Most people will never have a boundary dispute. There is enough definition to their boundaries that it is never an issue.
Nearly everybody has something which indicates the boundary of their property. This could be a fence, a hedge, rivers, or some other physical feature altogether.
Boundaries should always be maintained. In some cases, you may be unsure of where the boundary is. There may be no physical indicator, and Title documents are unclear.
If this happens, then you need to discuss with your neighbour where the boundaries are. This will prevent a whole host of problems later on.
If you have the opportunity to do so, then you may want to install a physical boundary once the location has been established. Although, of course, talk to your neighbour about this first.
Boundaries can change
If you are replacing a boundary feature with a different feature, then there is a chance that the established boundary can change. For example, in the case of a fence, it is clear where the boundary is. It is also clear who has responsibility for maintaining the fence.
The presumption that it rests upon the side which has the supporting posts for the fence. However, if the fence is changed to a hedge, then things are not quite as clear.
Hedges are general boundaries, and it has been established that both sides of the hedge have a responsibility towards maintenance.
Always discuss boundary changes with a neighbour.
The vast majority of disputes are triggered by people building too close to the boundary of their property.
If you are planning to do this, then talk to your neighbour. You can discuss where each of you believes the boundary to be. Make sure anything you do stays on your property.
If you need to apply for planning permission for construction, then ensure you tell your neighbour. This is so that they can file a relevant dispute if they are not happy with the boundaries you have defined.
There may be a boundary disagreement.
It is easy for a minor boundary disagreement to get out of hand. In many cases, it will descend into legal action. Often this legal action is over no more than a couple of centimetres.
While a couple of centimetres may not seem like a big deal, it can lower the value of the property.
The value of the property will be lowered even further if somebody is locked into a boundary dispute. It is, therefore, important that the issue is solved as quickly as possible. This means consulting experts.
Perhaps the best expert to consult in the first instance will be a chartered surveyor or land surveyor. Before you hire them, make sure they meet the following criteria:
They should have ‘boundary disputes’ as their main area of expertise. In the rare case, your dispute goes to court; you need to know that the professional has experience as an expert witness.
They should have experience in mapping and dealing with aerial photographs of the property.
Find out about the work the professional has done in the past. The choice of professional will be a joint decision between you and your neighbour. In the interest of fairness, you should be splitting the costs.
Remember; the chartered land surveyor will do so much more than look at the land. They will also contact the Land Registry and look at all the documents related to your home.
This includes historical documents. They may also need to look at aerial photographs to get a view of the property from the air.
This is going to be a tough job because a lot of the time a boundary listed at the Land Registry will be vague and listed only as a general boundary. If changed boundaries have never been registered with the Land Registry, this can cause further problems.
If you and your neighbour resolve the dispute in or out of court, then it will be the job of the chartered land surveyor to redraw the maps of your property. They will tell you exactly where the boundary line is, and they will then contact the Land Registry.
In serious disputes, the land surveyor may stick around and oversee construction on the property. This will help to prevent further issues.