How to find out Where the Property Lines are for Your House
Published: 01-06-2018 | Updated: 30-08-2018
Property Lines, Boundary Lines or Building Lines, are used loosely to describe the lines of demarcation separating one property from another. But they each have a different meaning, and this meaning is important in understanding property boundaries. In this article we examine the different meanings, and show how unresolved boundary disputes can be resolved by using a Boundary Agreement.
Sometimes these terms are also used to represent a building line, created when a developer divides his land into building plots and builds a number of houses so that the building or gardens all front onto a marked out building line. This type of building line may be shown in the original blue prints or designer's plans, which were used to support planning and building regulation approval, and may be available from the local authority upon paying their photocopying fees.
Boundary Lines and Property Lines
Generally, though, the majority of people are actually referring to the legal boundary lines that appear on a map or plan. These lines can be seen on Land Registry Title Plans which are overlaid on OS Maps at a scale of 1:1250 in urban areas, or 1:2500 in rural areas.
The Land Registry adopt a convention of tracing a red line within the black outline of the line traced on the OS map. This is the legal boundary and is commonly known as the "red edging" on a Title Plan representative of the property lines. These lines only represent the general position of the boundaries, however, as intended in the governing legislation.
Land Registration Act 2002 Section 60:
- (1) The boundary of a registered estate as shown for the purposes of the register is a general boundary, unless shown as determined under this section.
- (2) A general boundary does not determine the exact line of the boundary.
- (3) Rules may make provision enabling or requiring the exact line of the boundary of a registered estate to be determined and may, in particular, make provision about—
- (a) the circumstances in which the exact line of a boundary may or must be determined,
- (b) how the exact line of a boundary may be determined,
- (c) procedure in relation to applications for determination, and
- (d) the recording of the fact of determination in the register or the index maintained under section 68.
- (4) Rules under this section must provide for applications for determination to be made to the registrar.
This Act confirms the reason a Title Plan does not provide precise boundary positions, and enacts a convention that the Land Registry have long been following anyway. Their job is not to act as boundary arbiters but to maintain a record of property ownership.
As will be seen from section 60, there is provision for determining a boundary with precision but this is expensive and may take a long time. Briefly, the procedure is as follows:
1. Check the physical boundary positions yourself, i.e. the boundaries as you see them from the ground, and compare them with the legal boundaries (on the Title Plan and Deed or Lease Plans). Make your best judgment as to where you believe the true boundaries are (not where you hope they are!) You should obtain a Boundary Search to provide you with all the relevant information that is available.
2. Check the other documents, i.e. the Tile Register and Deeds to see if they provide other useful information, as they usually do.
3. Get your neighbour to do the same.
4. Try to agree the correct boundary positions with your neighbour. If you can there are 2 options for you:
Create an Informal Boundary Agreement, together with a drawing, in which the agreed boundary position is clearly illustrated. Both of you should sign the Agreement and the Plan. You can use our free template to do this by selecting the following link.
Obtain Boundary Search
You can then apply to the Land Registry for them to place a note in the Title Register referring to the agreed boundary position and the plan. This will be placed on your neighbour's Title Register also. You should note that this agreement would not be enforceable in law by someone purchasing your's or your neighbour's property but it would carry a very persuasive argument, particularly as the Land Registry would not note the Register unless it was satisfied everything was in order.
Informal Boundary Agreement
Apply for a Formal Boundary Agreement in accordance with the Land Registration Rules 2003, which give legal effect to section 60 of the Land Registration Act 2002. This type of agreement is a Formal Boundary Agreement, known as a Determined Boundary. This is more long-winded, but the government have produced a helpful guide. Once determined the Agreed Boundary would be enforceable in law on future buyers. You would, however, have to agree the boundary positions with your neighbour before making an application to the Land Registry, and they would have to concur with your judgment as to the correct boundary positions.