Every property has two ‘boundaries’ – a legal boundary and a physical boundary.
- The legal boundary indicates the extent of legal ownership and, usually, who is responsible for which boundary. It does not necessarily correspond with the physical boundary because legal ownership often extends, for example, to the middle of a road or drive.
- The physical boundary is the wall, fence, hedge or other object which marks the separation between one property and another.
WHY BOUNDARY DISPUTES USUALLY ARISE
Over time, a physical boundary can be knocked down, replaced, decay, disintegrate, become overgrown or otherwise generally unclear. It can also be regularly renewed and move slightly each time without anyone noticing. All these situations can lead to the ‘actual’ boundary being disputed. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to prove, one way or the other, precisely and categorically where the boundary should be.
HOW CAN THE TRUE BOUNDARY BE CONFIRMED?
All the evidence available should be studied carefully and an educated and considered assessment of the boundary position made having regard to that evidence. The evidence to consider should include:
- The title plan held by the Land Registry if the title or ownership of the property is registered.
- Physical evidence, i.e. is there any sign of a ditch or banking?, are there any remnants of fence posts or walling?
- Historical plans – these often show things which have long since disappeared.
- Ordnance Survey plans
- Aerial photos– these can be very useful depending on the age of the photo, the scale and the angle from which it was taken.
- Old planning applications can be of help because they would usually include a site plan.
- The memories of residents or previous owners. The neighbours or older local residents will often remember useful details.
HOW CAN A DISPUTE BE RESOLVED?
The key factors to achieving the successful resolution of a boundary dispute are reasonableness and compromise. After all, it’s hardly worth arguing about or falling out over what is usually a few inches of land. In any case, the legal costs often far exceed any gain in land ownership or value. Because of the difficulty in establishing exactly where a boundary should be, mutual agreement is the cheapest, quickest and least stressful way of solving a problem, otherwise you will need a Specialist Surveyor. Once you have agreed the boundary, have a proper plan drawn up and submitted to the Land Registry.