By Kamran Shah, Partner, Penman Sedgwick LLP
One would think that it would be obvious as to who is responsible for the boundaries on your property, but in many instances it is not always clear.
The first port of call would be the Title Deeds to the property, but these are often silent as to which boundaries you are liable to repair and even if there is a reference to which boundaries belong to you, over time and with the change in ownership of yours or the neighbouring properties people assume responsibility for different boundaries according to their understanding and agreement with neighbours.
It is also a relevant enquiry which arises when a freehold property is bought and sold. The seller at the time of your purchase may have stated in the Property Information Form which boundaries he has accepted responsibility for and maintained over time and which you can place reliance on.
Amongst surveyors there is a rule of thumb that when standing on the road facing the property you are responsible for the boundary on the left, but this is not the legal position – and of course it doesn’t answer the enquiry in full about the boundaries of a property. In some instances, the neighbours may instruct a surveyor to inspect the properties and boundaries to try to establish which boundary belongs to whom as it is in everybody’s best interests to resolve any issues amicably.
As a responsible property owner, the best piece of advice one can give is that before you undertake any works to a property boundary you should discuss what works you are intending to do with the respective neighbour(s) to try to avoid a dispute, as this will at least establish that you are undertaking works to a property boundary which you consider belongs to you and not your neighbours. As we hear all too often, boundary issues can lead to neighbours falling out and initiating legal proceedings against one another in respect of matters which started off as a simple misunderstanding and which could easily have been avoided if the neighbours had spoken to one another.
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