Boundaries and Disputes Information That Can Help
As one of the most common causes of disputes between two neighbours, boundaries can often be a bit of a headache. You might not know where the true boundary lies or who has the responsibility of maintaining parts of the boundary. The legal position indicated in the title deeds might not always reflect the ground positioning, and you may even find that the deeds don’t answer all of the questions.
Some boundary disputes can become long and expensive battles, particularly when the parties involve solicitors. And, it’s not unheard of for legal fees worth thousands and thousands of pounds to be accumulated by these warring neighbours, even though the land they’re arguing over isn’t worth half of that. Because of this, it’s always recommended to try and come to some kind of amicable resolution, and there are a number of things that need taking into consideration when trying to resolve a dispute over a boundary.
You can purchase a boundary pack here, which will help identify boundaries and legal ownership.
The Land Registry Title Plan
Despite popular belief, the position of the boundary on registered land that is indicated in the title plan (or filed plan) is only approximate. It cannot be used as evidence for solving boundary disputes as the exact boundary line isn’t determined by the Land Registry when registering the title.
Form DB – Apply to the Land Registry to Determine Boundary
This form is used to determine the exact line of a boundary and will often provide you with the best place to start if you’re involved in a dispute over boundaries. Once submitted to the Land Registry, they will look through the old title deeds alongside any other physical evidence (i.e. old historic photographs) to try and conclude where the true legal boundary lies.
This will only be confirmed should there be enough evidence to certify this. If there isn’t, they will not resolve it. Therefore, if you are considering this route, it’s a good idea to try and put together as much evidence as is possible beforehand – try obtaining photographs, witness statements and documents which detail this.
The Title Deeds
You will often find that most plots of land have, at some point, been part of a larger estate, meaning that there will have had to have been a transfer of part when it was split from this. This document (normally referred to as a conveyance or transfer) can often prove invaluable when determining boundaries and who is responsible for what.
A ‘T’ will normally indicate the maintenance responsibility and whoever’s side this falls on is therefore responsible for maintaining that boundary. If no ‘T’ is shown, it will be assumed that both neighbours should share the responsibility of this boundary. This can sometimes be confirmed by the deeds.
Again, this plan is not an exact representation of the boundary, unless the deed says otherwise. A description of the extent of the land will normally be contained in the deed and it is this part that should be depended on. For example, you may find something like the following: “the plot of land being 50ft by 100ft and bounded to the East by Old Road and to the West by New Road.” Of course, this will only provide a conclusive answer if you are able to determine the boundaries of Old Road and New Road.
Boundaries can shift and change over time through adverse possession and this occurs when one person assumes possession over someone else’s land by treating it as their own. This can often occur when one neighbour erects a boundary fence that technically lies on their neighbour’s land, meaning that they have assumed a strip of their garden as their own.
The principal of adverse possession means that, subject to other considerations, the person who erected the fence in the incorrect position (the ‘adverse possessor’) shall become owner of this land if 12 years passes without any objections being raised, even if such an objection is made after 12 years.
The Hedge and Ditch Presumption
When a legal title is proved inconclusive and a boundary dispute needs resolving, a rule of law called the ‘hedge and ditch presumption’ can be used. This law was established following a dispute over two neighbouring fields when the approximate position of the boundary was recognised and in the area it was known there was a hedge with a ditch next to it.
It was reasoned by the Court that the person who planted the hedge and dug the ditch must own the land upon which this was done. They reasoned this by suggesting that this person couldn’t have injured the land (dug the hedge) without committing trespass on their neighbour’s land. They also commented that in order to dig the ditch, he must have placed the dirt onto his own land and that it was reasonable to determine that the hedge was consequently planted in this dirt. It also made sense that hedge would be planted on the boundary line (in front of, rather than behind, the ditch), meaning that the boundary must be on the hedge’s far side.
This example is just to show how a logical approach is used when a boundary dispute cannot be resolved with the title deeds. If a fence separates two pieces of land and has done so for many years, it is likely that the boundary lies here unless the deeds show that this isn’t the case. In reality, why would someone put a fence through the middle of their own garden?
You can order a boundary pack here, which will help identify boundaries and legal ownership.