Would you spend thousands of pounds fighting your neighbour in court over ownership of a fence or repair obligations for a wall?

Boundary disputes can prove very costly and can cause neighbours to fall out. So what should you be aware of to make sure you're not breaking the law and avoid costly litigation?

  • When viewing a property to buy, do not assume that the boundary fences denote the legal boundaries. Check the title plans against the boundaries on the ground. If necessary, ask a surveyor to formally check this.
  • The Land Registry has a 'General Boundaries' rule which means that you cannot simply rely on the Land Registry title plan to show the correct boundary line.
  • Plans are small scale and the red line showing the boundary when scaled up can be several feet wide.
  • Boundaries can vary over the years. What started out as a straight line 100 years ago may now be a very wavy line depending on how trees and bushes have grown up.
  • If applying for planning permission to develop land, make sure that the planning application plan is checked against the legal boundaries before the application is submitted. Finding out that you don't own some crucial part of the development site after you have spent thousands of pounds on obtaining planning permission can be a bit embarrassing.
  • Even after detailed checks are made, it can be difficult to establish the exact boundary line and this can lead to arguments with adjoining owners. Do your best to reach an amicable agreement and make sure this is carefully and legally documented. Better to reach a fair compromise than get involved in very expensive litigation.

This can be a complicated subject, take proper advice.