Man outlining boundaries. SAM Conveyancing's guide on boundary disputes
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Boundary Disputes

30/06/2021
(Last Updated: 17/05/2024)
487
8 min read
Every property has its own boundaries and unfortunately, there rarely is a record of a clear delimitation between yours and your neighbour's properties. On newer title plans there are “T"s labelling boundaries, which indicate the ownership and responsibility to maintain.

If there is a 'T' on both sides of a boundary, this shows the boundary is a wall/fence which means there is a joint responsibility for the maintenance of the wall/fence (read more about Party Walls. But what about older title plans? This article goes into detail regarding:


    1

    What is boundary dispute?

Whether it be a boundary wall or boundary fence, neighbours can often end up in a dispute over who owns the land. With fences being moved or hedge rows growing wider, many home owners fear losing part of their land. Home owners are right to worry about this, especially with the law of Adverse Possession (the rules for this are different, depending on if your land is registered at the Land Registry or if it is unregistered). It is interesting to note that there is no special meaning in law to the word boundary, however in land ownership it is understood in two ways:

    a
    Physical Boundary
A registered title almost never shows ownership of individual boundary structures such as walls, fences and hedges. There may, however, be some relevant information on the register or in Land Registry’s files. For example, Land Registry may have kept a copy of a deed that refers to a boundary declaration or agreement, or to the ownership or maintenance of boundaries.

    b
    The Legal Boundary
A legal boundary deals with the precise separation of ownership of land. It is an invisible line dividing one person’s land from another’s. It does not have thickness or width and usually, but not always, falls somewhere in or along a physical boundary feature such as a wall, fence or hedge. The exact positions of the legal boundaries are almost never shown on registered title plans, which can give rise to a boundary dispute.

    2

    How do you prove a boundary line?

Many people think that their title plan is evidence of their legal boundary and you'd be forgiven for thinking this. The Land Registry title plan is generated using Ordnance Survey maps and the data held at the Land Registry. The title plan is not evidence of your legal title and in fact uses the General Boundaries system which shows the boundary of your property in relation to other physical features on the ground such as hedges, trees or walls.

It is very important to note that the red edging on a Land Registry title plan is not definitive as to the precise position of the title's boundaries. For this reason official copies of title plans carry the following warning:

'This title plan shows the general position of the boundaries: it does not show the exact line of the boundaries. Measurements scaled from this plan may not match measurements between the same points on the ground'.

How do you check your boundary before you buy the property?

If you haven't yet bought the property, then you should use the Office Copy of Register of Title Plan as a guide to gauge your boundary. Although a title plan it isn't an exact reflection of your legal boundary, it can be used see any material changes to the physical boundary compared to the title plan.

The truth is that it is very difficult to prove your legal boundary unless you employ the services of a land surveyor to use old title plans (if available) to try and locate the legal boundary of a property. Before you can start any dispute regarding your boundary you will need to first get a Boundary Survey.

    3 How do you win a boundary dispute?
Boundary disputes between neighbours are very common. Before raising an issue you should get as much information together as possible such as:


What are examples of boundary violations?


Changes to boundary such as over growing hedges or the changing of a hedge to a fence (or vice versa). You should seek the consent with your neighbour before making any changes to your boundary.

Extensions to property such as building too close, or over your neighbours boundary. You should provide plans to your neighbour of what you are planning to build. Your neighbour may not be happy with your planned works, however you can still get their acceptance where you are planning to build.

What happens if you have no boundary feature?

If your property doesn't have a hedge or a fence then you should speak to your neighbour before erecting a fence. Putting up a physical boundary without your next door neighbours consent is more than likely going to lead to a dispute over your legal boundary. Read on to find out what you should do.

    4

    What can I do if my Neighbour disputes boundary?

Working on an amicable solution is critical as the legal costs can go into the thousands and the damage to your relationship with your neighbour might be irreparable. You can address the dispute by either drawing up a Boundary Agreement, or if this can't be agreed you can apply to get a Determined Boundary.

  • Boundary Agreement

A boundary agreement may be appropriate where neighbours are in agreement as to the boundary between their properties. The agreement can deal with the position of the legal boundary, or the maintenance of a boundary feature (such as a hedge), or both.

For example, owners may agree that the legal boundary between their properties is the middle of a hedge (and that each will keep their side of the hedge below a certain height). Or there may be a post and rail fence and a brick wall running close together between two properties and the owners agree which of the two possible boundary features marks the legal boundary.

An example of a Boundary Agreement:

This agreement is made on 15th July 2014 between John Smith of 112 Juniper Avenue title to which is registered under title number XX12345 and Mary Duggan of 111 Juniper Avenue, London title to which is registered under title number XX67891.

The parties agree that the legal boundary between the land within their respective registered titles and running from the point marked ‘A’ to the point marked ‘B’ on the plan attached is as shown by the red line drawn between those points.

Signed by Land Owner
[Witness (Signature, name and address)]

Signed by Neighbouring Land Owner
[Witness (Signature, name and address)]


Once the Boundary Agreement is signed and witnessed, both you and your neighbour can register it against their title at the Land Registry (meaning it'll be easily available if in the future there are any further boundary disputes). To register the Boundary Agreement you'll need to complete a AP1 form and pay the registration fee.

  • Determined Boundary

A Determined Boundary shows the exact line of the boundary of a registered estate, although The Act does not define exact. A determined boundary plan should be created by a qualified land surveyor who has adequate skill and training. The surveyor will need evidence of both titles, original deeds and even aerial photos of the two titles.

The Land Surveyor uses this information to provide their opinion of where the legal boundary is for your title. A surveyor will normally survey the boundary to be determined in one of two ways:

  1. by the use of measurements from permanent features; or
  2. by the use of Ordnance Survey National Grid co-ordinates (this would normally only be appropriate in remote areas, where there is little in the way of suitable permanent features, or where taped measurements would be excessively long. Using co-ordinates requires specialist surveying equipment and is likely to be the more expensive option.

To register your Determined Boundary at the Land Registry you'll need to complete a DB from. The form requires you to provide information of all adjoining owners (freehold legal owners) and any supporting evidence, such as your land survey. You'll also need to send payment for the cost of registering the Determined Boundary.

The Land Registry will contact the adjoining owners following receipt of your DB form to seek their approval to your Determined Boundary. If your neighbours dispute your application, then the Land Registry will refer the dispute to the First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber - Land Registration). The tribunal will make a decision on what should happen and you could have to turn up to a hearing.
Frequently Asked Questions
SELL
TYPES
Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Written by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands-on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.
Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
Reviewed by:

Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.


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