One should understand that boundary disputes are quite complex to handle, and it is not possible to seek online help. A legal advice can give complete information about it. Alternatively, you can call RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) helpline for boundary disputes. Before going into the details of boundary disputes, let’s understand the two important aspects of a boundary, the physical and the logical.
How are physical and legal boundaries different?
As far as the law is concerned, the boundary doesn’t have a special meaning. However, both words have a different meaning:
- Physical boundary: It is the physical feature in the form of a fence, wall or hedge. Remember, it may or may not follow the lines of the legal boundary. Legal boundary runs within the physical boundary structure. However, living boundaries show some degree of movement. For example, a hedge may grow haphazardly if unattended, and the roots may spread a wide area which doesn’t mark the original line. Thus, a hedge may define it on a broad basis; it is sometimes difficult to find it physically on the ground.
- Legal Boundary: When we talk about a legal boundary, it is a clear-cut separation of land ownership. It is the invisible line of division between two lands. In general, there is no thickness in the dividing lines. It generally falls, but not always along the physical boundary like a wall, hedge, or fence. Exact position of the legal boundaries is neither shown on a registered title plan nor a map.
How does a surveyor help in deciding legal boundary?
A surveyor doesn’t record or decide the legal boundary of a property. However, they have advanced topographic mapping skills that show the physical features at the time of surveying. These are not legal boundaries. Surveyors are responsible for definitive and official telegraphic mapping appointed by the national mapping agency of Great Britain. It is not possible to depend on the title plan scaling any measurements in the title deeds. There is a possibility of distortion and inaccuracies due to the copying process. Hence, it is advisable seeking help of a surveyor for determining legal boundaries.
When people want to know about the ownership of a particular land and the legal boundaries, look at the land registry. It should tell precise information about it. A surveyor’s task is to map the physical features and survey the property, not to talk about the legal boundaries. Since it is an invisible line that marks the limits of the ownership, registry is the best place to search it. When the boundary also has some physical marking like a wall, hedge or fencing, the task of identifying becomes simpler.
Land registry uses the base maps created by surveyors for creating the title plan in the title deeds. Legal boundary is denoted by a red line or box. When the red line and physical features do not coincide, land registry adds new lines to denote it. Hence, Land Registry is the best place when there is a doubt about a hedge, wall or fence.
How to find the responsibility for a wall, hedge or fencing?
If the information is available in the title deed lodged for registration, then boundary ownership detail can be found out by the title register. A ‘T’ mark is the most common mark that indicates ownership of the boundary. It also indicates the liability of maintaining or repairing it. Experts say that the proprietor is responsible for the repair or maintenance in such cases. However, it is a rule of thumb. The wordings of the deed are required to be read thoroughly to interpret the particular deed properly. The mark doesn’t refer a special meaning in the law. Also, it doesn’t force anything legally. In some deeds, you don’t find a ‘T’ mark. In some deeds, boundaries are referred in the wording and not explicitly.
A land registry doesn’t contain a ‘T’ mark. Rather, they add a note at the end of the register entry. The note typically reads as “The ‘T’ mark in the registry affects the Eastern boundary of the land in this title.” A deed which is referred as ‘Copy Field’ indicates that you need to request a copy of the deed and cross-check the ownership or maintenance responsibility of boundary. A replacement or alteration of the boundary must keep agreements with other adjoining owners.
When is it NOT possible to determine the ownership?
- A deed contains agreement about maintaining a fence or wall, but there is no clear indication of the ownership.
- A deed that doesn’t determine the maintenance responsibility of a boundary, it is regarded as a party boundary.
- If it isn’t possible to determine the ownership using all other resort, the matter should be taken to the court.
- When there is no physical feature like a fence or a wall separates two properties, nothing is shown on the map. A land registry may indicate it with a dotted line on the plan.
What is the best way of resolving a boundary dispute?
If the dispute is with your neighbor, then it is always better calling her or him for a cup of tea and resolves the dispute amicably. Going legal way is a tedious, expensive, and the least preferred way always. The dispute looks ‘larger than life’ to you, but it isn’t actually. Your neighbor readily agrees to find the middle way. Keep the necessary documents ready so that the discussion happens in a clear and decisive manner.
When the discussions seem to be unfruitful and unproductive, it is better talking to a solicitor. Fix an appointment and show all necessary documents. A good solicitor talks to your neighbor and puts the case forward on your behalf. If that also doesn’t help, then you may seek the help of an independent mediator agency that calls for a joint meeting of both parties and their solicitors. If an acceptable solution doesn’t occur after this attempt, then you may take up the issue to court.