before the property was registered with the Land Registry then you may be able to establish the position of the boundary at the time the deeds were produced. However, there are many reasons why the current boundary might be different from the original one. For instance if the land that you believe is yours was used by the owners of the neighbouring property for a period of at least 12 years before it was registered, then the neighbour may be able to claim squatters rights over it.
How would the court decide?
Resolving the boundary dispute legally is usually very complex. Plans and deeds will be taken into account, among other factors. Sometimes the decision is based simply on what the court believes to be the fairest solution after taking all the facts that have been presented by both sides into consideration.
What rights might my neighbour have over my property?
The rights that people might have over their neighbour’s property are known as easements. They might involve shared access ways, rights to enter a neighbour’s land in order to carry out maintenance and repairs to their own property and drainage rights.
How can I find out about my property rights?
Often property rights or easements are listed in the Land Registry entries. It may be necessary to contact previous owners in order to find out if such rights have been exercised in the past.
My neighbour refuses to agree with me. How much would it cost to take the dispute to court?
Litigation regarding boundary disputes and property rights can be expensive; potentially running into thousands of pounds. It is certainly worth trying to avoid going to court by using mediation and arbitration, which cost considerably less. You might also find that some or all of the costs are covered by your home insurance policy.
Where can I get help?
Disputes over boundaries and property rights can be very complex and are rarely resolved without help. If you are in such a situation and you need a local legal expert, then you can find your nearest QualitySolicitors branch here and receive Free Initial Assessment.