Boundary disputes are a messy business. Once neighbours become embroiled in a dispute over the position of a boundary or the extent of a right of way, it seems that nothing short of a court order will put the matter to rest.
In order to prevent boundary disputes going through the courts, the House of Lords had been considering a private members’ bill which proposed that expert determination of such disputes should be mandatory. Back in July 2015, we blogged about the first reading of the Property Boundaries (Resolution of Disputes) Bill which signalled the start of the bill’s journey through the House of Lords. You can read our original blog here.
The bill seemed to be making good progress through the House of Lords, surviving a second reading in December 2016 with a date for the Committee stage expected in mid-2017. However, the general election then intervened.
On 13 July 2017, the bill was reintroduced in the House of Lords. The second reading to debate all aspects of the bill has yet to be scheduled. The main amendment to the bill is the introduction of a set procedure for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to issue a Code of Practice which specifies best practice in the preparation of plans and documents under the bill. The draft Code must be approved by the Secretary of State and Parliament before coming into force.
Otherwise, the bill appears to be largely the same. It seems that a prescriptive procedure in the form of the Code of Practice was sufficiently vital to warrant introducing it into the bill, yet the potential problems which we discussed in our previous blog have not been addressed. Despite the Ministry of Justice’s concession that “mediation seems to be quite successful where it is used and may be capable of wider use“, the bill still doesn’t permit any other forms of ADR, nor does it take into account the possibility that a complex boundary dispute may require a detailed review of documents which are outside the remit of a surveyor. It remains to be seen whether these issues will be resolved as the bill progresses to the second reading and Committee stages, or whether the bill as currently drafted can, or should, last the distance.