Avoiding and Resolving Boundary Disputes 101
Boundary disputes cause rifts between neighbours anywhere that two properties touch, but how do you avoid them or resolve ones you’re already embroiled with? Find out here.
Boundary disputes are often fruitless endeavours where one neighbour feels they own an inch of the other’s land. The only thing gained by these disputes is a bad relationship with your neighbour that isn’t worth the inch of land you’re willing to fight them over.
For some, however, this inch of land could mean the difference between a small or larger house, garden or driveway. It’s also the principle of it all which matters most for many. So, getting in touch with dispute resolution solicitors before you destroy your relationship with your neighbour is wise.
In this post, we’re going to give you some advice on avoiding these boundary disputes in the first place. Then, we’ll provide our methods of resolving a boundary dispute amicably once you’re in one. Take a look…
How Can You Avoid Boundary Disputes?
Boundary disputes usually occur when two parties are convinced they have rights over the same piece of land. Oftentimes, one party erects a fence or builds a structure between the two pieces of land, the other believes they own the land it’s built on, and a dispute arises.
It’s a good idea to avoid these disputes if you can because they often demand a disproportionate amount of time and money for what you actually get in return if you have your way. Here are some ways you can avoid a boundary dispute:
1. Identify where your boundary is
Before you start building fences willy-nilly based on what land you believe you own, try to identify where the boundary between your two properties lies. You can gather information about your property and neighbouring properties from:
- Title deeds
- Ordnance Survey maps
- Declarations from previous owners
That said, this information can often be unclear and inconsistent. So, if you cannot clearly define where the boundary lies, it’s time to try a different method to avoid a boundary dispute.
2. Talk to your neighbour
Instead of going ahead with building your fence or structure without letting your neighbour know what you’re doing, discuss it with them first. If you’re open and honest about what you’re doing, you can agree where the structure will be placed.
You don’t have to see you moving the fence a few inches on to your land as a loss either. Overall, it will save you a lot of money, time and tension between you and your neighbour if the structure is clearly built on land you own.
In fact, it’s a convention that the fence posts are positioned on the owner’s side of the fence, and the fence itself positioned adjacent to the boundary, so none of it encroaches on the neighbour’s land. You can both put this in writing if you want to make it official and avoid future disputes.
It isn’t a complete loss to you though, as convention also suggests that the neighbour should pay for half of the money to erect and maintain the fence, making it a win-win for everyone.
3. Call in a property consultant
Obviously, not all neighbours are created equal, and it might not be as easy as just talking to them to avoid a boundary dispute. If you’re not on speaking terms with your neighbour or know with relative certainty, they will kick up a fuss and call in a property consultant.
The consultant will carry out a thorough check of your boundaries as part of a survey. This will provide you with documentation you can use later to resolve the dispute and prevent it from going further.
How Do You Resolve a Boundary Dispute Once You’re in One?
Despite your best efforts, you’ve found yourself in a dispute with your neighbour. What should you do now?
Thankfully, there are numerous ways to settle a boundary dispute, some of which are cost-effective and others that veer into the ‘spending this amount of money on a tiny slice of land is pointless’ territory.
If you didn’t try to avoid the boundary dispute by speaking to your neighbour first, it’s never too late to sit down with them and come to an agreement. You can do this in one of two ways:
- By informal agreement between the two of you.
- By taking the advice of a jointly instructed expert in Boundary Demarcation.
The first option doesn’t even have to be a formal agreement; you can agree amongst yourselves to where the structure should be built and carry on with your lives. However, it is probably a good idea to get it in writing to avoid future disputes.
If you want to make this agreement even more official, you could get a surveyor in to draw up a precise boundary line based on your agreement with your neighbour and submit it to the land registry for future posterity.
2. Alternative Disputes Resolution
Alternative Disputes Resolution (ADR) describes a whole range of formal methods for resolving disputes out of court. These include:
- Expert Determination
The only one of these solutions that leave the decision-making in your and your neighbour’s hands is mediation. A mediator facilitates the negotiation between you both and makes the agreed settlement legally binding.
With something like expert determination, the process is speedy and cost-effective. That said, the decision making is primarily in the hands of an expert who studies and analyses the documentary and physical evidence to conclude you.
Basically, it all depends on whether you want control over the outcome, or if you trust an expert to make the decision for you.
3. Legal Action
If none of the above methods can resolve the boundary dispute for you, it’s time to enter the world of expensive litigation. This will be resolved in either:
- First Tier Tribunal,
- County Court, or
- High Court
A judge will treat the case with absolute objectivity, and won’t base their decision on how either party has acted over the boundary dispute up until this point. The judge is only interested in establishing the disputed boundary position based on the evidence and legal arguments put to them.
One thing the judge is not there to do is take your principles into account. Whether you believe it’s your right to have the land or not, the judge will likely see this case as a final resolution to a battle over an inch of land that has no monetary value to either party.
Are Boundary Disputes Worth the Hassle?
In this post, we’ve managed to cover how to avoid a boundary dispute and how you can resolve one if you’ve already gone down that road.
We’ve tried to point out that boundary disputes are not worth your time, effort and money. For the most part, they can be resolved with your neighbours before you get anywhere near the litigation stage.
Thank you for reading this post, and good luck resolving your dispute.