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Boundaries and adverse possession

The editor of this section of the site is Samantha Jackson of 1 Chancery Lane, London.

God's law
    “Cursed be he who moves his neighbour’s boundary. And the entire people shall say amen” (Deuteronomy, ch 27, v17)

Man's lawyers
    “This is a boundary dispute. To hear those words, “a 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 display of unneighbourly behaviour which profits no one but the lawyers.” (Ward LJ, Alan Wibberley Building Ltd v Inley)

    “If the parties were driven by concern for the well being of lawyers, they could have donated half that sum to the Solicitors Benevolent Association and then resolved their dispute for a modest fraction of the monies left over. (Jackson LJ, Faidi v Elliot Corporation)
Mediation
    "All disputes between neighbours arouse deep passions and entrenched positions are taken as the parties stand upon their rights seemingly blissfully unaware or unconcerned that they are committing themselves to unremitting litigation which will leave them bruised by the experience and very much the poorer, win or lose. It depresses me that solicitors cannot at the very first interview persuade their clients to put their faith in the hands of an experienced mediator, a dispassionate third party, to guide them to a fair and sensible compromise of an unseemly battle which will otherwise blight their lives for months and months to come.” (Ward LJ, Faidi v Elliot Corporation)

Analysing boundary issues

There are two basic stages to analysing who owns a boundary. They can be expressed by the following questions:
  • Stage one: Can either party produce evidence that he or she is the true legal owner of the disputed land? That might be by deeds, transfers and plans backed up by features on the ground, presumptions or extrinsic evidence. If so, he or she is presumed to be in possession (Powell v McFarlane (1977) 38 P&CR 452 at 470). If not, who was in possession of the land immediately before the dispute arose?

  • Stage two: Has that owner lost his legal right to the land or at least the right to possess it? Usually by adverse possession, either under the “old” law or under the new procedures introduced by Land Registration Act 2002, or by estoppel usually arising out of a boundary agreement.
The pages in this section of the site contain details of a numbers of matters relating to those issues. Click on the topic of interest to you in the contents column on the left.

To mediate a boundary dispute click here

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