Are You In Dispute About A Boundary?

The boundary between your property and your neighbour’s can be a source of significant and long-lasting problems. The exact line of the boundary might not be clear in the deeds. While you might have believed for many years that a particular piece or strip of land is yours, your neighbour might genuinely believe equally strongly that the land is theirs. Disputes often arise in commercial and agricultural settings, but increasingly also with residential property.

Tensions between neighbours can also arise where damage is caused. If your neighbour allows fire, smoke, a crumbling wall, or even invasive weeds, to cross the boundary, and cause damage to your property, then you may be able to claim compensation from them.

How To Resolve Boundary Disputes

New buildings and extensions, garden walls, hedges, fences and other structures will often be placed on the boundaries between properties. While these are usually in the right place, if they are not, the aggrieved neighbour will demand that they are demolished or moved.

Disputes over boundaries will often also involve disputes between neighbouring landowners about rights of way and easements. Where a boundary has been in place for some years, a claim for adverse possession may be involved.
Because boundary disputes relate to people’s homes or land, they easily and quickly assume an emotional importance out of proportion to the size or value of the land involved. Disputes can last a long time, be complex, and physically and financially draining for all involved.

For those reasons, the best approach to a disputed boundary line is to aim for a quick solution agreed by both sides. Often a land surveyor is used to determine the true boundary, and if both side agree in advance to be bound by the surveyor’s findings and to share the cost, it will lead to a reasonably satisfactory outcome for all.

If no agreement is possible, then the court can be asked to determine the boundary. However this must be a last resort. The very expensive legal cases over tiny bits of land that occasionally hit the headlines are a warning about the true cost of such claims.

Boundary Disputes And The Value of Your Property

When you are trying to sell your property, whether a house/flat or an area of land, if you are in dispute with your neighbour about the boundary it will almost certainly reduce the value. You will have to declare the dispute to the purchaser, who will demand a discount to reflect the fact that they are buying into a dispute.

Far better is to try to resolve the problems with the neighbour before you try to sell. That way when disclosing the (former) dispute to the buyer, you can also disclose the new deed showing the boundary, or settlement document.

Where A Professional Has Made A Mistake

What happens if you buy a property but the boundary was not marked in the right place by a solicitor or other professional? Or you buy a property on the basis of a surveyor’s report, and it turns out that the boundaries were not measured correctly?

In those circumstances, you are likely to be able to bring a claim against the professional. If they have made a mistake which has caused you a loss, then they would probably be found to be negligent. All professionals have insurance for claims against them, and so if you bring a claim the insurance company would provide the funds to compensate you.

Party Wall Act

The Party Wall Act 1996 is intended to help prevent and resolve disputes over party walls (common walls between properties), boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings. If your neighbor is proposing to carry out works to or near the wall, they must give you notice. If you do not wish to accept what your neighbour proposes to do, the Act provides a mechanism for resolving the dispute.

It is important to take advice about a particular set of circumstances. Call us today to discuss your situation and how we can help.

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