Obviously they are disputes concerning boundaries but the nature and variety of the disputes that we come across and have dealt with over the years is extremely varied. Sometimes we are consulted by clients who are worried that their neighbours have approached them to discuss putting up a new fence and they are concerned about whether they have any responsibility to pay for that and maintain it, where exactly should the fence go and this is particularly significant if a fence is replacing something like a hedge, does the boundary run through the middle of the hedge or on one side? No one wants to feel that they are giving up land which belongs to them even if it is only a few inches! In many instances these things can be resolved amicably by the parties discussing matters and reaching agreement between themselves, without the intervention of solicitors. However, that is not true in all cases.
In recent years we have seen an increasing number of disputes about boundaries because people are building and extending their homes and there can be major issues between neighbours about exactly where the boundary lies and whether or not your neighbour, or indeed yourself, can build right up to the boundary, or interfere with an existing boundary structure, such as a wall. These sorts of disputes can be extremely contentious, particularly in cases where the encroachment of a neighbour over a boundary might make it impossible for someone to get their lawn mower or wheelie bin down the side of their house, affectively resulting in a back garden which is land-locked. The starting point is always to look at your Deeds. If you have a mortgage these may be held by the bank or building society who has a mortgage over your property, although increasingly lenders have not wanted to store what they regard as unnecessary documents and more and more clients are being sent a packet of Deeds to store themselves. These may well contain copies of old Conveyances or Leases with plans drawn to scale, which may sometimes contain measurements and can be vital in establishing where boundaries lie.
Such plans are likely to be much more reliable than the file plan which is held at the Land Registry. In fact, we have recently settled a case where the plan held at the Land Registry bore almost no relation to the situation on the ground, although, happily, the matter was capable of resolution because plans in the old pre-registration Deeds showed the boundaries of the properties from the time that they were built in the 1920s. As boundary disputes invariably involve disputes with neighbours, these can easily become very heated and can be extremely stressful for clients who may feel that they can never get away from the problem. After all if you have had a hard day at work the last thing you need when you go home is to be confronted by a neighbour who could become abusive or aggressive because of the dispute.
Sometimes disputes about boundaries occur when a property is sold and someone new moves in and challenges the position of a boundary that may have been happily accepted by a previous occupier. This is particularly so when it comes to the position and indeed the very existence of fences between driveways. If a new neighbour has several cars that they wish to put on their driveway, the existence of a fence can sometimes make it difficult to get in or out of a vehicle and, sad to report, we have had clients who have found that a neighbour will simply remove fence panels to make life easier for themselves.
This may seem a minor point but for a client who has small children, or pets, it is very important that secure and complete boundaries are maintained.
We have all seen pictures in the newspapers and articles on T.V. of families who are at war with their neighbours. Disputes with neighbours, particularly over matters such as boundaries and rights of way, are things that a vendor would need to disclose to a prospective purchaser when selling the property so it is very important that situations such as these are resolved as quickly and as amicably as possible and whilst we work hard at settling matters, sometimes there is no alternative to the issue of proceedings.
We have considerable experience of advising and resolving a whole range of disputes concerning the siting and maintaining of boundaries so if you are unfortunate enough to encounter such difficulties, then you should contact us straight away as experience leads us to believe that a prompt letter, accompanied by a reminder of the information contained in the Title Deeds, can often resolve matters before they become too deeply entrenched. For any further information or advice on these matters please contact Fiona Gaskell, Fiona.Gaskell@clough-willis.co.uk who will be pleased to assist.