In Frazer v Martin, two sets of neighbours were in dispute over the ownership of a small strip of land. The disputed strip of land separated the Browns' house from the public highway and ran the length of the Browns' frontage. Access to the Frazers' house was over a shared driveway on the Browns' property. The Frazers applied to become the owner of the strip of land, notwithstanding the fact that it was immediately adjacent to the Browns' property rather than their own.

Both properties had been conveyed to Crown Hall Estates Limited some years previously, under one conveyance, at a time when all the land was still unregistered. That conveyance, which triggered first registration, included the disputed strip of land. However, when the conveyance was registered at the Land Registry, the strip of land was mistakenly not included in the filed plan.

The High Court ruled that the strip was nonetheless included in the registered title, by virtue of the general boundaries rule.

The general boundaries rule provides that boundary lines as shown on the register are general only and not exact, unless an application has been made to determine them under the Land Registration Act.

As a result, when Crown Hall Estates Limited subsequently sold that part of the registered title comprising the Browns' property to the Browns' predecessor in title, the strip of land was included in that transfer. The Browns had in turn acquired it in the same way when they purchased the property. The Frazers' application was therefore dismissed.

Things to consider

The general boundaries rule has been applied by the courts in several notable decisions in the last few years (see, for example, Strachey v Ramage). It has become apparent that the scope of the rule is wider than many had imagined. It is not restricted simply to which side of a boundary a hedge or fence falls; it can, as here, apply to much larger areas of land.

The Frazers had argued that the inclusion of the strip within the Browns' title was a matter for rectification of the register rather than the application of the general boundaries rule. The High Court said that an application for rectification could have been made, but that this did not bar the application of the general boundaries rule.

This interpretation of the rules on rectification is, however, at odds with the decision of the High Court in Derbyshire County Council v Fallon. In that case, the court ruled that an application to change the position of a boundary would simply replace one general boundary with another general boundary in a more accurate position. Such an alteration would not prejudicially affect the registered proprietor and so would not amount to rectification under the Land Registration Act. The significance of an alteration amounting to rectification is that stricter rules apply where rectification is sought against a registered proprietor who is in possession. In addition, an indemnity may be payable by Land Registry when the register is rectified.

In any event, since the strip of land in this case was not within the Browns' title plan, any alteration to the register would be to add it to the plan, not remove it, and so could not be prejudicial to the Browns.