“If you need to know who is responsible for the boundaries of your property, I can help”

Angela Newman LLB

Angela Newman LLB

Property Boundaries

Are you unsure about the rights and responsibilities for the boundaries of your land? Some of the most emotional and difficult disputes occur between neighbours. Here is our general guide to the law:

Click here to download a PDF factsheet of Property Boundaries

Title Deeds: The starting point for establishing a boundary is the title deeds. However the boundaries shown on a plan give only a general indication, and often the deeds say nothing.   If you see ‘T’ marks on the plan, then these point in the direction of the owner who has to maintain the wall, fence or hedge, whereas ‘H’ marks indicate a party wall.

For registered land, the Land Registry plan usually gives only a general indication of the boundaries. If there is no contrary information, various presumptions are used to help decide ownership, as follows:

Fences: For fences with posts or struts on one side, it is presumed that the owner on that side owns and is responsible for repairing the fence.  When putting up a fence, the custom is that the posts are entirely on the owner’s land, with the face of the fence pointing to the neighbouring land.  With larch lap fencing, where the panels sit between the posts, the entire post should fall within the owner’s boundary, with the top strip overlapping the lower strip on the face pointing towards the neighbouring land.

Walls: If the deeds say nothing about its position, it is presumed that the boundary will be along the side of the wall furthest away from the garden of the owner who put it up, because the builder of the wall is assumed to have taken care to build it with its outer face on the limits of his land, taking care not to encroach over the boundary.

Hedge and ditch: It is presumed that the boundary lies along the opposite edge of the ditch from the hedge or bank.  Note however that this only applies to man-made ditches, and does not apply if it can be shown that the ditch was natural, or that the boundary feature was made when the land on both sides was in common ownership.

Roadways: The boundary of land beside a highway or private right of way is presumed to extend to the middle of the road or track (subject, if it is a highway, to the rights of the highway authority).  A conveyance or transfer of land alongside a road is presumed to include the road up to the middle of it (even if it describes the land as being ‘bounded by the road’, or includes a plan defining the land as excluding the road).

Non-tidal rivers and streams: The boundary is presumed to follow the centre line, so the boundary can change if the course of the stream changes naturally over a period of time.  However the position of the boundary does not change if the course of the stream is artificially altered or is changed by any sudden means which is not natural.

Lakes:  If the lake is entirely within the boundaries of single ownership the bed of a lake belongs to the owner of the surrounding land. Frustratingly, there are no presumptions where this is not the case and in such cases it is necessary to rely on title documents etc.

Seashore: The boundary of land adjoining the sea lies at the top of the foreshore ( this is the land lying between the high and low watermarks of an ordinary tide between spring and neap tides, and which is owned by the Crown unless it has been assigned to someone else).  The same presumption applies to land that borders tidal rivers and inlets.  The boundaries may move gradually as the high watermark moves naturally over time, but will not be affected by any sudden shift.

If you do not want the general boundaries rules to apply, but want the exact line of the boundary to be decided, then you can apply to the Land Registry with supporting evidence. This is best done with our help.

“Good fences make good neighbors” – Robert Frost, Mending Wall.