I was wondering if someone could please give me some advice on a situation that is causing both me and my wife a lot of stress.
We bought out house in 2009, and have been living there since without any issues. This year we started to do an extension. Our neighbour also did a little side extension to his house at the same time.
The neighbour has been living in his house since 1998. He approached us and said that he wanted to renew his fence but that the boundary was wrong. He said that on the Land Registry it shows that the boundary is a straight line, but the fence is a little wonky. The actual space he wants is about a foot across the line of the garden, into our garden.
He has taken a piece of string and made a straight line from the front to the back (he says that there is a post in the back which was the original fence, I am not sure that is correct). We think he only wants this land so that we can walk around his new side extension.
The neighbour said that the previous owner of his house built the fence this way because he did not want to disturb the flowers that the previous owner in my property had in the garden. This is over 25 years ago.
He his saying that I should not build my patio or anything close to his string line and that he will get his fencing people to put the posts into the ground on this new line.
Reading the forum, I think I have got some information, but would be grateful for clarification of the following:
- The Land Registry drawings cannot be taken as 100% proof of the boundary line, since this can change over time?
- If the neighbour knew that the fence was in the wrong position but after living there for almost 20 years, never challenged it, is this now the de facto boundary?
- He is not allowed to trespass on my land with his builders to make the new fence?
Could the neighbour appoint a surveyor to look at the boundary line (however the above point about never challenging the boundary would mean that irrespective of what the surveyor says, the bound is established?)
My wife suffers from anxiety related stress and you can imagine that the extension alone has been quite stressful and now with this, it’s getting bit too much for her, so some guidance would be appreciated.
Sorry for the long post!
Speaking from a "little learning", the fence was erected by the then occupier of your neighbours property, over 25 years ago. In effect, he gifted the strip of land, on your side of the fence, to the then occupier of your property. As the occupiers of your property have "possessed" that strip of land continuously for over 20 years, it is too late to claim it back.
Whether you, or your neighbour, feel that it is worth ruining an amicable relationship over this matter is something you will both have to decide. It will be very expensive for both of you to let a court do it for you. Do you have legal cover on your house insurance? If not, it's probably too late to take it out now, to cover this matter, but just mentioning that you have such cover might concentrate your neighbour's mind ... unless he also has cover.
There is also the matter of a "dispute", which can make selling either property difficult, leading to a reduction in price. Normally, either party can resolve the dispute by conceding to the other's claim ... in your case by moving the fence before instructing the estate agent. But from what I understand from you mail, you have not yet started to dig your foundations, and when you do, you will be digging where your neighbour wants to place his fence.
If your neighbours extension has already been built, and your extension will be within three metres of your neighbour's extension, and your foundations are deeper than your neighbour's, the Party Wall Act will come into the equation. That means you will be required to employ a surveyor to oversee your project, at your expense. If your neighbour does not like your surveyor (which he won't), he will may appoint a surveyor, at your expense, to liaise with your surveyor, plus another surveyor, also at your expense, to oversee the first two surveyors. All very expensive.
You extension will clash with your neighbour's claimed fence line? I assume your extension will not clash with your neighbour's extension? I assume that both extensions will have windowless walls facing each other? In the interest of amicable relations, would it be possible to agree that the full width of the strip between the two extensions should be accessible to both of you, with no fence between them? Would this be beneficial to both houses, or do you both have rear access at the other sides of the houses? Whatever, an amicable agreement will save you both a lot of money.
Thank you for your reply.
Both of our extensions are build. We were just going to use driveway bricks to pave the side of the house to where the fence is (it's a detached house) but neighbour is saying only brick to where he has set up the string because that is where he says is the boundary.
As part of my home insurance, I do have legal expenses cover. I spoke to them and they did say that 'as long as there is a realistic chance of defending the case' the legal expenses will kick in, so part of this post is to see if there is a realistic chance of defending the case should the neighbour decide to take it further.
As per the first line of your reply, I think that if my neighbour was aware of why the fence was placed where it is and has lived at the property continuously for almost 20 years (the fence was changed about 25 years ago) and there have been 3 changes of owners on our property in the same period, and in all this time he has never challenged it, then the fence is the boundary feature/line - is that correct?
Thank you for your thoughts.
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The fence has been there 25 years so the below will apply
Limitations Act 1980
Time limit for actions to recover land
(1) No action shall be brought by any person to recover any land after the expiration of twelve years from the date on which the right of action accrued to him or, if it first accrued to some person through whom he claims, to that person.