The cost of boundary disputes was highlighted recently in the well publicised case of the London family who lost their £600k home of 31 years to their neighbours, after losing a legal fight over the home extension that was built three inches into their garden.
The dispute had endured for eight years and resulted in the award of costs against the unsuccessful party. Boundary disputes involving property solicitors are often some of the most lengthy and expensive of all disputes.
The Property Boundaries (Resolution of Disputes) Bill was read in the House of Lords on 13th July 2017 . The bill is yet to have its second reading, but seeks to reduce the number of disputes that end up in court, and recommends a dispute resolution procedure that is based largely on the Party Wall etc Act 1996. Failure to follow the procedure would result in the inability to recover associated costs of proceedings to determine the exact line of a boundary between properties.
The new procedure proposes the requirement of the landowner to serve written notice on the neighbouring landowner, identifying with a plan the exact line of the boundary and requiring the neighbour’s agreement within 14 days.
Should the neighbour object or fail to respond, a dispute would be deemed to have arisen.
The new bill proposes that the dispute be resolved by a single surveyor (if agreed by both parties) or by three surveyors (comprising one appointed by each party and a third appointed by the two surveyors).
Following the judgement of the surveyor/s, a 28-day period will pass within which an appeal could be made to the High Court. After this time, the surveyor will register details of the award with the Land Registry, which will be required to then amend the registered title. After this, proceedings for trespass can be commenced by the affected landowner.
There is currently no authority within the current bill for the surveyor to instruct the removal of a structure from land or to award compensation resulting from the loss of land or market value suffered by the landowner.