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Boundary dispute leaves family facing large bill

An argument over a narrow strip of land has left a mother and son facing massive costs after their claim was heard in the Court of Appeal recently. Both the claimants and the defendant engaged Queens Counsel in the Court of Appeal.

The dispute arose because the claimants’ neighbour wanted to put up a fence on what he considered to be the dividing line between the two properties.  The claimants had some years earlier added a porch extension to their house and, were the fence to be built, they would no longer have room to open the car doors when they parked beside their house.

As is normally the way in such cases, the parties disagreed as to which ‘line’ on the plan was the correct boundary.  The neighbour wishing to build a fence had a plan with a ‘green line’, whereas on the claimants’ plan the boundary followed a ‘red line’. This meant that there was a small ‘triangle’ of land, the ownership of which was disputed.

In court, the judge found that the green line was the correct boundary. The claimants wishing to prevent the construction of the fence appealed against the decision.  The Court of Appeal held that the ‘red line’ did describe the correct boundary.  However, because the triangle of land had been used exclusively by the neighbour and his predecessors in title for the requisite number of years, he had the right to it due to adverse possession, more commonly known as ‘squatter’s rights’.  The claimants’ title to the land had been extinguished by adverse possession many years earlier.  The appeal was therefore dismissed.

The law on adverse possession is complex.  Most cases will now be dealt with under The Land Registration Act 2002 and generally it is more difficult to establish adverse possession under the Act that it was under the previous regime.  However, the previous regime continues to apply to cases where 12 years adverse possession has been established prior to 13th October 2003 and to cases concerning unregistered land.

Boundary disputes can be expensive as well as ruin relations between neighbours.  At Gullands we have extensive experience in advising on disputes between neighbours and how best to resolve them.

Please contact Philip Grylls by email for more information: p.grylls@gullands.com.