The starting point in the majority of boundary disputes is to try and precisely fix the course of the disputed legal boundary.
The first task will be to consider the title deeds. The deeds will contain a ‘parcels’ clause identifying the land which is included within the transfer. The parcels clause will often identify the land and boundaries by reference to a plan.
It is often the case that neither the parcels clause or the plan enable the boundary to be identified with sufficient precision to resolve a boundary dispute. The Land Registry Plan is based on the Ordnance Survey and the scale is often simply too small.
In those cases the Court will consider first other admissible evidence and if that is insufficient to resolve the matter, may draw upon a number of legal presumptions.
In considering other evidence the Court may for example look at old photographs, statements from local people, or previous owners of the property. The Court may look at the deeds to the property overall – so if the deeds provide for one party to maintain a boundary that may constitute evidence that the same party owns the land up to the boundary, on the basis that it seems unlikely that it would be intended that a party shall maintain a fence constructed on another person’s land.
Boundary plans marked by a ‘T’ or an ‘H’ denote responsibility for maintaining the boundary. The property subject to a ‘T’ has sole responsibility – whereas when the boundary is marked by an ‘H’ – responsibility is joint – and in likelihood the boundary will be a jointly owned structure.
As a last resort the Court may consider a number of legal ‘presumptions’. For example, in the case of wooden fences a Court may presume that a fence will belong to the owner on whose side the fence posts appear – with the fence panels being on the side of the non-owning land holder – the argument going that a landowner will want to put a boundary on the furthest outer limit of the boundary to their land.
Boundary disputes between neighbours often invoke emotions out of all proportion to the value of any land involved – and often the dispute over a boundary is only emblematic of deeper dislikes between neighbours.
A boundary dispute can easily ‘spill’ into an escalating dispute involving for example allegations of harassment, threats of injunction – see separate briefing notes on this site.
We suggest in the event of a dispute:-
- That you take legal advice early – as to the ownership of boundaries.
- That you seriously consider alternative means of resolving any dispute – for example mediation which can be a much quicker and cheaper means of resolving boundary issues. Any agreement reached at mediation can be transferred onto a supplemental deed clarifying any ambiguity over boundaries.
- It is often sensible to instruct a Chartered Surveyor to assess the boundary on the ground.