Boundary Dispute

Caragh Bailey
24/05/2021
3,125
5 min read
Boundary Dispute from Parachute Law: Two children's wood block toy houses sit on false grass, separated by a line of red string.

What do you mean by boundary dispute?

The title plan of your property shows the rough boundaries of your property. However, most properties in England and Wales do not have any record of the exact boundary, or the ownership of adjoining hedges, fences or boundary walls. As a result, homeowners frequently fall into property boundary disputes. If you want our help with a property dispute regarding the boundary, or otherwise, read about how our property dispute solicitors can help:
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For example:
  • The boundary wall is falling down and you disagree over whose responsibility it is to pay for the repairs
  • Your neighbour has mature trees which overhang your garden, shedding leaves and blocking light. They refuse to cut them back.
  • Your neighbour builds an extension which encroaches onto an alleyway used for shared access, you can no longer get a buggy or a wheelbarrow down the alleyway.

To avoid coming to a dispute, you can:

  • Apply to get the title plan corrected, if you think there's a mistake - Title plans are only general and are often based on ordinance survey maps where the boundary line approximates to 0.3 metres, with a margin of error of up to one metre. If you can explain why you think there's a mistake, and provide supporting evidence, you can apply for HM Land Registry to amend it. However, the title deeds may not be sufficient in themselves if you come to a dispute.

  • Make a boundary agreement with your neighbour - Most people wont need a boundary agreement if they have a good relationship with their neighbour and informal agreement about what belongs to who. However, boundary agreements can be helpful to set out who is responsible for maintaining boundary walls, fences or hedges and trees. Get legal advice before signing a boundary agreement with your neighbour.
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  • Apply for a determined boundary - If your property is registered with HM Land registry you can apply for a determined boundary, this will continue in effect after you or your neighbour sell the property. This will require plans from a chartered surveyor, showing the determined boundary, supporting evidence and a DB form. You will also need legal advice from a solicitor. If your neighbour disputes your application, HMLR will decide whether the objection is valid. If they think it is then they will give you an opportunity to resolve the matter yourselves. If you can't, it will go to tribunal. You may be ordered to pay your neighbours legal costs.
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How do you resolve a boundary dispute?

As a general rule it is best not to put up, or take down, any boundary partition without discussing it first with your neighbour. However, this is often not how things pan out in practise. If you cannot reach a suitable resolution between you it will have to go to the First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber - Residential Property​), or, in certain cases, to county court.

While not legally binding, the Property Disputes Protocol sets out a guide for best practise when dealing with your dispute and judges are likely to look on your case more favourably if you have followed it.

The main starting point to resolve a boundary dispute is to look at the wording of the conveyance and the conveyance plans. Behaviour by either party which gives evidence to their intentions may also be admissible, including boundary agreements, as well as features after the date of conveyance.

You will need a to have a chartered surveyor draw plans and then apply for a determined boundary as explained above.

Can I remove an encroachment?

Most cases involve encroachment. This is when one neighbour builds a wall, fence, or hedge on what the other neighbour believes to be their property. This is where we often see adverse possession claims. Adverse possession is established if one party takes possession of the others' property, without their consent, and maintains it exclusively for the limitation period (12 years). Or, if the land is registered, 10 years, if the squatter reasonably believed that they were entitled to the land. (A counter argument that the belief was unreasonable will not necessarily be enough to overrule adverse possession).

Always get a solid legal resolution before removing an encroachment, even in cases of adverse possession, as you may find that you are unlawfully damaging your neighbours property.

Can you sue for encroachment?

Yes. Apply for a determined boundary as explained above. If your neighbour accepts the boundary as shown in your surveyor's plans, they will likely stop or relocate works.

If they disagree and can find a surveyor who find reason to place the boundary in a position which gives your neighbour ownership over the disputed encroachment, it will go to tribunal.

Beware, however, in many cases the judge will not order your neighbour to remove the encroachment, but to pay you for the damages in lieu. These damages may not cover your legal fees and the judge could order you to pay your neighbours fees even if you win the dispute.

Frequently Asked Questions
Boundary disputes are a type of property litigation, most boundary disputes fit into one of four categories:

  • Plot line & party wall disputes
  • Fence, landscaping and outbuilding disputes
  • Access disputes
  • Adverse possession claims
Most cases have a twelve year limitation date. Contact us for legal advice specific to your dispute.

Are you facing a boundary dispute?

The process for settling a property dispute can be long and costly. If you don't have a legal agreement setting out your property boundary then get in contact with us and see how we can help.

We can assist with:
  • Referring you an excellent surveyor
  • Pre-action negotiations
  • Application to court
  • Preliminary hearing
  • Mediation
  • Court appearance

We have on hand counsel to support your claim and offer guidance along the way.

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