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11th June 2015

Boundary Disputes - Solicitors and courts to be excluded

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“To hear those words “boundary dispute” is to fill a judge even of the most stalwart and amiable disposition with deep foreboding, since disputes between neighbours tend always to compel, as this one did, some unreasonable and extravagant behaviour which profits no one but the lawyers.”

Thus spoke Lord Justice Ward in the Court of Appeal giving judgment in the hedge and ditch case of Wibberley –v- Insley that occupied the time of no less than 9 judges after it had been taken to the House of Lords.

In his introduction to Anstey’s Boundary Disputes David Powell said,

“Most boundary disputes take place in suburban back gardens. Most of them could easily be avoided. Most are quite simple for two surveyors to solve (or one surveyor instructed jointly). Most clients refuse to accept what their surveyors tells them.”

Recognising these issues on 1st June the Government quietly arranged for the First Reading in the House of Lords the Property Boundaries (Resolution of Disputes) Bill.

The Bill at a stroke removes the courts and lawyers from boundary disputes. In a nutshell, when the Bill is enacted:

  • Where a boundary dispute is running in court, it will be stayed
  • A boundary dispute must be resolved by a single surveyor, instructed by the parties jointly either directly or through surveyors appointed by them
  • The single surveyor must settle by award
  • - the precise location of the boundary -
  • set it out on a dimensioned plan acceptable to the Land Registry -
  • indicate if necessary the extent to with a building straddles the boundary
  • award costs between the parties
  • If a landowner brings proceedings in court without adopting this procedure he will get no costs (and the proceedings will be stayed anyway)
  • There is an appeal process but only to the Technology and Construction Court – after the award made by the single surveyor
  • A Code of Practice will be published setting out details of the procedure to be followed

It will not only be judges who welcome this change. At Hewitsons we loudly applaud the removal of lawyers from boundary disputes; specialist surveyors have now the most sophisticated equipment to make the most accurate plans and giving them the principal role in this area is to be welcomed.

For information on our Disputes and Litigation Services, contact Eleanor Rutherford on 01604 463340 or click here to email Eleanor.