Boundary Dispute Solicitors

Whether the dispute involves a residential neighbour using part of your garden without permission or, whether your development is being impeded by a neighbour encroaching onto the development land, our property disputes lawyers have extensive experience resolving boundary disputes.

What is a property boundary?

The legal boundary is the invisible line that separates two or more properties. Whilst there may be physical features that indicate the position of the legal boundary, the legal boundary does not exist in any physical form. Conveyancing documents can be ambiguous or inconsistent, and often the position on the ground (the position of the fence, wall or hedge) does not match what the paper title appears to show.

Research carried out by Churchill Home Insurance in 2022 reveals nearly 11 million people, almost a fifth of UK homeowners (23%), have been involved in a boundary issue with a neighbour. There is an inherent risk when owning property that disputes and disagreements may arise. Whilst we always encourage parties to keep level heads and to try and resolve matters between themselves, specialist advice is often required, and the property disputes team is here to help.

Our Experience

Boundary disputes are renowned for being costly, complex and time-consuming, with marginal differences as to the position of the boundary often escalating into court proceedings being issued. They can also be an incredibly personal and unpleasant conflict, with the dispute usually involving a neighbour with whom you may have previously had a good relationship. Irrespective of the outcome of the dispute, it is often the case that the relationship can never recover.

The property disputes team wants to get to the heart of the boundary dispute, understanding the objective and managing the dispute to analyse the risks and achieve a resolution as swiftly, efficiently and cost effectively as possible. The team’s ethos is simple: solve the problem.

The aim is to always try and settle the dispute without the need for the intervention of the court (using private negotiation, arbitration, mediation, expert determination and other forms of alternative dispute resolution) but, in circumstances where that is not possible, the property disputes team have experience of successfully taking boundary disputes all the way to trial.

Elliott Brookes acted for a national property developer involved in a boundary dispute with a neighbouring developer that went to trial. The developer commented:

“We can advise on what opportunities there could be to develop the property within the legal landscape, or determine whether it is possible to revisit the original terms of the covenant to see if there is room for manoeuvre.”

Elliott Brookes also acted for the owners of a residential property on a private road in Buckinghamshire who were disputing their neighbour’s encroachment onto their land. The client commented:

“As a lawyer in what is a boundary dispute, we were immediately impressed by his clarity and honesty of the chances of success and his enthusiasm for the task we had presented to him. Elliott managed to be professional, friendly and reassuring in what has been a very long, complicated and stressful case.”

“Elliott has proved his worth and demonstrated his formidable knowledge in all the legal aspects of our case.”

As is often the situation with most disputes, early advice can frequently result in a swift outcome, avoiding unnecessary escalation.

Related disputes

  • Adverse possession
  • Development disputes
  • Easement and covenant disputes
  • Party wall disputes
  • Possession claims

Get in touch

For further information or advice please call our property litigation lawyers on 01753 889995 or email

How can we find the property boundary?
When an issue emerges over a boundary, parties logically turn to plans to try and resolve the dispute.  It may come as a surprise to a party who thinks, understandably, that the purpose of a plan showing a boundary is to confirm where the boundary is, that, in the vast majority of cases, reliance on Land Registry title plans will be virtually worthless – they carry little weight when seeking to establish the position of the legal boundary.  Land Registry title plans:
  • do not (unless, in the rare case, you have a ‘determined boundary’) establish the legal boundary separating the properties with any precision;
  • only show “general boundaries” (section 60 of the Land Registration Act 2002). The exact line of the legal boundary has not been determined; and
  • are of a scale that means, when you scale up the line on the plan, the thickness of the line on the ground may be metres wide – not helpful when trying to find the invisible line separating the properties.
It is almost never the case that a Land Registry title plan alone is sufficient to resolve the dispute. That is not to say that plans might not assist parties resolving a dispute concerning the position of a boundary but, the starting point should always be an examination of the earliest conveyance – that is the historic boundary line at the date when the land was first divided. The land may have been divided recently (for example, if the properties are on a new-build development), the land may have been divided decades ago.  Irrespective, the starting point is the original conveyance.  If the conveyance is not clear, extrinsic evidence may be considered (i.e. photographs, maps, statutory declarations from former owners, planning permissions, physical evidence on site etc.). The boundary features of a new-build property a few years old will often be easier to determine than those of a house constructed decades ago.  However, the legal principles to be applied remain the same.
What are the risks of not taking action?
If you take no action the third party may acquire rights over your land – the longer you leave it, the greater the risk.  The rights acquired will depend on the circumstances but, in the worst-case scenario, the third party may even acquire ownership of your land.  If you think someone is using or occupying your land, we encourage you to obtain legal advice as soon as possible so that appropriate steps can be taken to protect against the third party acquiring rights.
What does it mean when they claim to have ‘adversely possessed’ the land?
If a party has occupied land belonging to another for the requisite period of time (usually either 10 or 12 years depending on whether the land is registered or unregistered), they can, if they satisfy the relevant legal requirements, dispossess the paper owner and take the land for themselves. Adverse possession and boundary disputes often go hand in hand.  If a party accepts that they have encroached beyond the legal boundary separating the properties, they may look to argue that they have adversely possession the land in question – i.e. the position of the boundary has shifted to encompass that land into their own title.
Do we need a solicitor or a surveyor?
The answer is often: both. Boundary disputes usually involve issues both of legal interpretation and of surveying judgement and therefore, in order to investigate a boundary dispute properly, legal and surveying advice may well be required. Whilst a surveyor may produce a plan showing the position of the legal boundary, that plan itself may be subject to interpretation.  If you are intending to instruct a surveyor, it is not only important that the surveyor produce an accurate plan of the physical features on the ground at the date of inspection but, also plot onto that plan the line shown in the first conveyance (the conveyance that shows the historic boundary line at the date when the land was first divided) or, if there is more than one possible interpretation of the line shown in the first conveyance, the various possible lines.  If there are multiple interpretations of where the boundary lies, the surveyor, often supported by a solicitor, should explain which is the one that shows the legal boundary and why, supporting the decision with evidence.
How can we settle the dispute?
There are lots of different options when it comes to settling boundary disputes and, as with most disputes, context is everything.  However, the main routes include:
  1. An agreed settlement, showing the position of the legal boundary (on a plan plotted by a surveyor) and submitted to HM Land Registry;
  2. Agreeing to sell the land to the party that is encroaching beyond the legal boundary (and agreeing new boundaries); or
  3. Agreeing to lease/licence the land to the party that is encroaching beyond the legal boundary (and agreeing the position of the legal boundary).
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