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Whether you have a legal, tax, insurance, management or land issue, Farmers Weekly’s Business Clinic experts can help.

Here Russell Reeves offers advice on how a boundary issue could be resolved.

Q We purchased a block of land in 2005. In 2015 an adjoining piece was bought by someone else.In the past, the two parcels belonged to the same farmer.

We now want to fence the boundary. For convenience the past owner did not follow the hedge line, he put in a straight fence line (leaving the old fence in situ).

We want to put the fence back where it should be, as it is registered with the land registry in our name. This new owner is very reluctant for us to do this.

A It appears you and your neighbour may have differing opinions on where the true boundary lies between your two properties.

Russell ReevesRussell Reeves
Partner, Thrings

Unfortunately, the boundary line on the title registered at the Land Registry is not conclusive evidence of where the true boundary lies.

It is only a “general boundary” and is not intended to show the precise boundary between the two parcels of land.

In order to consider where the true boundary lies, it will be necessary to consider all of the relevant facts of your case including the title deeds to your land and your neighbour’s land.

I would always recommend a site visit by a specialist lawyer because sometimes there may be evidence of where the true boundary lies on the ground, such as old fence posts now hidden, a ditch or a line of trees.

See also: Can newcomer challenge gated farm road?

One way of resolving the dispute is to try to agree with your neighbour where the true boundary lies.

If you can reach an agreement it is possible to register that agreement with the Land Registry. This can save time and costs.

A specialist solicitor will be able to consider all the facts of your case, and then advise you on the most appropriate way forward with regard to your chances of being able to successfully demonstrate where the true boundary lies.

Subject to that assessment and assuming you cannot agree on the boundary with your neighbour, there are various ways to determine the boundary.

Mediation

One conciliatory way to determine the boundary is by mediation.

Mediation is encouraged by the courts and would involve you and your neighbour jointly instructing, and then meeting, a mediator whose role is to try and settle the boundary with your agreement.

A mediator is an independent professional, with no power to decide the boundary but they will explore and encourage settlement with you both.

Mediators are trained in the psychology of negotiation which can be important in neighbour disputes and they have high success rates, typically 80-90%. 

Another, less expensive, way forward is expert determination, which is where you and your neighbour agree to jointly appoint a single expert (such as a surveyor) whose decision you could agree would be binding.

Alternatively, it is open to either of you to apply to the Land Registry to register the exact line of the boundary.

Tribunal 

Let’s say you do this: your neighbour will be afforded the chance to contest your application, which assuming he does, will result in the dispute going to the tribunal to be determined.

The tribunal has similar rules to a court and similar costs.

The final way to determine the dispute is by issuing court proceedings in which the judge would be asked to determine the boundary.

A judge will need to consider the historic deeds and may wish to hear evidence from boundary experts and historic witnesses to assist them.

Court proceedings can be costly and so should be treated as a last resort.

Adverse possession

There is also the possibility that your neighbour could make an application to the Land Registry to claim ownership of the disputed land by way of “adverse possession”.

Assuming the land is registered, he would need to show, among other things, that he or his predecessor in title reasonably believed they owned the disputed strip of land for at least 10 years prior to the application.

This is a complex situation, and it is recommended that you seek specialist independent legal advice to assess your situation.


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