Neighbours spend 11 years arguing over 6 inches of land
A couple has spent eleven years fighting with their neighbours over just six inches of land, spending over £60,000 in legal fees.
Philip and Denise New from Essex say they’ve had to re-mortgage their home to cover the costs after losing their case, all due to replacing rotten fence panels.
The argument began after their neighbours said the fence was in the wrong place, and that Mr and Mrs New were trespassing on their land – but the couple argued they had used the original cement posts that had been there for 50 years.
Unable to reach an agreement, the case reached the High Court after negotiations with mediators and land professionals stalled.
“Springtime, warmer weather and longer days see a huge surge in garden work every year,” says Laura Cartwright, conveyancing expert at Bell Lamb & Joynson solicitors.
“But when homeowners decide to improve and replace without checking the ground rules, boundary disputes are sure to follow. This was an extreme case, but boundary disputes have a tendency to inflame neighbour relationships.”
Boundary problems typically arise because nobody knows who is responsible or owns a fence, or the location may not be clear from Land Registry records.
Newer housing clearly states who owns what land or boundary or whether it is a party fence, but with older properties, it’s not always clear.
Locating original title deeds or checking with local authorities may be needed to find old documents, but if documents cannot be found, then more work will be needed.
Laura believes the best approach is to try and avoid arguments arising in the first place, by having a quiet chat with neighbours before you do the work.
“If that highlights a difference of opinion and you can’t resolve things, then staying civil is important. You still have to live next door to each other and even if you think a house move may be a solution, remember you have to declare any disputes when you come to sell a property these days.”
“If you really don’t feel able to have an initial conversation, or if you’ve already landed yourself in the middle of a red-hot boundary dispute, then that’s the time to call in a professional to act as an intermediary with your neighbour, rather than pressing on and raising the temperature further”.