‘Love thy neighbour’ says the bible…but the reality is at some point during our lives there’s a very good chance we’ll end up in a not-so neighbourly dispute with a near-by resident.
Noise, pets, partying and parking can all cause aggravation…but it’s boundary disputes that are often the most acrimonious and financially costly for homeowners.
Yes, you can sell a house with a boundary dispute. However, it can make selling your property harder, so it is best to try to resolve the dispute satisfactorily before putting it on the market.
Legally, you must inform the buyer of any legal disputes relating to the property or neighbouring properties.
If you don’t, you could face potential legal action for mis-selling.
What is a boundary dispute?
A boundary dispute is a disagreement between two or more parties over the boundaries of their adjoining properties.
Title plans will outline rough property boundaries, but often there are no records of exact boundaries and ownership of fences or walls. And this is what can lead to contention.
Disagreements can be about the exact location of a boundary, the condition of party walls, fences or hedges, or who is responsible for them.
Party walls can cause issues where one homeowner wants to develop or extend their property along a shared boundary. This can cause problems if there is an impact on shared access points, encroachment on a neighbour’s garden, or even if there’s a loss of light.
Trees and landscaping are another potential thorny issue. If you remove a neighbour’s tree, for instance, you may be liable to replace it with a tree of equal size.
Whatever the nature of the boundary dispute; these maddening fall-outs can be costly, time-consuming, and may even result in litigation.
What happens if the home buyer finds out about the dispute?
Declaring any boundary disputes is a legal requirement when selling a property.
Failing to declare them could leave you facing legal action from the buyer for mis-selling.
Disputes or any changes made to the building or boundaries must be disclosed on the seller’s property information form (also known as the TA6 Form).
However, it’s better being upfront and honest from the outset. If the buyer only first finds out about a dispute through this form, it can increase the likelihood of the sale falling through.
For anyone trying to identify potential boundary issues, a good starting point is locating the original title deeds or checking with the local authority to see if there are any old documents that might provide any information on boundaries.
Comparing the general boundaries outlined on the original title plan from HM Land Registry with the actual existing boundaries at the property can highlight any potential discrepancies, according to RICS. You can then ask the seller to clarify any differences about hedges, walls or outbuildings that may be an issue.
What’s the quickest way to resolve a boundary dispute?
The quickest way to resolve a boundary dispute is to address it directly with your neighbour. A smile and a few kind words is as good a place as any to start.
Discussing an issue openly and honestly in hope of finding a compromise that works for both parties without costly legal fees is always the best course of action.
If direct discourse isn’t possible, you can write a letter to the neighbour outlining the issue and asking for their support in finding a resolution that is acceptable to both parties.
You can also ask them to participate in official mediation to resolve the matter. Organisations like the RICS neighbour dispute service or Civil Mediation Council can help.
Legal action should be a last resort as it can be time-consuming and costly.
Sometimes a letter from a solicitor can be the catalyst for both parties to find a resolution outside of the legal process.
You can create a boundary agreement with your neighbour to put on record the boundaries and who is responsible for maintaining a hedge, fence or wall.
This can be done by completing an AP1 application to change the register via the Gov.uk website.
For further reading, you may also find the following articles and advice useful: