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  Solicitors Bude Cornwall   Article - Land Registration, Boundaries and Boundary Disputes - 07 Jan 2008 Holsworthy Solicitors

We have had a system of registration of land ownership in this country since the 1920’s and it is possible to obtain details of properties across most of the country from the Land Registry.
  The information that they hold details who owns what land together with a plan showing the extent of the land owned and often rights of way and similar will appear on the plans and in the details.  Given that all this information is held by the Land Registry you might think that disputes over who owns what land and who has the right to cross that land or park their car etc might be becoming a thing of the past but this is not the case.
You might also think that the area shown on the Land Registry filed plan to your title number is guaranteed to belong to you.  Unfortunately the Land Registration Rules make very clear that this is not the case.
All land transactions have been subject to compulsory registration for some time which means that a good proportion of the land in England and Wales will now be registered but all this means is that the information that was submitted to the Land Registry when someone buys a house, flat, land, etc will be recorded.  The Land Registry does not and cannot check that all the information given to it is totally correct and accurate and even if it is, as in most cases it will be, because of the way we identify land and boundaries there still remains room for argument.  The scale of the plans used is so small that the red line showing the edge of your land could be anywhere up to two metres wide if scaled up. Your neighbours boundary will appear equally wide and clearly therefore the exact boundary cannot necessarily be seen from the plans alone.
There are a number of different solutions that have been applied to this problem and at best the details held by the Registry can set out exact dimensions measured from a fixed point say the eastern corner of a house and another fixed point or preferably three fixed points.  This is not common and the system works more often by people looking at what boundary features actually exist or are shown on the Ordinance Survey Maps for example hedges, walls or fences.  Since land and its ownership has been around for very much longer than our Registration system, and the Register is supposed only to confirm the facts as they are on the ground, the longer a hedge, ditch, or fence has been in place the more likely it is that this will mark the boundary.  Even this can cause disputes because hedges can grow wider and then the argument becomes does the boundary run alone one side, the other, or down the middle.  Also there can be arguments about who owns the hedge and who must maintain it.  Hedges and fences can also move over the years and it is possible that a land owner could gain or loose whole strips of land by this.  We have all heard about people spending thousands fighting over two feet of garden and I can assure you that it the Law Reports show that it does happen.
Even though our registration system is relatively modern the details that are contained in the register are based on documents going back often into the 1800’s and the language therefore can be difficult to apply today. When someone granted a right of way over his land in 1820 he would not have any idea that someone would want to drive a car over it in 2008 and the wording he used could therefore be somewhat limiting.
There will still be land that is not registered because it has not been bought or mortgaged since registration became compulsory.  In this case there will be no record at the Land Registry and it will be necessary to look at the deeds to determine any dispute.  Again the age of the documents, the language used, and the degree of clarity that was thought necessary at the time will all have a bearing upon the use the deeds will be in resolving any problems.
When your land is registered a lender may not be interested in storing the pre-registration bundle of deeds.  If you are asked if you want them make sure that you keep them and keep them all, don’t decide that you don’t need one or more of them.  The one you discard could be very important.  In boundary disputes the pre-registration deeds (even the very old ones) can quite often be a significant factor in a Court’s decision
In summary if you think you have a right to park your car but your neighbour disagrees, someone cuts down “your” hedge or you find people walking across your garden claiming to have a right of way, or someone is erecting a new fence and it appears to be closer to your house than the old one, or any similar boundary issue you should consider seeking legal advice and the earlier the better because these kinds of arguments can become more difficult (and expensive) the longer they go on.
Paul Finn Solicitors have great experience in such matters and can help you with all property related disputes or if you are simply looking to buy or sell your property please contact us for a competitive quote.

Martin Curnow
Head of Litigation, Paul Finn Solicitors
Tel: 01288 356 256
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