Boundary Disputes

The Thorny Issue

Why do boundary disputes arise?

A boundary dispute can arise between two neighbouring parties for numerous reasons and often specialist advice and knowledge is the only way to settle the matter. Gone are the days where a conversation between neighbours over the garden fence would result in an amicable settlement. In today’s litigious society where we live such hectic lives many of us do not even know our neighbour let alone pass the time of day over a cup of coffee. In the event of a disagreement the default process now appears to be to seek legal advice and redress in the Courts, a much more costly solution than that coffee!

They say a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing and today with the advent of the Internet and the wealth of information it provides the saying is never more true. For example it is commonly misunderstood that the Land Registry Plans identify the correct boundary position. In reality the Land Registry Plans merely place on paper that which is seen on the ground and quite often in the wrong position. The limited accuracy of plans drawn at a scale of 1:1250 & 1:2500 have to be taken into account and boundaries can change over time which is often not recorded.

The Expert

There are numerous rules of thumb a boundary expert can refer to, i.e. the hedge and ditch presumption where if it is not clearly stated in deeds or title documents there is a legal presumption that where two properties are divided by a hedge and ditch, the property boundary is presumed to be on the opposite edge of the ditch from the hedge - this is based on the principle that the owner would have stood on the boundary facing towards his own land, dug the ditch on his own land, piled the soil on his own side to form a bank, and then planted a hedge on the bank.

Another example in rural circles is the age-old practice of placing the fence on the neighbour’s side of the posts. But there is only one way that the expert can truly identify the precise boundary position and ownership (if in fact he can) and that is by studying historical information including plans, deeds and photographs.

Before you ask an Expert to work on your behalf check the following: -

  • Do they specialise in boundary work?
  • Do they have experience of mapping and surveys?
  • Are they familiar with the latest Civil Procedure Rules and experienced in preparing reports for Court?
  • Do they have experience in giving evidence in Court as an Expert Witness?

True experts are able to examine the problem, compare technical data that may help resolve the dispute at an early stage and, if necessary, provide a quote with the advice needed to make a fair & equitable judgement. Remember the Expert does not decide where the boundary is but provides his/her unbiased professional opinion as to where they think it is – which of course can be at odds with that of his/her instructing source.

Neighbour Dispute Resolution Service (NDRS)

A service provided by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors as an alternative to lengthy and costly litigation.

Introduced by the RICS partly in response to the England and Wales Civil Procedure Rules, which encourages parties to use Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) the NDRS is a service provided by the UK & Internationally recognised property organisation in an attempt to address the ever-increasing number of boundary disputes. It must be noted that if a party fails to engage in some form of ADR when they go to Court costs may be awarded against them – even if they win the case!

Should neighbours require an application for a Neighbour Dispute details of the three stage service can be found at the or telephone 020 7334 3806.