Boundary disputes are more common than you might think. If you’re carrying out external building work on your home, can you be sure you’re not encroaching on your neighbour’s land? To stop neighbourly relationships turning sour, here are 5 top tips for avoiding boundary disputes.
The last thing you want when planning a house extension or garden revamp is to end up in a dispute with a neighbour over a fence, trees, hedges and other boundary markings. If you encounter a boundary problem, the best way to resolve it is to talk to your neighbour. The alternative is likely to be a lengthy and expensive legal process.
With that in mind here are 5 top tips to help you avoid getting embroiled in a boundary war:
#1 – Check your deeds
The key to avoiding a dispute over boundaries is to prevent it becoming an issue in the first place. Prior to extending your home or landscaping your garden, learn as much as you can from your deeds and land registry information. Consult your local planning office or refer to their online portal for help.
#2 – Take pictures
If you’re having to remove structures, fences, walls, hedges, trees or any other boundary marking, take pictures and keep their position marked using pegs or stakes. Where possible, involve your neighbour in this process. That way they can agree with you, the boundary line when it is re-marked.
We’d advise getting permission to take pictures of their side of the boundary line. Not only does this give you a record of the condition of a border prior to starting any kind of external building work, it’s evidence should a dispute arise.
#3 – Take notes, make recordings
Take notes and make recordings of agreements and discussions between you and a neighbour for future reference. We’d advise not carrying out any building works until reaching an agreement with your neighbour(s). You should reinforce this message with the builder you hire.
#4 – Refer to the Party Wall Act
If the 1996 Party Wall Act applies to your building work, then you should refer to the planning portal. The portal outlines the Party Wall Act and covers the rights to extend, rebuild or excavate. This legislation applies if you’re building on or a near a boundary.
#5 – Refer to the Access to Neighbouring Land Act
Several disputes between neighbours have occurred as a result of building works requiring access to a neighbour’s land. You must adhere to the 1992 Access to Neighbouring Land Act. This only applies when carrying out repairs or upkeep. It does not give you the right to access a neighbour’s property as part of a new build project or home extension.
Boundary dispute cases that have ended up in court have resulted in several home owners having to pay out compensation for harassment, nuisance, trespass, personal injury and repairs. This is often because a neighbourly relationship has broken down.
The number 1 priority when planning a building project is to talk to your neighbour. Engaging in a constructive dialogue builds trust and makes the process easier for everyone.
The alternatives don’t bear thinking about and what’s worse, any ongoing dispute with a neighbour has to be declared as part of a potential house sale, which could affect the value of your home.