Boundary Disputes - latest advice from RICS

Feb 1, 2022
Hundreds of households in England and Wales are involved in boundary disputes each year. The ongoing questions over poorly maintained fences or who owns what land might well descend into a war of words, or worse. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has published its latest advice on how homeowners can approach tricky issues such as boundary disputes.
Adopted by HM Land Registry and the Citizens Advice Bureau, RICS has worked with experts across real estate, conflict resolution and legal system to come up with easy solutions that might prevent disputes being taken through a lengthy formal process.
The advice, which is freely available online, outlines what neighbours can do to either resolve disputes informally, or how to prepare for mediation or even court action if that is not possible, including:
  • GET THE TITLE PLAN: Before buying always ask for the ‘title plan’ from HM Land Registry and compare it to what’s being sold. This shows the general boundaries of a property and you can usually spot and challenge any differences.
  • NOT JUST FENCES: Most boundaries would typically be a fence or wall exterior; however this could also include ditches, rivers and hedge rows when going out into more rural areas – even a series of stones set out to show who owns what counts as a boundary. The law requires owners to keep their boundaries in good order, otherwise this could cause a dispute.
  • TALK TO NEIGHBOURS: It might seem obvious, but once you’ve got the keys, knock on your neighbour’s door to introduce yourself and ask any questions about the issues you’d like to address. Getting to problems quickly, rather than sitting on them, will help find a resolution.
  • DON’T JUST BUILD: It’s also best to speak to your neighbour if you’re planning on putting up a new fence or building close to the boundary. This may help iron out any feelings about it and any misconceptions over ownership.
  • CALL IN THE EXPERTS: If you’re seeking mediation for a dispute or even plan to going to court, then always seek the best advice available. An expert chartered surveyor will not only survey the site and check the deeds and plans, but also refer to historical documents and aerial photographs.
Julia Stolle, Co-chair of the RICS Boundaries Expert Working Group: “Having seen many neighbours falling out over a few inches and spending far too much money on boundary disputes, I am confident that this guide will help many to settle their arguments and reach a sensible boundary agreement.”
The guide is freely available here
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