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Resolving fence and boundary disputes

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Encroach at your peril...

I recently acted for clients who were forced into a boundary dispute instigated by new neighbours. The neighbours believed that a fence separating the properties was not in the correct position and sought a declaration from the court on the true position of the boundary and an injunction against my clients to have them move their fence to the appropriate position, per the plans registered at HM Land Registry.

My clients purchased their property in 2014. Their predecessors had, in 2005, previously sold off a section of land to the rear of their property where a further property was erected. Building works were completed in 2007. The plans to the 2005 transfer split the properties out of common ownership and set the boundaries. The neighbours purchased their property in 2015.

Despite the 2005 transfer setting the paper boundary, on investigation, it transpired that the seller of the land and the developer decided to ignore the plan accompanying the transfer and agreed on the position of the boundary between the plots, by ‘walking the ground’, just before the completion of the building on the new plot; and thereafter erecting a fence to demarcate the boundary. This agreement was never documented or registered at HM Land Registry. The fence was erected and all parties accepted the position on the ground at the material time.

Until the current occupants of the properties had taken ownership, no issue had ever been made of the boundary position.

The neighbours obtained expert evidence which set out that the physical features on the ground did not represent the boundary per the plans. That was not disputed by my clients; however, they contended that a valid and binding boundary agreement had been made between respective predecessors. The neighbours disagreed; suggesting that the agreement reached, to be binding, had to be in writing, as it effectively represented a transfer of land; and as such, did not comply with the section 2 of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1925.

The neighbours issued court proceedings and despite repeated efforts to resolve the dispute and settle the claim, the case proceeded to trial. The parties and relevant predecessors gave evidence on the boundary agreement that was made. The court ultimately decided in favour of my clients stating:

“.. I am satisfied that a valid boundary agreement was entered into… fixed the disputed boundary on the ground and marked it by the construction of a fence. That boundary agreement was not intended to transfer any land.. and accordingly  it did not need to comply with the requirements of section 2 of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1925.“

A boundary declaration was accordingly made in my clients’ favour. The neighbours were ordered to pay the very substantial costs that my clients had incurred in defending the claim and the declared boundary has also now been registered at HM Land Registry, to avoid any possible future dispute.

Boundary disputes are a complex area of law, despite initially seeming innocuous. They can get out of hand very quickly, resulting in expensive legal bills and what can sometimes be years of pain for those involved before a resolution is reached. They can also trap owners of properties; as they are unlikely to be able to sell their property whilst a dispute is ongoing. Obtaining the right advice and obtaining the right evidence, as early as possible, will help you resolve a dispute quickly and as cost effectively as possible.

At Stephensons, our dispute resolution team has specialist neighbour dispute solicitors who can assist with the most complex of disputes, including:

  • Boundary disputes
  • Easements (e.g rights of way / light etc)
  • Nuisance (e.g tree roots, noise, water ingress, damp etc)
  • Trespass
  • Adverse possession
  • Breach of covenants
  • Leasehold & freehold disputes
  • Party wall act disputes

Please feel free to contact us on 01616 966 229 to discuss your enquiry. We would be happy to assist you in getting the best result, as quickly as possible.