Possession is nine-tenths of the law

Neighbour disagreements can be some of the most contentious type of disputes; and the possession of land is frequently an issue that arises in boundary disputes.

Here are my top tips for neighbours facing a dispute about land ownership:

  1. Not sure who owns the fence?  The person who owns a boundary fence can be different to the person who is obliged to maintain it, the details of which are often found within the title deeds.
  2. Fence in the wrong place?  It is difficult to establish the exact position of a legal boundary with reference to the title plans, due to the scale and other tolerances.
  3. Is my hedge the legal boundary?  There is a difference between a physical boundary such as a hedge or brook, a general boundary as denoted in many title documents, and the legal boundary which is a hypothethical line with no thickness or width which separates two titles of land.
  4. Does my neighbour have the right to claim adverse possession if the fence is in the wrong place? The essentials for adverse possession are that the squatter must have intention to possess the land, must have factual possession of the land, must do so without the landowner’s consent.  If left unchallnged for a period of at least 10 years, the position of a fence line can lead to a claim of adverse possession.
  5. How do I find out where my boundary line exists?  A surveyor can be instructed to prepare a report on the boundary position, and the adjoining landowners can seek a ‘determined boundary agreement‘ which can be registered with the title deeds for the two or more properties.

It is important to remember that, long after the boundary dispute has ended, you will still be neighbours with the other party.  Or alternatively you may want to sell your property, in which case you will need to consider if you need to notify the prospective buyers of any potential for dispute.

Solicitors can often help to resolve land disputes through mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution, working towards a pragmatic outcome for all involved.

My neighbour is stealing my garden! I think the fence is in the wrong place and our lawn should be a metre bigger: Should I take him to court?