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Boundary Dispute Surveys For Residential Homeowners

Posted 25.02.20

We receive a lot of calls and emails about boundary disputes arising between neighbouring homeowners. Common issues among homeowners include: -

"My neighbour has built a new fence over my boundary line"

"I planted a hedge inside my fence line and my neighbour has now removed my fence and claims the hedge is the boundary"

"My neighbour has knocked my wall down to build his extension/widen the drive, but the wall was on my side of the boundary line"

In these sorts of cases, the actual loss is often negligible. At least, when compared to the cost of securing a ruling in your favour in court, which can run into tens of thousands of pounds with no guarantee you will be successful.

What is the actual value of a 5 m by 0.2 m slither of land for example? Next to nothing. This doesn't stop some neighbors from locking horns and fighting it out though. There are cases where a small slither of land can provide access or be key to securing development in another area, and there is a clear financial reasoning for pursuing this, however these cases are rare and pride is often the prevailing reasoning.

The key thing to establish here is: -

Is there actually a dispute?
You may be able to agree the matter on site with your neighbour but the "paper work" may not be in order, leaving too much open to interpretation and difficulties enforcing the terms of the agreement. In this case you will need a land surveyor to produce a Land Registry compliant plan suitable for use in filing a Boundary Agreement or Boundary Determination. You will need to pay Land Registry a fee and complete additional forms to accompany the plan, or you can pay a solicitor to take care of the process. The agreement with the neighbour will be recorded with your "title deeds" in the Land Registry database. Budget £3-500 for the Land Registry plan and an additional £2-300 in filing costs.

There is a dispute, and you are willing to let a third party help reach agreement: -
In this case, you may look to utilise the RICS Neighbour Disputes Service to help mediate. The appointed chartered surveyor may be a land surveyor or may instruct a land surveyor to produce a boundary survey as part of the evidence used - and they will encourage open discussion and help opposed parties with communication and resolution. Fees start around £1500 +vat plus a £240 initial appointment fee. This can rise up to  £2,200 + vat if the mediation is not successful and the initial expert report is to be used in court. Legal fees will be extra, but the prerequisite condition of attempting to resolve the dispute outside of the courts will have been met, and an expert report already produced.

There is a dispute, and you are willing to be bound by the decision of an expert: -
You may be able to make use of an RICS Arbitration Service. Appointment costs are initially £425 and the appointed Arbitrator will provide estimate costs based on a maximum hourly rate and maximum number of hours. The Arbitrators decision will be binding but may be appealed to the courts.

There is a dispute and both sides are uncompromising on their position: -
The first step is often to check if your home insurance includes cover for legal aid. Making or defending a claim in the courts can be very expensive. Particularly where very small slithers of land are concerned and particularly when comparing the  cost to the value of such slithers of land. Your solicitor can fight your side, and may make use of a land surveyors survey and/or report. If this is to be used as Expert Witness evidence, the land surveyors duty is to the court, and not to you/your appointed solicitor. The legal profession strongly discourage this route particularly where the value of the land being disputed is much less than the cost of litigation.

You're not sure at this point and just want a land surveyor to give their opinion: 
There are some measurement land surveyors who offer this service directly to homeowners. However, in cases such as the opening examples, where the tolerances are very small, it's very unlikely that land surveying technology can say for certain exactly where the legal boundary is. In the UK, the lines are "blurry", nearly always leaving at least +/- 1 metre in accuracy. There are other legal issues which may be relevant and require specialist legal knowledge. At this time, we do not offer a legal opinion on the position of such boundaries to homeowners except in the capacity of Expert Witness under instruction from solicitors. 

We do provide measured surveys and plans of the existing physical boundaries and overlays of historic plans and imagery to homeowners. We can mark and annotate plans to illustrate accurately what the different claims to the boundary are and show how this effects each side of the boundary spatially. This can be used as a tool to take forward discussions with your neighbour or solicitor and should cost around £3-£500. This plan should also be able to be used for a boundary determination if required. 

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