When buying property, ownership of the vast majority of property and land is conclusively determined, under the Registered Land system, by the Land Registry, which is a Government body. If the Land Registry title is incorrect, a buyer has the assurance that the Government is liable.
However, it is important to be aware that whilst the above applies to who owns the property and registered charges and legal interests affecting it, the same principle does not apply to the physical size and extent of the area included in the title. In other words, the Land Registry filed plan cannot be relied upon for accuracy, and is approximate only and drawn to scale.
This creates problems in the common situation of a boundary dispute.
If the Land Registry plan doesn’t help what are the options with a boundary dispute?
Ask the Land Registry to adjudicate
- This is clearly a good option and there is a specific form for starting the process and this will be the most cost effective method. However, if the Land Registry cannot determine the issue from historical deeds they retain when the property was first registered, which may often be the case, the issue will still be unresolved.
The hedge and ditch rule
- Sets up a legal presumption, but a presumption only, which can easily be rebutted, that a physical feature such as a hedge or fence creates an agreed boundary.
Historical physical boundaries of property
- Has there been a physical boundary for an extended period of time which favours your argument ? If you have evidence that a fence has for example been in place for more than 12 years (which is the necessary period of time) then you may have a right to claim an advantage or change to the boundary based on the legal concept of adverse possession.
The biggest take away from the above is that it is a common mistake to rely on the Land Registry plan or even to assume that a fence line is definitive. Such a mistake can often mean that from the outset an overly aggressive or confident approach is adopted by one or both parties which then fuels the dispute, which, in turn, when it comes to your home, can mean things get very personal very quickly. The best approach is to have an open mind and consider all options and solutions before becoming litigious.
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