Boundary disputes can cause untold misery and can waste time and large sums of money.
The true “boundary dispute”
This is a disagreement over where a boundary lies. It may be because there has never been clear agreement, or because one party puts up a boundary fence or wall which the other party says repositions the boundary. The cost of the dispute is often higher than the value of the disputed piece of land. Old documents may help to resolve the dispute, but the plans attached to old conveyances are notoriously unreliable.
A “party wall” dispute
This is often not so much over the position of a structure on the boundary between two properties, but access to it, or its condition. The Party Walls etc. Act 1996 lays down strict procedures as to the giving of notices, selection of surveyors and the general procedure to resolve this type of dispute. It is usually cheaper than litigation, but it can still be costly.
Rights of Way
Rights of way and similar facilities are known as “easements”. They are rights which one party can enjoy over another’s land without actually having the right of ownership of the land in any way. Most easements don’t even appear in the “title deeds”, or the Land Registry records which have now replaced them. The easements may have been created expressly, such as for example in an old conveyance, or by implication. The Prescription Act 1832 provides that if a party has enjoyed a certain right over the land of another “openly, as of right, without permission” for 20 years or more then that right cannot be defeated.