The end of expensive boundary disputes?

The end of expensive boundary disputes?

Neighbour problems, such as boundary disputes, can be notoriously difficult and expensive to resolve.

Lengthy and expensive disputes

This was highlighted recently in a case where a London family lost their £600,000 home, which they had lived in for 31 years, to their neighbours, after losing a legal fight over the home extension that was built three inches into their garden.

The dispute had endured for eight years and resulted in an award of costs against the unsuccessful party. Boundary disputes are often some of the most lengthy and expensive of all disputes.

Time for a change?

The Property Boundaries (Resolution of Disputes) Bill was read in the House of Lords on 13th July 2017. It is yet to have its second reading, but seeks to reduce the number of disputes that end up in court, and recommends a dispute resolution procedure that is based largely on the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.

If implemented, failure to follow the prescribed procedure would mean that the non – compliant party would be unable to recover the costs of Court proceedings to determine the exact line of a boundary between properties.

The Property Boundaries (Resolution of Disputes) Bill

Michelle Hayter, a Partner in our Dispute Resolution Team, explains “The bill as proposed seeks to bring in a requirement that a landowner wishing to establish the position of a boundary must identify on a plan what they believe to be the exact line of the boundary and serve a notice with the plan upon their neighbour. From that point the neighbour has 14 days to respond. If the neighbour objects or does not respond, it would be deemed that a dispute has arisen.”

The use of surveyors

Michelle continues “The new bill proposes that the dispute should be resolved by a single surveyor (if this can be agreed by both parties). If they cannot agree on a single surveyor, three surveyors would be instructed (one appointed by each party and a third agreed upon and appointed by the two surveyors).”

Following the decision of the surveyor/s, the parties will have up to 28 days to appeal to the High Court against that decision.

After this time, if there is no appeal, the landowner in whose favour the decision has been made must submit the decision to the Land Registry.

Removal of a structure from land

There is currently no authority within the current bill for the surveyor to instruct the removal of a structure (for example a fence or a shed) from land or to award compensation resulting from the loss of land or market value suffered by the landowner. It is possible that that discretion may remain with the Court however it may be simpler for the Court to determine those matters if the boundary dispute has already been resolved.

Dispute Resolution

If you are experiencing a dispute over your boundary with a neighbour, you may find it useful to contact our Dispute Resolution Team who can assist you with resolving the problem. Michelle Hayter, a Partner in our Dispute Resolution Team comments “All too often boundary disputes arise over relatively small areas of land with huge costs consequences for all parties concerned. Our team of Dispute Resolution solicitors strive to take a commercial approach to boundary disputes to resolve them quickly and effectively.”

Our Dispute Resolution Team are happy to discuss any issues that this raises for you and we offer a free initial meeting or chat on the phone.

If you have any questions, you only have to ask us at Frettens. Please call 01202 499255 or 01425 610100 and Michelle or a member of the team will be happy to chat about your situation and your particular requirements.