Picture the scene – you’re relaxing at home, enjoying a warm cup of tea on a crisp winter morning, when there’s a knock at the door. It’s your next door neighbour and they announce that they actually own that part of your garden where your carrots have just begun to grow. You now have the dreaded boundary dispute.
We recently acted for a client in a boundary dispute in which it appeared that their neighbour owned half of their garage, despite (a) there being a clear (and very old) boundary fence, and (b) the garage in question having been built decades earlier. Both parties instructed solicitors to resolve the issue, but both remained reasonable and amicable throughout which made the whole process much simpler, quicker and cheaper than would otherwise have been the case.
More often than not, these disputes arise through no fault of either party – the boundary may have been incorrectly drawn on the Land Register of Scotland many years before, the OS-map may have been updated since the boundaries were drawn, a fence may have been accidentally rebuilt ever-so-slightly in the wrong place, or the land may have been mistakenly included within both titles decades earlier. So don’t ready the tanks and declare war on Mr Nextdoor immediately.
The key point to remember is to keep things in perspective – is the land in question so big that it is worth sabotaging your relationship with your neighbour for? It may well be, but often the land in question is only a metre or so wide. If you’re the lucky neighbour who has just discovered that you own that carrot-rich land, did you ever think that the land was yours? If not, is losing a sliver of land which you didn’t know was yours really such a loss?
Should you become aware of a potential boundary discrepancy, while you may be tempted to keep quiet and hope your neighbour doesn’t notice, it is worthwhile getting this resolved sooner rather than later. Otherwise, when you decide it’s time to sell up, move on and find your new home, the boundary issue may be flagged up by the prospective purchaser or their solicitor. Not only will this result in extra stress at an already stressful time, this could hold up the sale or result in a price reduction. Also, in the unfortunate event that your neighbour decides not to be quite so reasonable about the situation, your bargaining position is far reduced if you have the pressures of a property chain on your back!
So, if you think that you may have a boundary dispute, it is worthwhile getting in touch with an experienced property solicitor.