Business Clinic: How do we challenge fence on our land?

Whether you have a legal, tax, insurance, management or land issue, Farmers Weekly’s Business Clinic experts can help. Geoff Kenney, senior energy specialist at Carter Jonas, advises on a an increasingly common area of dispute.

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Q. Our neighbour has recently constructed a new fence between our properties, but we believe this fence is actually on our land. What steps can we take to establish the correct boundary position?

Unfortunately, this is a common issue between neighbours, but there are various steps you can take to resolve the situation.

It needs to be dealt with carefully, because boundary disputes can quickly become acrimonious if not handled well and the time and costs required to resolve the dispute may rapidly become disproportionate to the value of the land.

Most people will begin by looking at the title plans for their property, but it is important to note that the red line on the Land Registry title plan only shows the general boundary and does not define the exact legal boundary.

In the first instance, try to speak to your neighbour. Keep the conversation friendly and, if both sides are amenable, this might be sufficient to resolve the issue.

If you do this and are unable to reach an agreement with which you are both satisfied, your next step should be to seek expert advice from a specialist chartered surveyor.

If the relationship with your neighbour is amicable, you may jointly instruct a single expert. This has the advantage of reducing costs, and it is more likely to avoid confrontation in the future.

If the relationship is not amicable, each party may wish to appoint their own independent surveyor.

The surveyor will visit the property and carry out a site inspection, recording key features relevant to the boundary. The surveyor will also consider evidence such as the title plans, conveyance documents and deeds.

They will refer to documents such as historical mapping, aerial imagery and other evidence before preparing a report giving their expert opinion on the boundary position.

Often, having seen this report, the parties can then settle on the correct boundary.

Unfortunately, it may be that an agreement still cannot be reached. At this stage, the parties may consider litigation.

We would always recommend seeking appropriate legal advice in relation to a boundary dispute, but there are still options available before attending court.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has updated its guidance on procedures for boundary dispute resolution, specifically citing an increase in boundary disputes during the Covid-19 pandemic in England and Wales.

This guidance places new emphasis on mediation and the avoidance of litigation.

Mediation is a voluntary, non-binding form of alternative dispute resolution where an independent expert is appointed to help reach a negotiated settlement.

Mediation is becoming increasingly popular as, in the majority of cases, it results in a positive settlement for all parties.

The courts will usually require parties to attempt mediation first, in the hope that it will avoid a trial later.

Many boundary disputes are resolved before they progress to mediation or litigation. However, when a boundary dispute does occur, it is important not to let the situation fester and to seek suitable professional advice before the situation escalates.


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