Boundary Disputes: How to determine a boundary line?

Arguments between neighbours are common when boundary disputes arise, and in our experience, the longer a case goes on, the more entrenched each side gets and the more and more acrimonious a case can become. It is important to communicate with the other side calmly and discuss the issue amicably, at an early stage if possible, and avoid the dispute becoming personal.

Boundaries can be unclear, and so misunderstandings do happen. Trying to avoid blame in the early stages can be helpful in finding an acceptable solution.

When do Boundary disputes occur

Boundary disputes occur when owners or occupiers of neighbouring properties disagree as to the extent of their land. These range anywhere from small strips of residential land to commercial property worth millions of pounds. When these disputes arise PRE Surveyors are on hand to guide you through what can be a very confusing process of ascertaining the exact boundaries and owners of each parcel of land.

Where to find legal boundary

A common misconception is that the definitive and legal boundaries of properties or parcels of land are shown on the title plans held by the Land Registry. However, unless it is expressly stated that the boundary shown has been determined as exact in line with s.60, LRA 2002, Land Registry plans are intended as a guide only. This means that it is possible for an area of land to be within a registered title, even though it falls outside the red outline on the title plan. Conversely, it is possible for an area of land not to be included within the registered title, even though it is within the red outline on the title plan.

To find the legal boundary, consultation of both the title deed and the documents from first conveyance is required, these will describe physical site conditions at the time of creation.

Squatters’ rights, Adverse possession & Proprietary Estoppel

Squatters’ rights is a term often associated with the illegal occupation, and subsequent damage, of a property by a group of people. However, in certain circumstances the occupiers can apply for ownership of the land under adverse possession. This application can be made so long as the following conditions are met:

  • The occupier entered the land/property without the permission of the owner
  • There have been no attempts of removal
  • The land has been occupied for a period of either 12 years prior to October 2003 or 10 years after 1991

Proprietary Estoppel is a means by which property rights can be affected or created. It applies in cases where a landowner induces, encourages or allows the claimant to believe that they have rights or benefits over the land in question. The claimant can apply to the court for relief if:

  • The legal owner of the land has knowledge that the claimant has relied upon the belief, and in doing so acts to its detriment and;
  • The landowner subsequently makes an unconscionable attempt to remove the usage of the occupier.

Once the claim of relief has been put forward the court will give an equitable decision as to the claimants usage rights of the land in question

Defining a new boundary

Once an agreement has been made to resolve the dispute an application can be made to the Land Registry to update the boundary shown on the plans. It is worth noting however that the line will still not be the legal boundary, this will fall to the supporting documentation and the legally binding agreement made between both parties.

PureRES Area Measurement

Written by 


Senior Project Leader


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