Neighbour disputes are on the increase in the UK
For free initial guidance on neighbour disputes call our legal helpline on 0808 139 1606 or send us an email.
We have seen a rise in the number of neighbour disputes in recent months. The increase appears to be directly linked to the coronavirus crisis as people are spending more time in their gardens and undertaking all those neglected DIY jobs.
Neighbour disputes arising from arguments over boundaries
Neighbour disputes often arise where there is no boundary structure, such as a hedge or fence, to mark the boundary between neighbouring properties. This create a very real risk of a dispute developing if one neighbour puts up a new boundary structure which their neighbour thinks is in the wrong position.
How to avoid a neighbour dispute
To avoid the risks of a neighbour dispute developing we would recommend that the position of the proposed “new” boundary is marked with string and posts, or some other temporary structure, so that your neighbour can be invited to agree to its position. That approach would give them an opportunity to raise any concern with the position of the new boundary and, if appropriate, for you to agree a compromise over its siting.
Likewise, if you wish to replace an existing boundary structure then again entering into a dialogue with your neighbour could avoid a protracted and expensive dispute.
Our team has seen disputes arise over very small areas of land – sometimes just a few inches – so getting legal advice early and seeking a practical solution to avoid the dispute ending up in Court is very often the best approach. Furthermore if a potential dispute can be nipped in the bud then it may avoid the need to disclose a dispute to potential purchasers when you sell your property; though this is always something you should discuss with your conveyancing lawyer.
ADR and neighbour disputes
if a solution can’t be found informally then Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) may help.
There are various options with ADR:
- a “without prejudice” meeting on site;
- arbitration by a lawyer or surveyor;
- expert determination by an independent third party, such as a lawyer or surveyor; and
- mediation with an independent mediator (possibly remotely using video conferencing.)
Because anything discussed at a “without prejudice” meeting or mediation cannot be used in any subsequent court proceedings it means the parties are able to negotiate openly and freely.
A new forum for deciding boundary disputes
Parliament is currently looking at bringing an end to determining boundary disputes through the courts. The Property Boundaries (Resolution of Disputes) Bill is in the early stages of the legislative process. The first reading took place on 15 January 2020 and the second reading is awaited.
The Bill provides for the disputed boundary to be determined by a surveyor appointed for that purpose, with any appeal to be made to the High Court within 28 days. It remains to be seen if the Bill will become law in its current form but its introduction reflects a general view that boundary disputes should be kept out of court. This makes the use of ADR even more advisable.
How we can help with your neighbour dispute
We specialise in neighbour and boundary disputes. If you are based in Devon, Somerset or the surrounding areas we can arrange to meet you on site to assess the dispute and the options open to you. If you would like a free preliminary case assessment by telephone then please contact us on 0808 139 1606 or send an email to [email protected]