Boundary disputes between neighbours are surprisingly common but going to court can be very expensive and rarely ends in harmony.
More than a fifth of households in the UK are reported to have argued with their neighbours over boundaries. Disagreements over the exact position of walls, fences, hedges and parking spaces, as well as over trees, paths and access can turn bitter quickly.
But hold fire before resorting to legal action. Chances are you will waste a huge sum of money, a big chunk of your precious time and end up on even worse terms with your neighbours.
What you probably didn’t know is that here at Caxtons we have highly experienced chartered surveyors who specialise in resolving disputes.
Using Alternative Dispute Resolution, our consultants have helped numerous households over the years to resolve differences usually without having to go to court.
If both parties agree, Caxtons can act as an independent arbitrator, providing a binding decision at a far lower cost than going to court.
Where’s the boundary?
Consulting the title deeds may be a good place to start in boundary disputes. But neither looking at the deeds nor referring to the Land Registry is guaranteed to resolve the matter, as the marked boundary is often just an approximation.
Rights to land can also be complicated by “adverse possession”. This is where someone has a legal right to land which they have taken possession of, for example by fencing it off, and no one has objected for 12 years.
Where responsibility for maintaining a boundary such as a fence is at issue, the title deeds usually indicate this with a ‘T’ to show whose duty it is, but not always.
Keeping the peace
Feelings over boundary disputes can run high, as both judges and Members of Parliament have warned. However, turning to the courts often costs thousands of pounds – more than the value of the land itself.
Plus, litigation often sours relations forever between neighbours who still have to live side by side whoever “wins” the dispute.
Even flat dwellers can find themselves embroiled in a disagreement over a party wall, a boundary wall or access.
So what should you do?
Perhaps the best piece of advice initially is to try and reach a compromise with your neighbours. Maybe offer to share the costs of a new fence for example, in order to preserve the all-important peace with the people next door.
But if you can’t reach a solution informally, it may be time to call in some independent help from the experts.
Skilled dispute resolvers
Our dispute resolvers are specially selected and trained by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. They undergo continuous training and development to enable them to give legal advice on property disputes.
Consultants Charles Oliver and Tony Meire have handled numerous disagreements over boundaries between neighbours.
Cases range from rows over gate posts and narrow strips of land, to disputes over fences, hedges, parking spaces, retaining walls and extensions.
Boundary disputes settled
Examples of cases resolved by our consultants include:
- A disagreement over a fence involving just 10cm of land. Our consultant showed that the neighbour had erected the fence in the wrong place.
- A row between two neighbours about where their boundaries overlapped at the back and had a gap at the front. Charles proposed a new boundary line where both sides gained as much at the front as they lost at the back.
- A dispute where a neighbour moved a fence and claimed part of a garden. Our consultant provided a map to show where the fence should be.
- A person objecting to a cypress hedge and fence which they thought was on their land. Charles’ measurements showed that the land did actually belong to the neighbour. So he told the client not to move the fence or cut the hedge, which was probably not what they wanted to hear!
- An argument over a parking space which was sorted out when our consultant used a spray can to mark out the correct boundary on the ground.
- A disagreement over a curved garden fence which should have been straight. Our consultant took measurements and also confirmed who owned the fence. He then banged two metal spikes into the ground to show the boundary line.
- A row after a neighbour built an extension just within their boundary, but the roof overhung the client’s property. Charles told the client to ask the neighbour to trim back their roof, or if they built their own extension they could join with the neighbour’s roof.
Expert legal advice
In these cases, the clients accepted the independent advice and avoided costly legal proceedings. But Caxtons can also help if lawyers have been appointed.
“If the matter has got as far as solicitors and is heading for court, then I suggest that they appoint me a Single Joint Expert between the parties so that the judge has only one impartial report to read,” Charles said.
For example, he described a dispute which centred on a pair of houses in Chatham which had sloping gardens.
“One neighbour decided to level his garden by digging away soil at the back and raising the level nearer his house after building a retaining wall to support it. Unfortunately, at the side some of his raised soil spilled into the neighbour’s garden and fell against his back wall causing damp.
“I was appointed as Single Joint Expert and prepared a report for court. The judge liked my proposed solution and ordered that the neighbour who altered the ground levels was responsible for building a new retaining wall,” Charles said.
In a recent case, Tony Meire was appointed by solicitors as a Single Expert to represent the defendants in a boundary dispute in a village near Canterbury.
After inspecting the property and reviewing the documentation, he presented his evidence to the court which was accepted in its entirety and the case was dismissed.
Get in touch to discuss your boundary dispute
If you would like to take advantage of our Alternative Dispute Resolution service, please get in touch with our experts.
Contact Charles Oliver on:
Tel: 01474 531764
Email: [email protected]
Contact Tony Meire on:
Tel: 01227 207102
Email: [email protected]