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Get Off My Land! – Boundary Ownership and Disputes

by Sarah Halloran

It’s quite common these days to see boundary disputes reach the local and sometimes national headlines.  Arguments about trees and hedges have caused neighbours to fall out forever and in some cases for tempers to erupt into violence and harassment.

So, do you know where your boundary is or who owns it?  Surprisingly, lots of homeowners are unsure.  Usually the only time we see where our boundaries are is when we receive our title deeds when buying a new house.  The title deeds will show you a scale plan of your property with the boundaries clearly highlighted.  You can also obtain a copy of your boundary plans from HM Land Registry for a fee.  The price for boundary plans differs, but paying a small fee could put your mind and any dispute to rest if you are experiencing real problems.

How to Avoid Disputes

Of course, it’s always best to try to avoid disputes with your neighbours.  If, before you move into your new house, you think a dispute may arise at some point then it’s prudent to take some photographs of your boundaries when you move in.  The previous owners may have tipped you off about problems or potential problems so it’s a good idea to at least be vigilant.  That doesn’t mean installing CCTV and keeping a diary on your neighbours.  Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt first!  Tact is important to avoid upsetting anybody.

As with most things prevention is often better than cure.  If you are planning to erect a new wall, move a fence, or plant a new tree or hedge, you should speak to your neighbour first.  Best to do that than start taking out a fence whilst your neighbour is at work or putting in a conifer that blocks their natural light.

If you are going to erect a fence, custom dictates that posts sit on your land whilst the face of the fence points to your neighbours.  It’s definitely worth sacrificing a couple of inches of land in order to avoid your fence encroaching on your neighbour’s land.  You should also ensure your new fence complies with Planning Regulations and you can usually check this with a quick phone call to your local office.

If you’re planting a new hedge try to position it at least 1.2 metres within your boundary.  That way once it starts to grow it’s less likely to cause a problem for your neighbours.  You should also try to keep your hedge trimmed to no more than 3 metres in height.

What to Do When a Dispute Arises

If you have a problem with an overhanging tree or your neighbour is planning to build a new fence a little too close to your boundary or over it, it’s always a good idea to raise any points politely and clearly.  If you have a good relationship with your neighbours, that’s great. Most problems never make it to a full on dispute and are solved with a handshake over the garden fence.

If a dispute has arisen and you’re at the end of your tether with your neighbours or they have a dispute with you it could be time to study the title deeds in detail.  You can obtain your title deeds and those of your neighbours if they are not forthcoming with theirs.

The problem with most disputes is that they are born out of more than a disagreement about fences or trees.  Deep rooted (pardon the pun) feelings from the past and presumptions about your neighbours can often make a dispute lose its real meaning and cause tempers to flair.  Sometimes mediation is what is required.

Paul Crosland is a mediator with Bristol Mediation: “Mediate, don’t litigate,” he says. Neighbourly disputes, he says, “are usually about what people think about each other, with layers of presumption to be removed.”

A community mediation service can assist in finding a way to a seemingly impossible solution. “We’re looking for a win-win scenario,” he says.

Local authorities hold lists of mediation services or you can find them online.  You’ll be paid a visit by a mediator to discuss the situation and a letter will be send to your neighbour to arrange a face to face meeting to talk about the situation in order to hopefully reach a satisfactory conclusion.

“We look at what’s really behind the dispute, and once that’s resolved the rest usually follows,” says Mr Crosland.  If a written or verbal agreement can be reached the mediator will then back off and check back to make sure the agreement still stands.

The next step is the courts if you can’t come to an agreement and that is going to be a costly long journey that could cause a fallout with your neighbours for good.  A much better idea is to solve any boundary problem quickly, smoothly and with as little distress as possible.

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Garage sales and gardens

by Ed Mead

Interestingly I’ve just been asked to dispose of a chunk of garden. It sounds simple and relatively inexpensive. A couple of years ago an agent in Knightsbridge was asked to dispose of a garage, and by the way this story has buggered up almost all garage sales since.

The agent suggested a guide that sounded pretty punchy, c. £150k I recall, and expected to get offers on what was, after all, a single lock up garage with no other planning angles. What they didn’t expect was to get two super rich egos to decide they wanted to have a ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ competition. The resulting price was over four times the guide and the owner must have though all their Christmases had come at once.Stucco fronted porticoed houses in Knightsbridge

I’m not sure the garden will go the same way but it is possible. Surrounded by some of the most expensive real estate anywhere in the world, nine stucco fronted porticoed jobbies to be precise, lived in mostly I suspect by people who move money around and get paid a fortune for doing so.

It’ll be fascinating to see what someone will pay to add c.1000 sq ft of outside space, that can only ever be a garden, to their pile especially given that one or two are woefully short on outside space. More soon……….

Ed Mead is a regular contributor to The Big Property List blog.  An Estate Agent for over 30 years, he has been writing and commentating on the market for over half of that as the Sunday Times Property Expert and The Agent Provocateur for the Telegraph.  He sits on the Board of The Property Ombudsman Ltd, has a regular LBC slot, and is happy to say it as it is.

Other places you can find him online are the Douglas & Gordon blog and Twitter

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from → Ed Mead, property

North-west faces possible hosepipe ban

by James Cole

BBC news this week reported that one water company, United Utilities, is already contemplating a hosepipe ban after ‘an unprecedented period of dry weather since December 2009′.

Gardeners will be upset if a water ban is imp,emented in the north-west

The company, which covers north-west england, said that unless there is significant rainfall before the end of the month then a hosepipe ban will be necessary to conserve supplies.

Spokesman for United Utilities, said: “It’s been an unprecedented period of dry weather since December 2009, and we need to take action now so we can tap into available water resources if the dry weather continues.”

Gardeners in Wales, South West and Central England will be watching the skies no doubt as, according to the Environment Agency, there is also a risk to the environment if below average rainfall and hot, dry conditions continue and hosepipe bans may be implemented in these areas.

For the rest of England, the risk of drought remains low, but this could change if the weather remains dry.

There are currently no hosepipe and sprinker bans in place in the UK.

Sources: Hosepipe ban UK, Environment Agency

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