Boundary disputes are rarely straightforward and legal advice should be sought before moving any boundary.
Boundaries are often marked by a boundary fence, hedge or wall. Over time fence panels may be moved, hedges will be trimmed back or removed and walls rebuilt. This may sometimes result in one neighbour encroaching on the other’s land.
Problems often arise when a new purchaser or developer considers that the boundary has been moved and unilaterally takes steps to rectify what they consider has been an encroachment on their land. However, this is often based on their own interpretation of the office copy plans.
Land Registry plans are not accurate and do not purport to be accurate. They are for identification purposes only. Land Registry plans are drawn generally and are not intended to determine boundaries but to assist in determining where the boundary lies.
Land surveyors determine boundaries and use various tools of interpretation including features on the ground, aerial photographs and title deed plans to try and determine the boundaries. Sometimes the matter becomes contentious and the matter goes to court with expert evidence from surveyors being relied upon in court.
Legal presumptions may come into play to determine a boundary, for example, where there is a ditch or bank nearby and nothing else to identify the boundary of the land there is a presumption that the person who dug the ditch dug it at the extremity of his own land and threw the soil on his own land to make a bank. This presumption is taken further, namely that the boundary runs along the edge of the ditch and belongs to the person on whose land it is sited. However, these presumptions are rebuttable.
If your boundary is unclear you can apply to the Land Registry to set the exact boundary for your land or property. You could try and reach agreement with your neighbour to agree the boundary and record it at the Land Registry and so avoid any future dispute should your neighbour sell his or her property.
However, if you are involved in a boundary dispute with your neighbour the courts have indicated that this type of dispute is highly suitable for mediation or some other form of alternative dispute resolution.