Boundary disputes can be highly contentious, being both technically complex and often very emotive. This can make them challenging to resolve, with the potential for significant time and legal costs to be incurred to achieve a resolution.
At Wolferstans, our Dispute Resolution team can effectively handle even the most complicated boundary disputes. We offer sensible advice and a proactive approach to help you get the best outcome available as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.
Wherever practical, we will seek an amicable resolution to your boundary dispute, avoiding the need for contentious court proceedings, saving you time, money and stress. However, we are ready robustly to defend your interests in court should this prove necessary.
Our expertise with boundary dispute resolution
Our boundary disputes solicitors can help with matters including:
- Boundary line disputes
- Fence and landscaping disputes
- Disputes over construction works that cross a boundary line
- Access disputes
Flexible funding to suit your circumstances
Our boundary dispute resolution solicitors offer a number of funding options to suit you, including in appropriate cases fixed fees, capped fees, insurance backed funding arrangements and conditional fee agreements.
Types of boundary disputes
Boundary line disputes
These often arise when a property or site is to be sold or where the owner wishes to refinance e.g. for a construction project. As part of the sale or refinancing process, a survey will be carried out which can show that the property line does not lie where one or more parties previously believed.
Fence, hedge and landscaping disputes
A very common source of boundary disputes is where a party has erected a fence or carried out landscaping work which a neighbour believes crosses into their property. Disputes can also arise over who has responsibility for a boundary feature, such as a fence or hedge. The issue will then arise of determining where the boundary line lies and what to do about fencing or landscaping work that does cross the line.
Disputes over construction that crosses a boundary line
Another common type of boundary dispute is where a party has built an extension or outbuilding (or where there is a historic extension or outbuilding) that a neighbour believes encroaches into their property. Again, a determination will need to be made as to where the true boundary lies and what should be done about any construction that encroaches on a neighbour’s property.
Where a party has historically had access to a neighbour’s property or wishes to establish such access, this can lead to disputes. In some cases there may be a right of way or other type of easement in place giving access or a licence granting access to the property (or a party may believe such provision exists). There will often been a need to refer to title deeds and other historic documents to determine whether a party has right of access and careful negotiation may be required to secure a favourable outcome.
How we can help with boundary dispute resolution
Establishing your legal position
Our boundary disputes solicitors can collect all of the necessary evidence to establish where a boundary lines lies. We work with a range of professionals, including highly regarded specialist surveyors, so we can give you the strongest basis for your legal position.
Letter before action for a boundary dispute
Our boundary disputes solicitors can draft a clear letter before action that sets out your position, the outcome you would like to achieve and the date by which you wish to see a resolution before further action will be taken. Our team can then deal with any follow-up correspondence or negotiation required, keeping the process as straightforward and stress-free as possible for you.
Alternative dispute resolution for boundary disputes
Various methods of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) exist that can be highly effective for boundary disputes. These options include private negotiation and mediation. ADR can help you to achieve an amicable resolution to a boundary dispute much more quickly and cost-effectively than court proceedings, while helping to maintain a more positive relationship with your neighbour.
Taking a boundary dispute to court
In some cases, it may be necessary to take a boundary dispute to court in order to achieve a favourable outcome for you. Should this approach be required, our boundary disputes solicitors will work closely with you to prepare your case and make sure you have the best possible representation for any hearings that take place.
Flexible funding for boundary dispute
We offer various options for funding the cost of a boundary dispute, with our focus being on what is most cost-effective for our clients.
Fixed fee boundary dispute resolution - Some matters can be handled on a fixed fee basis, giving total certainty over the costs involved. This typically includes work such as preparing letters before action.
Conditional fee agreements - Where appropriate, we may be able to fund your claim wholly or partly on a conditional fee basis, meaning costs will be applied only when a successful outcome has been achieved.
Private payment/pay as you go - Where ongoing legal support is needed, we can regularly submit interim accounts for the work carried out, so you can effectively budget for your costs. You can find out more about your litigation funding options on our Dispute Resolution page.
Boundary disputes FAQs
The starting point for determining a property boundary is to refer to the title plan for the property. However, these are usually not to scale and usually don’t show the exact boundary. Analysis of older title deeds and documents is often helpful, as is careful consideration of the history of a property and the historic boundary features that have been in place over the years. It is often necessary to engage a specialist surveyor to provide their opinion on where the boundary lies, based on the information gathered.
Any applicable time limits for a boundary dispute will depend on the circumstances. One time limit that may be relevant is the commonly misunderstood concept of ‘squatters’ rights’. The basic principle of squatters’ rights is that someone may be able to apply to become the registered owner of a property they (or a succession of squatters) have occupied continuously without the owner’s permission for at least 10 years (or 12 years if the property is not registered with HM Land Registry). Whether the principle of squatters’ rights applies to a situation can be complicated to understand and expert legal advice is strongly recommended. However, it is worth bearing in mind that you may lose the right to contest unauthorised occupation of your property if you do not raise the issue soon enough.
If you cannot agree a suitable resolution to a boundary dispute, you may need to take the matter to court and allow a judge to decide. Both sides will be able to present their cases as to why they believe the boundary follows a particular line. These cases will usually be made with respect to various pieces of evidence, including the title plans and expert land surveys. The court will generally try to determine where the historic boundary line was located at the ‘date of earliest conveyance’ i.e. when the property was first divided. A judge may rule in favour of the boundary line proposed by one of the parties to the dispute or they may rule that the boundary follows a different line entirely.