A Guide to Resolving Boundary Disputes with Your Neighbour

Establishing specific parameters which legally constitute one’s property is not always straightforward.

Conflicts may stem from possible mapping errors/misinterpretations of title plans. Or issues may arise due to the unclear delineation of precise property boundaries. However these disputes occur, settling on the rightful legal claim to land may challenge the relationship of neighbours. Our team of highly trained solicitors have identified common concerns facing those exercising due diligence in search of a resolution to boundary disputes.

What Are Boundary Disputes

A boundary dispute is a disagreement over the possession or control of land between two or more neighbours.

Common boundary features which tend to instigate such disputes include the use of a driveway, the construction of fences, the growing of hedges, or the digging of a ditch, or intrusion of trees from one neighour’s land into the other.

Things to Consider When Facing a Boundary Dispute

Can the dispute be resolved amicably?

In the case, Wilkinson & The Estate of Brian Wilkinson v Farmer [2010] EWCA Civ 1148, Lord Justice Mummery stated, "if at all possible, disagreements between neighbours about rights of way, boundaries or whatever should be settled without ever going near a court."

As legal professionals, it is our duty to protect our clients, this does not always necessitate the involvement of the courts. Property litigation is uncertain, stressful and may involve significant expense which may be avoided through the cooperation of neighbours or the expertise of a professional mediator.

By depending on the courts as opposed to reaching a reasonable compromise, the resolution of a boundary dispute may bring about unintended consequences.

Clearing up common fallacies believed by homeowners facing boundary disputes

As a matter of civil law, the police cannot settle boundary disputes. Some homeowners believe involving the police will help expedite a resolution. However, such disagreements are not covered by criminal law, thereby falling outside the jurisdiction of the police.

Title plans acquired from Land registry do not legally define boundary limits. Related title plans merely provide a general demarcation of property limits.

Your local authority’s planning office cannot legally resolve boundary disputes.

A case for mediation

Court imposed solutions are uncertain. Mediation is a process where disputing neighbours with the assistance of a third party (the mediator) explore the options for resolution and attempt to reach agreement

A successfully mediated solution could well save the parties time and money.

Which courts cover boundary disputes?

Boundary disputes are typically litigated through the County court. However, cases may be brought to the High court if disputed claims involve land with significant monetary value.

Commonly asked questions regarding boundary disputes

Will the Ordnance Survey map determine my legal boundaries?

The Ordnance survey Act 1841 does not permit homeowners to legally define or claim boundary limits as per the features documented in Ordnance Survey maps.

The map represents a general layout of physical elements encountered by Ordnance surveyors.

Specific positions of property boundaries are not a mandated characteristic of such maps. Thus, the law does not recognise the use of Ordnance Survey maps as justification for your right to land.

How do I establish my boundaries before buying a home?

Land registry title plans do not depict the exact position of house boundaries.

To accurately ascertain the exact dimensions of land which you may legally claim, ask your conveyancing solicitor to obtain a copy of the original conveyance deed from your vendor.

Your solicitor may also verify the actual parameters of your land by requesting the original Transfer of Part which initially mapped the boundaries of the real estate you intend to acquire.

To establish definite limits, these two documents may be cross-referenced against similar records pertaining to the land of adjacent neighbours.

I am about to buy a house but I just discovered that some of my land has not been registered by the Land Registry, what do I do?

Before closing on an offer to buy a house, it is helpful to compare the title plan provided by your vendor with the records of Land Registry.

If you discover mapping errors, you are advised to apply for First Registration of the unregistered part of the land you intend to purchase.

After your application, Land Registry is obligated to contact previous registered owners to verify that they do not have any legal claim to the section of land in question.

If any of the former property owners demonstrate a right to that piece of land, your application will be forwarded to the Land Registration Division of the Lands Tribunal. You may be required to wait for up to 70 weeks for the tribunal to reach a resolution.

Am I required to face the smooth side of my fence towards my neighbour?

There is a common misconception that homeowners ought to face the smooth side of their fences towards their neighbour. Though you may, you are under no legal obligation to do so.

Typically, neighbours who share the cost of a fence may arrive at a mutual agreement on the design of the structure and the direction it is constructed.

If you choose to build your fence or wall without consulting your neighbour, you may construct them as you wish.

Am I legally mandated to lower my fence if my neighbour requests it?

Each neighbourhood is planned in accordance with a unique set of guidelines. Contact the planning office of your local community to learn the specification limits of your fence.

If the dimensions of your fence fit within the described restrictions, you are not legally required to take action appeasing your neighbours’ complaints. If your construction breaches any aspect of planning criteria, your neighbour may justifiably approach your local planning authority to request your abidance to local standards.

MHHP Law is available to help guide you through disputes regarding property boundaries.

For advice on reaching your preferred resolution, please feel free to contact our legal team on 020 3667 4787, or via email: jon.gilbert@mhhplaw.com.


Our specialist solicitors are here to answer all your questions as we assist you through the boundary resolution process.