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Deeds, plans and boundary features

On this page we are considering the following question: "Who owns the disputed land according to 'the deeds'?". That person is commonly known as the “paper owner”. A number of factors will be looked at but as will be seen the key point is to find the original document that divided the two pieces of land. It will then be necessary to go out on site with that document, which will hopefully have a plan attached - albeit more likely than not an inadequate one, and look at the land and try to work out what the position was at the time that the land was divided into two.

This is a detailed article covering the following:
  • The starting point - finding the original document that divided the two pieces of land.
  • The general boundaries rule.
  • Use of OS plans in boundary disputes.
  • Measurements
  • Plans and parcels clauses
  • "For identification purposes only"
  • Conflicts on plans and documents
  • Extrinsic evidence.
  • Features on the ground

Starting point - the original document

All sorts of documents will be produced in boundary disputes but it cannot be stressed too highly that the key document is that which divided the land into two portions now held by each party. The reason for this is really fairly obvious: A person cannot convey land that he has already conveyed to some other person.

It is sometimes necessary to go back many years and through many transactions to find the original owners of both pieces of land:
    “The first resort in the event of a boundary dispute is to look at the deeds. Under the old system of unregistered conveyancing, this means the chain of conveyances and other instruments, going back beyond the period of limitation, which demonstrates that the owner’s title is in practical terms secure as against adverse claims. These conveyances will each identify the subject matter in a clause known as the parcels clause, which contains the description of the land. Sometimes it is no more than a reference to the land conveyed by an earlier conveyance, which will then have to be consulted.” ((Alan Wibberley Building Ltd v Insley [1999] 2 All ER 897 (HL), Lord Hoffman at 901, 904j).).
Important: The conveyancing documents are only conclusive as to paper title where it is possible to find the first conveyance. If both plo ... THIS IS AN EXTRACT OF THE FULL TEXT. TO GET THE FULL TEXT, SEE BELOW

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