A Bill has been proposed in England and Wales which could see the end of boundary disputes reaching the court. The Property Boundaries (Resolution of Disputes) Bill is due for its second reading in the House of Lords and the Bill is aimed to “make provision for the resolution of disputes concerning the location or placement of the boundaries and private rights of way relating to the title of an estate in land; and for connected purposes”. At this stage, there is no similar Bill proposed in Scotland however it leaves food for thought as to whether this would be a benefit or a curse to individuals who find themselves caught up in a dispute over the proverbial line in the sand (land).
The accompanying notes to the Bill state that it is intended “…to reduce costs and speed up the process for property boundary disputes.” The aim seems to be to save judicial time by removing boundary disputes from the court process.
If the Bill becomes law, it will see all boundary disputes currently in court, placed on hold until the procedure set out in the Bill are followed. For future court actions, monetary penalties are proposed for those who commence proceedings without following the procedure. The procedure which is proposed is as follows:-
- Where an owner of land wishes to establish the position of a boundary, they must serve a notice on the adjoining owner together with a plan identifying the exact line of the boundary.
- The adjoining owner will then have 14 days to respond to the notice, and if they fail to do so or object to the notice, a dispute is deemed to have arisen.
- After a dispute has been deemed to have arisen, both parties can appoint a joint surveyor or each party can appoint their own surveyor who will in turn, select a third joint surveyor.
- The appointed surveyor will then make a determination as to the boundary and determine who pays the cost of the report known as an “award”.
- Once the award has been paid, it is deemed conclusive but parties will have a period of 28 days to appeal to the High Court (in England and Wales) who will have the power to modify the award.
While the courts may breathe a sigh of relief, it doesn’t appear that the Bill would see the end to any court involvement as the expert’s determination would not be legally binding as the surveyor would not be able to make any orders for removal of fencing etc. which was encroaching or to make any awards for damages in the event that such encroachment was not removed. Therefore while it may go some way to resolving disputes without the need for court, ultimately the court may still need to step in where matters cannot be resolved amicably.
As no such proposals have been put forward in Scotland yet, we will be watching with interest to see what shape the legislation takes in England and Wales and whether this really does go some way to resolving boundary disputes.
In the meantime, if you find yourself in the midst of a boundary dispute, Jackson Boyd are happy to be on hand to assist in resolving your dispute. For more information please contact us online by clicking here or speak to a member of our specialist team on 0333 222 1855.