We offer experienced, measured and sensible legal advice to help with often distressing neighbor disputes whether boundary disputes, party walls, access, construction work issues or parking.
Neighbour disputes can escalate rapidly and if court action is commenced, the parties will often refuse to back down, and legal costs, often partly or fully irrecoverable, can far outweigh the value of any rights lost or damaged. Consequently, it is important to use all efforts to resolve any dispute by careful and skillful negotiation, possibly using Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR),whilst at the same time being firm and clear on any legal breaches.
First and foremost, try to solve the problem amicably, but record everything in writing and maintain a detailed diary of all incidents, as this may need to be produced to court at some stage. The first stage is to find out your legal position – you may believe you have strong legal rights but this may not always be the case. We can advise you so that you know the position, in law, before you take action which may in fact make the dispute worse.
If you are having problems because of a shared driveway or your neighbour blocks your access to the side of your house, the first thing to check is whether there is any formal shared driveway right recorded on the Land Registry title to your property.
Most land in England and Wales, is registered land which means that who owns what, attached to which property, is usually set out in the Proprietorship Register of HM Land Registry. You need to ask in the first instance for Office Copy Entries, together with a plan. It will cost you under £10 to do so.
The Proprietorship Register will usually show that the alley between 2 houses, is common land between you. It is unlikely to ever say that one property owns exclusive rights over another, or else that other property could never have used their own garage. There would in any event be a natural right of way exercised over a period of years, providing an implied right of way of that shared piece of land.
The Law on this subject may be more complex than at first it would seem, if you need legal advice get in touch with us.
The Party Wall Act sets out clear procedures such that any works carried out to a shared wall or floor or excavating under the boundary must be dealt with in a certain way, and appropriate notices need to be served. The Act provides for both parties to appoint surveyors or a single agreed surveyor, who will act impartially. The surveyor will draw up an award, detailing the work to be done. The condition of buildings will be recorded, together with timetables for access and work.
In some cases, especially where you have a very good relationship with your neighbours, you may be able to avoid or minimize the expense of full compliance with the process under the Party Wall Act. However, even if you do get on very well with and trust your neighbours, it is worth having a Party wall Agreement before starting work. Such an agreement is important to :-
If you need advice on Party Walls or a Party Wall Agreement drawn up, get in touch with Dalia Ross, who has a lot of experience in this area.
If your boundary has been moved by your neighbor we can help you establish your legal rights and options to consider. Get in touch for a free initial discussion.
It is important first of all to establish whether the physical boundaries of your property are in the correct location. The Land Registry will have plans and copy documents to assist you in establishing their correct position.
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. Title plans only show the ‘general’ position of boundaries. It might be possible to obtain more information as to the precise location by looking back at documentation relating to previous transfers of the land, such as conveyances.
This creates problems in the common situation of a boundary dispute. If the Land Registry plan doesn’t help what are the options ?
The hedge and ditch rule – this 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.
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.
Historical position – 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.
Boundary determination by surveyor -If it is not possible to establish the correct location of the boundary, you can use the procedure known as ‘determining the boundary’. A detailed plan showing the exact line of the boundary will have to be prepared by a suitably qualified surveyor. This is then submitted to the Land Registry with a completed application form and fee.
Issue proceedings against your neighbour – If you are satisfied that your neighbour has encroached onto your land, one option is to issue proceedings against your neighbour. The remedies that you could seek would include a declaration from the Court that the physical boundary has been unlawfully erected on your land, a declaration as to the correct position of the legal boundary, a mandatory injunction requiring your neighbour to move the physical boundary, damages for trespass, interest and costs.
Issue proceedings against the previous owner if they misrepresented the position -You may have a claim against the person who sold you your home for misrepresentation. Sellers are usually required to provide replies to standard enquiries raised on your behalf by your solicitor or conveyancer. These enquiries will have required the seller to confirm whether any boundary has been moved within the last 20 years, whether any part of the property encroaches onto a neighbours land and whether there have been any previous disputes about the property.
Issue proceedings against your conveyancing solicitor for professional negligence – If your solicitor failed to properly advise you in relation to the location of the boundaries before you bought your home, you may have a claim against them for professional negligence. However, any claim will depend on the extent of your solicitor’s retainer and whether they provided you with sufficient information before you bought the property. Were you shown the seller’s replies to enquiries? Did your solicitor provide you with a report on title?
Seek to resolve the issue through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) -The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors provides a Dispute Resolution Service to address disputes relating to boundaries. This process can include mediation and expert determination of the boundary. These processes are viable alternatives to issuing court proceedings and can be faster and more cost effective. An additional benefit is that the process is less confrontational than litigation. However, there are limitations to alternative dispute resolution.
The parties both have to consent to the process and it may not be possible to reach an agreement with your neighbour. In addition, alternative dispute resolution does not provide a mechanism for enforcement. If, for example, the position of your boundary is determined and your neighbour fails to move the physical boundary to its correct location, you may well have to issue court proceedings anyway.
For solicitor help with a boundary dispute, party wall issue or neighbour disputes generally, get in touch with us. We are experienced and practical and can help find the right solution.