Whether buying a home in a city, such as London or Brighton, or in a more rural area, any question of a disputed boundary between the property being purchased and its neighbours is an important issue which should be resolved by a residential conveyancing solicitor before the contract is signed, otherwise the new owner could be in for many years of disputes.
There have been a number of cases publicised in the media where home-owners have been in court, or even come to blows, where one perceives the other to have an unfair advantage over a strip of land, usually of a trivial size, between two gardens.
Often a problem can simmer for years before a property lawyer becomes involved, leading to consequent costs and practical problems, as well as the difficult atmosphere engendered when it should be possible to live at peace with one’s neighbours.
When viewing a house, potential purchasers should ensure they ask questions both of the seller and, if possible, the neighbours themselves about any history of conflict over boundaries before instructing lawyers for formal searches.
This can be particularly important if a property has not been on the market for a number of years or if the site is not on the Land Registry. Even with registered land, filed plans have ‘general boundaries’ and, unless there is information to the contrary, certain assumptions will be made about an owner’s limits.
Due to their scale, Ordnance Survey maps cannot be relied upon for accuracy and because they show hedges and fences can really only be used for identification purposes.
If a seller or possible purchaser wishes to have an exact boundary line defined and for the general boundaries rule not to be used, application can be made to the Land Registry with information and evidence of the revised route.
Categories for the general boundaries are as follows:
Although the highway authority has rights of maintenance on public roads, where a property is next to a roadway, public or private, the ownership boundary is usually to the centre of the road.
Hedges and ditches
With man-made ditches, the boundary is assumed to be on the opposite edge of the ditch from the hedge or bank but that rule does not apply to natural ditches or if the ditch was made along the boundary when both sides of the bank belonged to the same owner.
Non-tidal rivers and streams
With rivers and streams, the centre line rule again applies to the owners of land on either bank. The situation differs from that of roads because the course of a river can change, although the boundary will still be in the middle of the river bed regardless of how the diversion is made.
If the land surrounding a lake is within one ownership then the lake and its bed will belong to the same person.
The Crown owns the foreshore – the land between the high and low watermarks of an ordinary tide between spring and neap tides – unless it has been granted to a private owner. The same boundaries will apply to tidal inlets and river banks.
Other points about boundaries which may need to be clarified before conveyancing is completed may include the maintenance of any walls, fences and hedges on the boundaries. These should be defined in the property’s deeds but some legal requirements may also need to be met.
For example, a wall may be a listed structure and subject to preservation; certain hedges may come under the Hedgerow Regulations whereby the local authority has to give permission for any removal.
Advice from Healys solicitors of London and Brighton
If you are thinking of buying a property or land in which there may be an issue concerning boundaries with neighbours, Healys team of experienced is ready to help.
Not only do all Healys staff have a helpful attitude in achieving the best result for their clients, with links to other skilled professionals across its general legal practice, it can provide advice and representation on all aspects of property law.
For more information and advice on costs of Healys’ conveyancing services, you can request a call-back via the website, email partner Kiri Kkoshi, telephone 020 7822 4148 or associate solicitor Darina Gowen telephone01273 669 115.