That was the ruling of the Court of Appeal in the case of two neighbours who both believed they owned the stream that separated their properties.
Both properties were originally owned by the same person. When the land was split into two and sold separately, the plans and legal documents didn’t make it clear where the boundary lay and who owned the stream.
At the time the first property was sold, there was a fence running alongside the stream on the side that would later become part of the second property.
The judge at the trial held that a reasonable person would have concluded that this fence formed the boundary of the first property and the stream was therefore part of that property.
The owner of the second property appealed saying that the judge had been influenced by inadmissible evidence and should not have looked beyond the legal documents.
The Court of Appeal dismissed this view, however, saying the judge’s approach had been justified. Lord Justice Mummery said: “As the plan is insufficiently clear about the position of the boundary, this was a case in which the judge was entitled to take the plan in hand and look at the physical features of the land on the ground as at the date of the conveyance.”
Please contact James Perry if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article.