Drawing a line – is the land theirs or mine?
Boundary disputes usually arise when neighbouring landowners both believe they have a right to the same piece of land. They can be triggered by action taken by a neighbour carrying out work to their property, such as the installation of a new fence, pipes or drains, maintenance of hedges or even a change in ownership of land.
It is not always as simple as drawing a straight line down the middle and labelling it ‘theirs’ and ‘mine’. Instead, land boundaries can move over time due to various factors, impacting on your rights and land usage.
When a boundary dispute occurs, it can often be sudden and escalate quickly, so here are our tips to help.
Check your deeds
When trying to decipher who owns the land, your starting point should be to review the documents issued with the land, such as the deeds. These will usually contain an indication of the position of the boundary.
Note – deeds usually only show the general position of the boundary. Deeds are often old documents and so it is important to recognise the boundary may have been legally altered from this position.
Photographs should be taken of the disputed area to document the position of the boundary. This is particularly important if you or your neighbour plan to carry out any work to or in the vicinity of the disputed boundary.
Discuss the issue with your neighbour
It is always advisable to discuss the issue with your neighbour to find out whether an amicable agreement can be reached.
It is also worth considering the value of your relationship with your neighbour. By taking legal action over the dispute, it can result in some difficult conversations and damage existing and future relationships with your neighbours.
Consider the costs
If the land in dispute is not of substantial value or is not of any meaningful use to you, the legal fees required to resolve the issue may outweigh the value of the land. Therefore, it is important to consider more informal methods of resolution before resorting to court action.
Consult a surveyor
A surveyor will produce a plan providing an independent opinion as to the precise position of the boundary. If the surveyor’s plan does not help in reaching an agreement with your neighbour, it will still be required for any formal legal action which may be taken.
Check the local area
Looking at similar properties in the area can sometimes provide a useful insight into the position of the boundaries. This may not be definitive, but it can be helpful evidence.
Seeking legal advice sooner rather than later
If you find yourself in a boundary dispute or have concerns about the position of your boundary, you should not delay seeking legal advice. Attempting to deal with the issue yourself can end up costing you more in the long run.