Human societies have come a long way since the days when people used to mark out their territory by placing stones at the edge of their property, but the age-old problem of neighbours disagreeing over property boundaries still remains.
When you need to settle a boundary dispute with your neighbour, it’s important to work out as quickly as possible exactly why the problem exists at all. Most often it’s simply that one party, probably your neighbour, makes a mistake and then refuses to back down and admit it, but it’s not always as simple as that. Whatever the reason, you’ll need to resolve the problem without it leading to more trouble further down the track, and that’s often easier said than done.
Why it matters
It may seem trifling to argue over a metre or two of land, often it can be just the start of a much bigger problem that can be difficult to resolve once you’ve already given in one time.
Do be aware, however, that there can be more important considerations than just the amount of land you might be gaining or losing as a result of an unofficial boundary adjustment.
For one thing, you are generally responsible for everything on your side of the boundary line, so while your neighbour may even seem to be doing you a favour by adjusting the boundary line to allow a certain tree to be on your side of the boundary line, if that same tree falls and does damage, you could potentially be liable for that damage.
Not just a problem restricted to the amount of land you hold
Boundary disputes can also lead to other types of problems as well. For example, your neighbour may decide to build an elaborately expensive fence and expect you to pay half the bill. This isn’t fair because you ought to be consulted and have a chance to consider alternatives before a project of this nature commences.
But sometimes a neighbour will actually start building a new fence, or even dismantling an old one, without discussing the matter with you at all. This, from both a legal and moral point-of-view, is unacceptable, and you would be within your rights to dispute this action.
Holding a different amount of land to the amount you thought you were purchasing can also result in problems such as:
• Altering the amount of taxes or other official charges you may have to pay
• Difficulties that may arise if you later attempt to sell the land
• Liability for things like a burst pipe or something similar. If the pipe is on your side of the boundary, you may be entirely responsible for the cost of repairs and for any damages caused, even if the boundary line is in the wrong place.
It’s not always the neighbour that’s at fault
Boundary disputes can also sometimes arise because solicitors or conveyancing agents commit errors while preparing the documentation for your land purchase. When you suspect something like this has happened, you should take action promptly to ensure you are properly compensated or that the matter can be resolved on an official level before it becomes a serious problem to you.
When the matter arises purely as the result of a mistake made by somebody who had a duty of care to ensure accurate information was recorded, this is usually a case of professional negligence, and is actionable in court. If the matter didn’t arise because of an error, but was done intentionally in order to favour the interests of the neighbour or the seller of the land, that’s a more serious matter and you’ll definitely need to seek legal advice as quickly as possible.