Solving a boundary dispute without going to court
Homeowners who feel that the boundary at their property is not where it should be, or that a neighbour’s extension goes over an existing boundary line, could go to court to have this dispute determined. This is usually only viable if you have legal expenses insurance, but sometimes an injunction may be needed to stop building work.
According to Dawn Kiddy, a solicitor with Petersfields LLP in Cambridge and Haverhill homeowners will usually be better off using a procedure developed by HM Land Registry to resolve boundary disputes which refers cases to a specialist tribunal. ‘Not only will this prove to be quicker, but it could also be cheaper, and it will mean that official records at HM Land Registry will be updated directly’.
Common causes of boundary disputes with residential property
Boundary disputes often surface when there has been a change of ownership in a property or when an existing owner wants to develop or extend their home.
Disputes also crop up when:
- boundary fences, hedges or borders are replaced or replanted;
- an over-ambitious extension extends beyond an existing boundary (often called ‘encroachment’), or
- owners want to improve their home by adding car parking or storage spaces.
The benefit of legal advice
Before taking any action, you will benefit from impartial advice from an expert solicitor to gauge the strengths of your claim or the weaknesses in your neighbour’s position and the likelihood that you will get the result that you desire.
If you are certain that the boundary is not where it should be, then you will need to establish:
- who moved it or encroached upon this?
- how did the change occur?
- when was this was done? If the property was occupied when the incident occurred, was a protest lodged at that time?
- was there a valid reason? For example, there may have been discussions or an agreement between previous owners or occupiers of the property.
Our solicitors can help you locate surveys, historic records and other vital evidence, including instructing a surveyor to draw up a detailed plan with measurements to assist you. These records will be essential for any court or tribunal claim.
Options for resolving a boundary dispute
Sometimes, whatever the merits of these cases, it may be better to take a commercial view and offer to pay something to the neighbour to get a disputed piece of land back. For example, if you wish to build an extension, this could be viewed as part of the development cost. Your solicitor can act as a go between and ensure that negotiations are concluded and recorded in satisfactory terms.
A letter from a lawyer could reap early dividends for you. Any settlement will need to be reflected in a deed which transfers the appropriate parcel of land, and the transfer will need to be registered at HM Land Registry to show the correct extent of the new or agreed boundary.
The Land Registry offers a process for resolving disputes about boundaries. However you might need advice from a solicitor to have the best chance of success. Where your neighbour contests your claim, then the case will be sent to the First-tier Tribunal, Property Chamber to resolve. It is likely that you will have better prospects of succeeding where your case has been properly and thoroughly prepared by a solicitor who will ensure that your Land Registry application complies with best practice. Your solicitor can also select a barrister to represent you at the hearing. The advantage of a tribunal case is that the costs are often lower and, as long as you do not behave unreasonably, then even if you lose it is unlikely you will have to pay your neighbour’s costs. This is a huge advantage over a court claim.
Your solicitor will also advise you on making or accepting any offers to settle the dispute before a hearing, and they will ensure that you remain protected on costs.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.