Property boundaries are probably the single biggest cause of disputes with neighbours, each fighting fiercely to protect “their” land. However, the position is rarely clear cut, and it is never worth falling out with your neighbour if it can be avoided
The Physical Boundary:
A registered title almost never shows ownership of individual boundary structures such as walls, fences and hedges. There may, however, be some relevant information on the register or in Land Registry’s files. For example, the Land Registry may have kept a copy of a deed that refers to a boundary declaration or agreement, or to the ownership or maintenance of boundaries.
However, the title documents rarely deal with such matters. If ownership or maintenance is important to you, you may, for example, need to talk to neighbours and/or previous owners.
The Ordnance Survey cannot provide information on either property extent or land ownership.
The Legal Boundary:
A legal boundary deals with the precise separation of ownership of land. It is an invisible line dividing one person’s land from another’s. It does not have thickness or width and usually, but not always, falls somewhere in or along a physical boundary feature such as a wall, fence or hedge.
The exact positions of the legal boundaries are only very rarely shown on the Land Registry’s title plans and are not shown on Ordnance Survey maps.
England and Wales operates a ‘general boundaries’ system of land registration. A title plan with ‘general boundaries’ shows the boundary of a property in relation to a given physical feature on the ground such as a wall or hedge as identified on the Ordnance Survey map.
The red edging on a Land Registry title plan is therefore not definitive as to the precise position of the boundaries. For this reason official copies of title plans carry the following warning: “This title plan shows the general position of the boundaries: it does not show the exact line of the boundaries. Measurements scaled from this plan may not match measurements between the same points on the ground.”
This is a clear statement that Land Registry is unable to tell you precisely where a property boundary is located.
Identifying the legal boundary:
Because of the “general boundaries” rule, the Land Registry’s records are rarely definitive for the purposes of identifying the legal boundary – it is necessary to visit the property and see the boundary features there, then form a view as to where the legal boundary is likely to be. This can only be an opinion, unless tested and decided in court – an expense which most property owners would not want to incur.