Principles for Resolving Boundaries - Judicial Guidance

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Principles for Resolving Boundaries - Judicial Guidance

Post by Sudynim » Fri Sep 09, 2011 6:42 pm

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ACCO Properties Ltd -v- Severn and Another - ChD - 01-Apr-2011 - Simon Barker QC J (Bailii, [2011] EWHC 1362 (Ch)) - Land

The parties disputed the boundary between their respective plots. Held: Simon Barker QC J set out (and then applied) the principles for resolving boundary lines:

1 Where, as in this case, the property in question is registered land, the file plans show only general boundaries and not the exact line of the boundaries unless the property is said to be "more particularly described in the plan."

2 Similarly, Ordnance Survey plans, if not forming part of the registered title as filed plans, are no more than a general guide to a boundary feature, and they should not be scaled up to delineate an exact boundary. This is because the lines marking the boundaries become so thick on being scaled up as to render them useless for detailed definition.

3 In order to determine the exact line of a boundary, the starting point is the language of the conveyance aided, where the verbal description does not suffice, by the representation of the boundaries on any plan, or guided by the plan if that is intended to be definitive.

4 If that does not bring clarity, or the clarity necessary to define a boundary, recourse may then be had to extrinsic evidence - such as topographical features on the land that existed, or maybe supposed to have existed, when the dividing conveyance was executed.

5 Admissible extrinsic evidence may also include evidence of subsequent conduct where of probative value in showing what the original parties intended.

6 Evidence of later features - that is, later than the earliest dividing conveyance - may or may not be of relevance. The probative significance of such evidence depends upon the extent to which, if at all, the dividing conveyance, or evidence of its terms, exists.

7 Where a boundary is in dispute, it is important to bring certainty to the determination by proclaiming the boundary and not leaving the plot "fuzzy at the edges" (Neilson v Poole (1969) 20 P&CR 909, Megarry J).

8 Even where a boundary line may be determined by reference to a conveyance, other evidence may be admitted and probative in establishing a different boundary obtained by adverse possession, showing enclosure of the land in denial of the title of the true owner. As the phrase implies, title is established by intentionally taking exclusive possession of land without the consent of, and adverse to the interests of, the true owner, and maintaining such possession continuously for the limitation period.

9 As to informal boundary agreements, the statutory requirement that contracts for the sale or other disposition of land be in writing does not apply. That is because the purpose of such agreements is to demarcate an unclear boundary referred to in title documents and not to transfer an interest in land.

10 Such agreements are usually oral and the result of neighbours meeting to avoid or resolve a potential or actual dispute. However, there is scope for a boundary agreement to be implied or inferred - that is, to be the logical conclusion to be drawn from primary facts.

11 When bearing these principles in mind as the platform on which to place and examine the facts, a judge should have regard to three further important yardsticks or rules of thumb. These are: (1) when considering any acquisition of property, it is vital to consider what a reasonable layman would think he was buying; (2) every case turns on its own facts; and (3) the task of the court is to assess all available and admissible material in arriving at its answer, and then to achieve the correct answer."

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