At the risk of showing my own ignorance, I was surprised to discover recently that ‘Love thy neighbour’ was not included in the ten commandments compiled by Moses in the Old Testament over 3000 years ago. In fact, this commandment was by Jesus in the New Testament.
Despite this commandment, you probably won’t be surprised to discover that a common cause of property disputes continues to be between neighbours over boundaries and often results in some ‘unreasonable and extravagant display of unneighbourly behaviour which profits no-one but the lawyers’.
So, here are ten tips to avoid such disputes and to reduce costs when they do arise:
- Ask your solicitor or the Land Registry for a copy of the Land Registry title plan of the property showing its general boundaries and also find out as much as you can from the title deeds or the tenancy agreement if you are a tenant.
- Check the title plan against the physical boundaries of the property. If you can do this before the purchase/lease of the property you can ask the seller/landlord to clarify any differences.
- Talk to your neighbours as soon as possible to identify responsibility for maintaining boundaries and don’t be afraid to ask the neighbour where they think the boundary is. This will highlight if there is potential problem.
- Think carefully about any proposed works and try to agree these works with your neighbours before starting them.
- Keep any hedges or trees on or near the boundary regularly maintained. Overhanging branches can be removed and returned to your neighbour but always ask first before starting any pruning. Also be aware of any Tree Preservation Orders.
- Check the Government Planning Portal which outlines the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 and applies if you are building on or near a boundary.
- Other useful websites for reference on boundary disputes include the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Citizens Advice Bureau website section. The RICS also has a helpline 02476 868 555 which provides access to a specialist surveyor for 30 minutes of free advice.
- In a dispute with a neighbour always start with an amicable discussion and try to reach a compromise. You have live next to each other so it’s best to find a solution that suits both of you.
- If you cannot resolve the dispute between yourselves try to agree on appointing an independent surveyor to settle the dispute through mediation. This is likely to save you money and stress.
- Only as a last resort take legal action through the Court.
Talking is the key to avoiding a boundary dispute and so follow the commandment and learn to love your neighbour or, at least get to know your neighbour better, although perhaps not in the biblical sense of the word.
And, finally one extra tip on avoiding unnecessary disputes.
Remember not to covet your neighbour’s ox.
A surprise late entry at number 10 in Moses’ original top ten.
 The Old Testament – Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:4–21.
The New Testament – Matthew 22:35-40 and Mark 12:28-34
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