Boundary disputes are commonplace and, unless skilfully mediated, can often spiral out of control, ending up in legal action the cost of which far exceeds the value of the land under dispute.

One of the more important principles in such disputes is often a difficult one for the property owners to take on board, and that is that the subjective beliefs of the owners as to where the boundary lies is evidence which is not normally admissible, although their ongoing behaviour as regards its location can be in point. It is the conveyance of the property that determines the boundary, and in particular the presence of a plan provided for the definition of the property (as opposed to one which is merely for identification purposes).

This is important because the topography of a site may change over the years, but what matters is the state of the boundary when the conveyance occurred, unless the boundary has subsequently been changed by agreement of the property owners. In that case, the agreement will bind future purchasers of the properties concerned.

And so it was that when two academics ended up in court with their neighbours over the boundary between their properties, which had been in dispute for some years, the judge based his decision largely on an examination of the plans identifying the properties concerned used in a conveyance.

Once he had concluded that there was no passing of legal title from one side to the other as a result of adverse possession (‘squatters’ rights’), he was able to conclude that the boundaries had not changed since the relevant conveyance.


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