A ‘Neighbour dispute’ can cover a whole host of issues between neighbouring land ranging from defining the exact line of the boundary, nuisance issues, party wall awards, right of way issues, rights of light claims and adverse possession. There are many complex legal issues that can arise when dealing with the owner of neighbouring land and it is not unusual that these issues can lead to confrontation and frustration.
If you have a very good relationship with your neighbour, you may feel comfortable approaching them to seek to resolve the issue at an early stage. However, it is not uncommon that even the best relationships can become fraught when legal issues and land are in play.
If numerous neighbours are affected, it might be sensible for everyone to discuss and seek a unified approach before taking any further action.
If the issue is complex or uncertain you should seek early legal or specialist surveyor advice before approaching your neighbour.
If parties are unable to resolve the matter, it is then important to consider alternative dispute resolution schemes and negotiation at an early stage. As a final resort, the parties can issue proceedings to the Court or Land Tribunal to resolve any disputes. Usually, the Court or Tribunal will rely on specialist experts to help them decide any contested facts or practical issues.
The first step is usually to inspect the Land Registry title plans, which will provide a general boundary. However, it is important to note that the general Land Registry plan does not aim to determine the exact line of the boundary and is provided for guidance.
In order to ascertain the correct legal boundary, you will to consult the legal deeds of your property and neighbouring land – these documents can sometimes be very old and written in archaic language. Even then, most title plans do not have the exact boundaries recorded and the plans can be general in nature. However, sometimes the deeds will contain a very helpful plan and detailed description of the boundary.
If the boundary is unclear, you and your neighbour can apply for a determination of the boundary or enter into a boundary agreement. If there is any disagreement the matter will need to be resolved by the Tribunal.
If you have been in occupation of land for more than 10-12 years to the exclusion of others without permission but you do not have any deeds proving legal ownership you may be entitled to claim adverse possession of the land. This is a specialist and complex area of law and you should seek legal advice at an early stage.
In some instances, the area of land or the issue involved may not justify incurring substantial legal costs. We will always aim to give you an early estimate of the likely costs involved and give you an assessment of whether potential outcome of your matter justifies the expense and risk involved.
A right of way can be essential for the use and enjoyment of a property. The rights are usually specified in the property deeds but can also be implied by law.
It is always important to seek urgent advice if your rights relating to the use of a right of way are being infringed, as you may need an urgent application to court.
If the issue relates to the upkeep and maintenance costs of the access way, it can sometimes be useful to jointly appoint an expert to determine any issues at an early stage before the parties become entrenched in their positions.
In most instances neighbours are able to resolve an issue or seek to negotiate an amicable settlement without the assistance of solicitors or the court.
The court always recommend that the parties first utilise alternative dispute resolutions schemes. These can range from specialist mediation or instructing a joint surveyor to advise or adjudicate on the matter.
If you are intending to sell your property in the near future, you may wish to reconsider raising a grievance or dispute with your neighbour as it will likely need to be disclosed to the buyer as part of the sale and may affect the purchase price.
Sometimes the local counsel or highway authority may be able to resolve the dispute without you begin directly involved.
With some issues, like party wall work or boundary determinations, there are strict rules and processes that need to be followed and it is important that you are aware of the same before you take any action.
In addition to the costs involved, you will also need to consider the emotional toll and stress involved with litigation. Disputes with neighbours are somewhat unique, as even after the issue is over you will need to live next to your opponent and it can lead to fractured relationships.
It is important to take legal advice before embarking on legal action or formally writing to your neighbour. It is always worth checking to see if your insurance relating to the land will cover the legal expenses relating to the issue before you proceed.
If you need any advice on neighbour issues, nuisance claims, boundary disputes, adverse possession or rights of way claims, please contact a member of our property disputes team in confidence here or on 02920 829 100 for a free initial call to see how they can help.
To speak to one of our experts today, please contact us on 02920 829 100 or by using our Contact Us form for a free initial chat to see how we can help.
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