Out of Bounds – Dealing With Boundary Disputes

Partner, Tim Townsend advises on what to do in the event of a boundary dispute.

It happens. Neighbours fall out about ownership of their boundaries. Sometimes it’s because of the height of a hedge, sometimes an obligation to repair a damaged fence, or maybe just the location of the boundary. What’s certain, however, is that boundary disputes are often expensive to resolve and can permanently damage relations between neighbours.

It is sometimes possible to find the evidence to determine boundary ownership and, when there isn’t evidence, there are presumptions of ownership to turn to. Look first at your title deeds, the documents registered at HM Land Registry, and preregistration deeds if they are available.

If you own a modern property which has been built on a recent development, the deeds often make boundary ownership clear, but if the property is older it is less
likely but still possible that boundary ownership will be on the deeds. Who owns the boundary?

If the deeds and documents do not help, then some established legal presumptions may help decide who owns a boundary. If the boundary feature is a fence or wall, supported by upright posts or wall supports on one side, there is a presumption that the fence or wall belongs to the owner on that side.

Another presumption is that boundaries which adjoin a public highway belong to the property. This is because it is presumed that the soil under the surface of the road belongs to the adjoining property for half the width of the road, even though this might not be what the Land Registry plan shows.

There are other presumptions in law relating to the position of the boundary where there is a ditch and hedge, where a property joins a river or stream and where it
adjoins the seashore. All of these presumptions can be refuted if there is evidence to the contrary, but at least if the deeds give no indication of boundary ownership, the presumptions are a good place to start and could save unnecessary angst and expense.

This article does not constitute legal advice and applies to premises in England and Wales and does not obviate the need to obtain specific legal advice or other relevant professional advice relating to your specific circumstances. For all your property legal needs; including buying and selling properties and more information or advice please contact Tim Townsend for a free informal discussion or estimate