Boundary disputes - how to avoid them

A boundary dispute usually occurs when two parties both believe they have rights over the same piece of land. One party may erect a fence or build a structure over the land that the other thought they owned, and inevitably a dispute arises.

While it is not always possible, it is important to firstly try to identify where your boundary is before starting any building works. That can be done by gathering information about your property and neighbouring properties, such as title deeds, photographs, ordinance survey maps and declarations from previous owners. That information can sometimes be unclear and inconsistent however, and so the best way to deal with the situation is to try to agree the boundary with your neighbour and resolve the matter amicably.

If an agreement cannot be reached you may need to involve surveyors and/or solicitors. Boundary disputes can be complex and it is always advisable to seek some legal advice if a dispute is inevitable.

Boundary disputes often demand disproportionate time and expense from the parties and their advisers, arguing about an often small piece of land. Disputes of this nature can be extremely stressful for those involved, and the personal nature of them can mean that the most reasonable of people can become embroiled in hostile exchanges and lose a sense of perspective over what is at stake.

In Lowe v William Davis Ltd [2018] UKUT 206 (TCC), the Upper Tribunal (Tax and Chancery Chamber) considered whether the First-tier Tribunal had jurisdiction to determine both a boundary's location and the accuracy of the plan showing the boundary. In this particular case, it was found that the First-tier Tribunal had jurisdiction. However, that was an exceptional case and the majority of disputes of this nature are directed to the County Court or High Court, and independent expert evidence on where the boundary lies is required to enable the Judge to make a decision.

The legal costs of taking a case to the County Court or High Court are usually significantly more than asking the First-tier Tribunal to decide a case, but either way the legal costs of dealing with a boundary dispute can be extremely high. It will normally be in both parties’ best interests to come to an amicable solution, especially given that most boundary disputes are between neighbours who live next door to one another.

We can help you

At J&P, our disputes resolution department has specialist solicitors who can assist with the most difficult boundary and neighbour disputes. Please contact us if we can help you.

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