Boundary Disputes

Boundary Disputes

One of the most frequently asked questions received by us relates to property boundaries. Our customers are expecting to see them clearly defined on their Title Plan and are disappointed to see that they are not. Ascertaining boundary positions is a gathering and gleaning exercise, utilising all of the available documents. Ninety five percent of the time this is sufficient; for the remaining five percent it may be necessary to either employ a surveyor, litigate in court, or agree something with your neighbour and either formalise it in a document or purchase part of your neighbour's land.

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Property Boundaries

How to find my Property Boundaries

A property's boundaries fall into 2 categories. There is a legal boundary and a physical boundary. Although in principle they should be the same, they often are not.

A legal boundary is created by an authorised person drawing a hypothetical line on a map between adjoining properties. When created by the Land Registry the legal boundary line is fairly precise but this often falls down when it comes to comparing the line with physical features in the grounds of the property. The smaller the scale of the map and the thicker the drawing implement used to create the line, the more inaccurate the boundary line becomes.

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Which fence do we own?

In England and Wales, there is no presumption that a person owns or must maintain a fence or other boundary barrier on the left or on the right. Ownership of the boundary is normally determined by the builder who erects the buildings. Modern buildings will usually have a detailed Transfer Deed that specifies ownership of the boundary fences. More often than not, however, it will be necessary to look at the ownership documents each side of the boundary, and sometimes even for the houses at the two ends of the street. These documents would include the Title Register, Title Plan, Conveyancing Deeds, Deed Plans, and, if Leasehold, the Lease and Lease Plan for each of the properties adjoining the boundary. These documents are all included in a Boundary Search.

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How to find out Where the Property Lines are for Your House

Property Lines, or Boundary Lines, as understood by many of our customers, are the lines of demarcation separating one property from another.

Building Lines

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.

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Garden Boundary Walls

A Party Wall is a party structure that either:

  • Separates a building from another land ownership, the wall lying partly on each property, and forming part of either one or of both of the buildings;
  • separates two land ownerships but does not comprise the wall of a building; or,
  • separates two adjoining owner's buildings, but stands only upon one of the owner's land.

A party structure is usually a wall, but would also include a partition or similar structure that separates buildings.

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Land Registry Boundaries

First Registration

When your property is first registered with the Land Registry the Land Registry use the documents provided by your solicitors to prepare a Title Register and Title Plan. These documents contain the full address of the property and, where necessary, a plan to show its location and the extent of the gardens.

Creating the Land Registry Title Plan

In preparing the Title Plan the Land Registry examine their Index Map, which is based on the Ordnance Survey map at a high scale. The Title Plan for your property is overlaid on the OS map, and red edging is inserted along the inside of the OS property borders, as in the sample below.

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Legal Boundary Presumptions

When a person is unable to resolve a boundary dispute by reference to the Land Registry documents he must look to the Common Law. Fortunately, the high courts have made numerous decisions relating to boundaries, and unless the courts can sufficiently distinguish the circumstances of one case from another, then they will be bound to follow the earlier decisions of the High Courts. Thus, unless there is evidence to the contrary, these presumptions will apply.

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T Marks on a Title Plan

T marks on a Title Plan usually, but not always, denote ownership of the boundary by the land owner whose land the bars of the Ts fall. H Marks denote joint ownership. The question of ownership, or responsibility to maintain a boundary, is often crucial, but is not usually clearly defined. The most obvious clue is the presence of T marks.

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Trees on a Boundary

The question of tree ownership is easily answered. In most instances, however, the intended question is slightly different, i.e. who owns the property boundary that the trees adjoin, and what rights does the non-owner have in relation to roots and branches that encroach onto his land?

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Boundaries and Trees

Trees planted close to property boundaries cause problems for neighbours as they grow larger, and it is often difficult for a neighbour to maintain a tree that he has planted once it reaches a certain height, and when he does not have access to your garden. This article discusses what a neighbour can do where neighbouring trees are causing a nuisance.

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Boundaries and Hedges

This article looks into the definition of high hedges, as defined by statute and looks at remedies for infringement, including the enforcement of easements of light, if there are any. The existence of easements of light can be ascertained by looking at the Land Registry Title Register.

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Boundary Problem Solved by Search

A owned a property with a garden at the rear that faced onto a car park owned by B. The boundary position was in dispute because B had submitted plans to re-develop the car park. A perusal of the plans showed that B had included approximately 1 metre of A's garden, which A thought he owned. The problem was amicably resolved to the satisfaction of both neighbours following the purchase of a Boundary Search for £89.95. The article explains the detail.


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Boundary Problem Solved by Deed Plan

The property boundary between A's land and B's land contained a long fence that had fallen into disrepair. B told A that the fence was jointly owned and that he would like A to contribute one-half of the cost to repair it. The fence was more than a hectare in length and quotes from fencing contractors were very expensive. A obtained a Boundary Search which included a Conveyancing Deed and Deed Plan proving that B was solely liable for maintenance of the fence.


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Boundary Problem Solved - Implied Boundaries

Boundary positions can be assumed where evidence in the property documents implies their positioning. In this example a Boundary Search obtained by A contained a Conveyancing Deed and Deed Plan created when the property was first purchased. The Deed created an easement to enter B's adjoining land for the purpose of laying pipes. It was shown on the plan as being on X's land very close to the suspected property border. By implication the boundary could not have been on A's land as otherwise there would have been no need to create the easement.


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Boundary Problem Solved by Restrictive Covenant

X and Y own land that adjoins Z's land. The fence between them had blown down during a storm and needed to be repaired. This was the boundary fence. Z asked X and Y to repair it, but X and Y thought it was jointly owned and agreed only if Z contributed one-half of the cost thereof. A Boundary Search was obtained, and a personal covenant in a Transfer Deed showed that X and Y were liable in full.


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Boundary Problem Solved - Measurements

Example common problem:

Mr Jones wished to erect a double storey extension to the side of his house. Plans drawn by him where inspected by his neighbour, Mr Wilson, after they were submitted for planning approval, and he alleged they were protruding into his garden by 3 inches. The boundary in question was examined by both neighbours, but they were unable to decide where the true boundary lay.


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Boundary Problem - Documents

There are a number of official documents available to help resolve a boundary problem. This article provides details of each of these documents, and how to obtain them. There are other, non-official documents that may also assist which are also described.


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Boundary Problems - Land Registry

As a general rule the first source of help whenever there is a boundary problem, is to look at the Land Registry documents. Although most people will immediately turn to the land Registry Title Plan, in actuality, this is not a very helpful document for clearing up boundary problems. There are, however, quite a number of other helpful documents supplied by the Land Registry. This article looks at the documents available, all of which are generally supplied in a Boundary Search.

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