Adverse Possession threat from neighbour

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CraftyLass
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Adverse Possession threat from neighbour

Post by CraftyLass » Tue Jul 05, 2011 3:35 pm

My neighbour is encroaching on my garden and threatening to make a claim for adverse possession.

I've read fairly extensively on the rules about adverse possession and there are a few points I'm not sure on and hope that someone here can help me gain a bit of clarity.

1) I read something about the statute of limitations that said that the limitation period started from when the land owner knew, or might reasonably have been expected to know about the squatter. If the neighbour claims they've been using the land for 12 years but I've only owned my property for 8 years (and there was no mention of it in the conveyancing pack), do they still have a claim?

2) I told them some time ago that they can plant there for now but I may need the land later, but I have nothing in writing. If I say that the neighbour had permission to use the land, does that have to be written, or can it be verbal?

3) I have helped weed, planted stakes to support plants, etc every year. Would I have to prove that? Or would the neighbour have to prove that I didn't?

Many thanks for taking the time to read this.

ukmicky
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Re: Adverse Possession threat from neighbour

Post by ukmicky » Tue Jul 05, 2011 10:19 pm

1) I read something about the statute of limitations that said that the limitation period started from when the land owner knew, or might reasonably have been expected to know about the squatter. If the neighbour claims they've been using the land for 12 years but I've only owned my property for 8 years (and there was no mention of it in the conveyancing pack), do they still have a claim?
You buying the property will not affect the number of years he had already built up I'm afraid. However under the new rules regarding registered land if he puts in a claim you will be notified and you can then object to his claim which will put a halt to his claim for the following 2 years. During them 2 years you have to evict him or he will then gain the land.

There is another scenario where he put in a claim under the special clause of the act and swears that he was under the mistaken but reasonable belief that the land was his. If the land is not fenced it would be hard for him to win or if he knows the land is not his he would need to lie which he could do.
2) I told them some time ago that they can plant there for now but I may need the land later, but I have nothing in writing. If I say that the neighbour had permission to use the land, does that have to be written, or can it be verbal?
It really needs to be in writing or it becomes your word against his unless you have a witness.
3) I have helped weed, planted stakes to support plants, etc every year. Would I have to prove that? Or would the neighbour have to prove that I didn't?
If he put in his claim he would need to provide evidence towards it

You will need to show evidence that he has not fulfilled the criteria to gain the land under the rules or his evidence is based on lies. You providing evidence that you have been on the land and worked it will do that and make your life easier.

You need to remove him from the land now.

Why is their no fence,i would put one up now.
Any information provided is not legal advice and you are advised to gain a professional opinion

CraftyLass
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Re: Adverse Possession threat from neighbour

Post by CraftyLass » Tue Jul 05, 2011 11:07 pm

It's a newish estate, all open plan at the front of the houses. We're planning to put the land to use and have engaged a surveyor who tells us that the land in question is ours. We gave the neighbour a copy of his report but they're not inclined to accept it even though their own surveyor agrees.

We've written to them with a time limit to remove themselves from our garden. I guess I need to find out whether we can erect a fence asap.

Sudynim
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Re: Adverse Possession threat from neighbour

Post by Sudynim » Tue Jul 05, 2011 11:40 pm

It might have been best if you hadn't waited 8 years before asserting this claim - that will advantage him.

Incidentally, if he doesn't accept your surveyor's report then presumably he doesn't accept that the disputed land belongs to you. So he wouldn't be trying for adverse possession in that case, but simply claiming ownership by right. If so, then he's likely to erect a fence at some point too.

If you are sure of your case and ready to absorb some costs, fencing the area on expiry of your written ultimatum is the way to go. But remember he might just take your fence back down - in the end you'll probably have to get a court order.

CraftyLass
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Re: Adverse Possession threat from neighbour

Post by CraftyLass » Wed Jul 06, 2011 6:59 am

The neighbour changes his story every time we speak to him.

First he said that he thought the land was his. Then he started talking about the '12 year rule' showing that he didn't really know what that meant. Then after talking to his surveyor he mentioned adverse possession. the last time we spoke to him he said he 'didn't know how he was going to play it'.

This has gone on for weeks now, in the meantime we can't use our land as his plants are in it. So we've got tired of playing games, and sent the letter. We're asking the surveyor to peg out the boundary and will ask our contractor to mark it with edging stones (on our side of course). In the meantime I'll check whether there are any covenants preventing us from erecting a fence.

The neighbour in question has already tried to claim that the border we dug between the adjoining lawns belonging to us and our other neighbour on the other side is 'illegal'. This we ignored - we pegged out the boundary ourselves and asked the neighbour on that side if he agreed with the position, and he did. That was two years ago.

As for waiting eight years, yes we've learnt the hard way that not challenging an encroachment early on can set you up to be taken advantage of. A lesson we won't forgot.

Thanks to all who answered, it's much appreciated.

despair
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Re: Adverse Possession threat from neighbour

Post by despair » Wed Jul 06, 2011 8:54 am

Check very carefully all mortgages/insurances/credit cards/union memberships for Legal Expenses Cover

You may need it

CraftyLass
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Re: Adverse Possession threat from neighbour

Post by CraftyLass » Wed Jul 06, 2011 9:05 am

I knew it was worth getting that expensive legal cover on our home insurance, it may be worth the cost.

I'll let you know what happens next.

CraftyLass
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Re: Adverse Possession threat from neighbour

Post by CraftyLass » Tue Jul 24, 2012 10:16 am

Our neighbour did eventually move his plants, but waited until we were away for the weekend, so he decided where the boundary was. This was about a year ago.

Our contractor we'd hired to do the job never did turn up, and in the meantime we've decided to pave the whole area not just the bit either side of the drive. Our new contractor comes next month (hopefully).

While we've been waiting for the work to be done, the neighbour complained to us about a number of weeds which had grown in the cleared area. They said it was unsightly (I agree, it was) and they took a lot of pride in their appearance (being able to see their back garden from upstairs it appears that they're only proud about the front) and could we clear it. Since we were still hoping that our builder might put in an appearance we didn't want to plant it, so we put a membrane down to keep the weeds out.

Last weekend we measured and marked the boundary. I know that's not recommended, but we measured exactly 6' between our house and the neighbour's, and exactly 3' between our house and the fence between the houses. Since our existing driveway has an edging strip which continues from the corner of the house to the road and continues a straight line from back to front of the house, and the deeds clearly show a straight boundary all the way from back to front, we thought it reasonable to suggest that the boundary at the road edge of our property is also 3' from this edging strip.

We've marked the line and asked our neighbours to move their plants a bit further (about 6"). Their response was that they'd moved them once already and it was 'unfair' of us to ask them again. My husband replied simply that they were on our property. I wanted to ask why it was unfair to ask for our land back, and why wasn't it unfair of them to refuse, and tell them we didn't just want them to move their plants off our land but to keep them off permanently, but on H's advice kept quiet to avoid a row.

We've decided that we'd like to ask our contractor to put up a 3' fence hard up against the boundary line, as we're pretty sure that our neighbours will continue to let their plants encroach onto our land (they like very tall hollyhocks which always seem to fall over on our side and make quite a mess). They've agreed to do the concrete footings as part of the job, hence us marking the boundary.

The problem we have now is that the estate is open plan at the front. It's 15 years old, and over time many fences have sprung up, but not yet in our road. We've downloaded our deeds and there's no mention of any covenants regarding fences.

Does this mean that there isn't any covenant preventing us from erecting our fence? Or does it mean there could be one which isn't mentioned on the deeds? How might we find out about one?

We're also considering asking the local planning officer if it's ok - we're fairly confident our neighbour will object to the fence - they've already complained bitterly about us digging a border on our own land between us and the neighbour the other side, telling us that it was 'illegal'.

I'd be grateful for any opinions.

hzatph
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Re: Adverse Possession threat from neighbour

Post by hzatph » Tue Jul 24, 2012 6:44 pm

Just check that there is nothing in the planning permission that prevents fences in the front.

kipper
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Re: Adverse Possession threat from neighbour

Post by kipper » Tue Jul 24, 2012 7:22 pm

CraftyLass wrote: in the meantime we've decided to pave the whole area not just the bit either side of the drive.
If you are talking about paving an area of your front garden you need to ensure it complies with the new rules under permitted development, or else you will require planning permission.

CraftyLass
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Re: Adverse Possession threat from neighbour

Post by CraftyLass » Wed Jul 25, 2012 7:54 am

Thanks for the replies. We've downloaded an permitted development enquiry form from our local council's website and will send it off to get confirmation that we don't need planning permission.

All we're doing is replacing our existing tarmac drive with a paved one, except it'll be about 5' wider, and putting a 1m fence along one side. The paviers are permeable and the builder will be putting a soakaway under the driveway, so we don't expect a problem with planning, we just want to have something to show the neighbour if they do object.

CraftyLass
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Re: Adverse Possession threat from neighbour

Post by CraftyLass » Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:23 am

I've another question I'd be grateful for some advice on:

When our neighbour first moved their plants they failed to move them far enough. When we asked them to move them further they gave no indication that they were prepared to - they just said that we should push the overhang over to their side.

This isn't practical. The plants are actually growing over on our side, You can push them over, but they just drop back when you stop holding them, and the roots are likely to be over the boundary. Our contractors have said that we need to completely clear the land up to the boundary before they start work.

If we do so and any of the plants die, would we still be liable, bearing in mind we've warned our neighbours about the work in advance and given them 12 months so far to move them out of harm's way? The neighbour is saying that if we damage any we'll have to pay for them, but these are still on our property.

I'd also be glad of any hints on how to find out about any restrictive covenants, apart from the deeds and the conveyancing pack.

Many thanks.

andrew54
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Re: Adverse Possession threat from neighbour

Post by andrew54 » Fri Jul 27, 2012 10:57 am

CraftyLass wrote: The plants are actually growing over on our side...... the roots are likely to be over the boundary.

If we do so and any of the plants die, would we still be liable....

The neighbour is saying that if we damage any we'll have to pay for them, but these are still on our property.
This all depends on what evidence you have, to determine exactly where the boundary is. If there is no doubt that the plants are on your land then the neighbour has little case to claim anything from you. He's not likely to take you to court for the cost of a few plants. Could you remove the plants and keep them in pots? Or even put the roots with a bit of soil into bin bags? Keep them watered to keep them alive. If you can do this out of sight of the neighbour then if he makes a fuss you give him the plants. If he just grumbles a bit then after 6 months you throw the plants away.

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