Boundary disputes can be quite distressing for all involved. They often evolve as a result of long-standing resentment or disagreement left over from other disputes, or because of a general dislike between neighbours. Otherwise, a simple boundary dispute can be quite straightforward to resolve if the neighbours get on well and one or both are prepared to give ground and back down amicably.
However, many boundary disputes can become complex and only resolvable by court action. As a result, boundary disputes can become costly to pursue. A recent case was reported to have lasted eight years and resulted in the unsuccessful party needing to sell their property. This kind of case has led to a private members bill being introduced which, after a number of false starts, is now slowly making its way through parliament.
The Property Boundaries (Resolution of Disputes) Bill has had a first reading in the House of Lords in July 2017, and is awaiting a second. The bill proposes a dispute resolution process designed to reduce the number of boundary disputes that end up in court and result in a party potentially facing financial ruin.
What does the Property Boundaries (Resolution of Disputes) Bill mean?
Under the bill, parties must adhere to a set procedure, and if not they won’t be able to recover any costs which are associated with proceedings that have been started as a means to determine the exact line of a boundary between lands.
Rather than spend weeks and months arguing about where the boundary of a property is, the proposed procedure dictates that owners of land must serve notice (with a plan) on a neighbour by identifying the exact line of the boundary. The neighbour then has 14 days to dispute this. If the neighbour objects to this or doesn’t respond, then a dispute has officially arisen.
The bill then allows for the dispute to be settled using surveyors rather than taking the matter to court. There is an option to agree on a single surveyor to settle the dispute, or to appoint three separate surveyors to come to a conclusion; one appointed by each party and then a third independent surveyor agreed on by the other two surveyors. Following the judgement, the unsuccessful neighbour has 28 days in which to appeal to the High Court.
How boundary disputes will be resolved
As it stands, this proposed procedure deems the surveyor’s decision to be conclusive, but doesn’t give the surveyor further authority to ask a landowner to remove a structure or award compensation for the property reducing in market value as a result of a dispute’s resolution. If no appeal is made after 28 days, the surveyor will submit details of the agreed boundary to the Land Registry, who will amend the registered title accordingly. At this point the affected landowner can initiate proceedings for trespass if and when necessary.
It is fair to say that there is a long way to go until the Property Boundaries (Resolution of Disputes) Bill will become law, given the bill has not yet passed through the Lords and needs to then go through the House of Commons. Until then, disputes will continue to be resolved via solicitors, in the hope that resolutions can be found that don’t lead to costly litigation.
Our specialists at Ison Harrison have vast experience in boundary disputes and can advise on your rights and how to proceed to resolve the dispute amicably, before the need to initiate court proceedings arises. Please call us on 0113 284 5000 today.