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Boundary disputes - nipping them in the bud

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Boundary disputes between neighbours are a perennial problem. They always have been and they probably always will be. They rarely end well. They cause a great deal of animosity and tension. And disputes can arise in relation to the smallest patch of land imaginable. Proportionality and logic get thrown out of the window, and the knives come out, figuratively at least.

In a well-meaning and sincere attempt to minimise the number of matters proceeding to litigation, a new Boundary Disputes Protocol has been prepared by senior members of the legal and surveying professions.

The Protocol applies to both residential and commercial properties. Unlike most legal protocols, compliance with this new Protocol is only voluntary, at least for now. It is aimed at minimising costs and preventing parties from descending into the pits of darkness and despair, also known as boundary litigation in the County or High Court.

The Protocol states that, as a preliminary step, both parties should refrain from interfering with any physical feature on or near the disputed land and avoid doing anything which might exacerbate hostility. Common sense some might say. But it is extraordinary how quickly common sense gets jettisoned.

The Protocol sets out a basic structure and timescale for the parties to follow in order to encourage the exchange of information. The structure can be summarised as follows:-


  1. The parties of course firstly need to agree to follow the Protocol. Once that has been agreed, they will set a Start Date.


  2. Land Registry title entries will be exchanged within 2 weeks after the Start Date.


  3. Relevant information concerning the boundary, including deeds and conveyances, will be exchanged within 4 weeks after the Start Date.


  4. Negotiation and/or mediation will be attempted within 8 weeks after the Start Date.


  5. If resolution is unsuccessful, an expert will be jointly instructed by the parties to produce a report on the boundary.


  6. If the dispute has still not been resolved, the parties shall meet on the boundary with the expert to try to reach an agreement before the matter proceeds to litigation.


The Protocol cannot guarantee successful resolution but it should certainly be considered as a way of initiating a sensible dialogue with neighbours. It can be easy to lose a sense of perspective when land is involved and costs can escalate disproportionately. It should therefore be welcomed and embraced by anyone who is about to do battle over their boundary.

If you have any questions concerning boundary matters or the Protocol specifically, please contact Andrew Turner on 01242 586 841.

The information contained on this page has been prepared for the purpose of this blog/article only. The content should not be regarded at any time as a substitute for taking legal advice.