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Land disputes: Five things to consider to avoid conflict

Disputes over property and land can cause a lot of distress and frustration whilst also being extremely complex and costly – whether it involves a neighbour, co-owner or local authority.

It might be that you require legal assistance to reach an acceptable solution.    Engaging a solicitor will provide you with peace of mind in knowing the issues are being carefully considered and the law applied.

No matter what the dispute, key steps can always be taken to try and limit the impact on the parties involved and avoid the dispute from erupting.   As civil dispute specialists, we have set these key steps out below:

 Try to avoid a dispute in the first place

This sounds simple but communication is key. Minor disagreements often escalate into disputes if they are not handled correctly.

As a matter of courtesy, we would always recommend that you keep your neighbours informed about any work/changes you are planning to make to the boundary of your properties.

Review land registration

The Land Registry keeps a record of all registered land. However, problems will often arise due to defective plans attached to title deeds.

A solicitor must consult the parcels clause in the conveyance which generally begins ‘ALL That piece or parcel of land ……’ and if there is a mistake, an application can be made to amend or update them.

Nevertheless, if an individual goes to register the land they find has already been registered, this can cause a dispute over the ownership.

With unregistered land, it is more difficult to know who owns it which can cause dispute.   It is crucial to keep all proof of ownership, through deeds and documents, if you own unregistered land.

We advise landowners to register their land and update any incorrect Land Registry records to protect themselves from potential disputes.

 Prevent boundary disputes

The cause of boundary disputes often starts with an event such as a landowner’s death or construction of a fence or building that a neighbour may have different boundary views on.

Maps can cause these boundaries to be unclear and even when the land is shown on the title plan and registered, the General Boundaries Rule applies.

The General Boundary Rule states that the boundary of a registered estate, unless shown on the title plan as determined, does not determine the exact line of the boundary”.  This means a title plan cannot always be relied on as an accurate representation.

In these types of disputes, lawyers must study the land’s history, those involved and the features on the ground to establish the boundaries.

We would advise landowners to establish boundaries before a trigger event causes a dispute – like building a fence or building.

 Listen to the other side of the dispute

Be prepared to compromise in a land dispute.

People will often believe they are solely ‘in the right’ which can lead to them making the decision to litigate as a matter of principle without always considering that the journey they are embarking on will be lengthy and costly and at times stressful.

 Adverse possession

An individual may be able to apply for the Land Registry for the title if they have been using land owned by someone else for a lengthy period.

To do so, the claimant would need to provide:

  • uninterrupted factual possession of land for a requisite period
  • intention to possess the land during that period

The requisite period covers:

  • 10 years under the Land Registration Act 2002, this only applies to registered land
  • 12 years under the old regime, this applies to unregistered land

An application for adverse possession should preferably be made whilst still in possession of the land but if the individual in adverse possession is forcibly evicted by the registered owner, an application should be made to the Property Tribunal within 6 months.  During this period, parties can attempt to reach agreement on the boundary

If you are struggling with a serious land dispute, please get in touch today.

Mander Hadley

Mander Hadley Solicitors is not only a long established firm, but is vibrant and successful, with a forward thinking approach.