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07th July 2016

Where is the boundary

Life would be straightforward if boundaries on the ground married up with those in the legal title, and if deeds made boundary ownership clear.

Land Registry plans are OS based and the “general” boundaries rule applies. In other words, the title plan will not determine the exact line of the boundary whether it is for instance down the centre line of the hedge. If the exact position is important (perhaps to ensure a proper width of access or a building line) then boundaries can be “fixed” by an application to the Land Registry to determine. It will require a very detailed plan, measured to the millimetre, and ideally the agreement of both parties.

Legal “presumptions” may help clarify. Do treat with caution, as evidence to the contrary will mean they do not apply. The Hedge and Ditch Rule for instance. Two properties are divided by a hedge (or a bank), and a man-made ditch. The presumption here is that whoever owns the hedge owns the ditch. This assumes that whoever dug the ditch did so on his own land and put the spoil there, where the hedge then grew. Similarly, properties abutting a ditch, non-tidal river or stream (or unadopted or private road ways or footpaths) are presumed to have boundaries which follow the centre line of the stream ( or path).

It is wise to check deeds against boundaries, walking them regularly so issues with adjoining owners are picked up early. Do not lose sight of the actual legal boundary position, particularly where you own both hedge and inner fence along a boundary Do remember you own the “gap” where internal fences are put up for horses or stock well within the legal boundary line, but are left in place for the longer term.

For more information please contact Denise Wilkinson on 01223 461155 or click here to email Denise.

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Hewitsons LLP is a legal panel firm for the NFU. A copy of this article was first published in NFU British Farmer and Grower in June 2016.

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