Boundaries Questions and Answers

There are many misconceptions about boundaries, what plans show, who is responsible for which fence or ‘owns’ a boundary. These are particularly relevant when faced with a boundary dispute. Dorian Burt can be appointed to resolve this by making a Boundary Determination. See the common questions and our answers below.

What is a boundary?
A boundary is an imaginary legal line separating an area of owned land from another. A boundary has zero thickness, but extends from the centre of the earth to the sky. The owner of the land within the boundaries owns everything on the land, under it and above it. Anyone else on the property without permission, or allowing their buildings, fences, walls etc. to extend into it, is committing a trespass. Laws have been made so that the crown own any discovered minerals or oil etc. and such that aircraft etc. are allowed to pass through its airspace. Similarly others with statutory powers may have access.

Are boundary lines are straight?
No. They may be any shape or profile, as straight segments or curved.

Are boundary lines at right angles to the buildings-
No. They may be at right angles or skewed, diagonal or any direction.

I have a Title Plan from Land Registry, can I use this to prove boundary positions?
No. Title Plans are only indicative of the extent of ownership. They do not accurately show the boundary positions, unless they have sufficient measurements on the original plan which is rare. At the typical plan scales, the plan cannot finitely show exact positions and cannot be scaled from with any confidence. The thickness of a drawn line 0.25mm wide on a plan at 1:1250 scale is actually 312mm wide in reality, often as much or more than the distance in dispute. A boundary has zero thickness.

Is ‘my’ boundary always the one on the left or right?
Neither, this is a popular misconception. Properties may have responsibility for maintaining either right or left, both or none. The end of a rectangular garden also needs its boundary maintained and one property may also have some or all or this. Irregular shaped land is more complicated. Note that nobody owns a boundary (see below).

Do I own one of the boundaries?
Nobody can own a boundary itself, a boundary has zero thickness. A property may have a boundary assigned for which they have responsibility; i.e. the provision and upkeep of a wall or fence, hedge or ditch, other features or markers. This means you might own the fence or wall etc., but you do not own the zero thickness boundary line itself.

What do ‘T’ or ‘H’ marks on a Title Plan mean?
Title plans sometimes have a capital letter ‘T’ drawn on one side of the boundary line. The side on which the ‘T’ sits is the property with responsibility for maintaining the boundary. Sometimes responsibility for a boundary can be shared, so two ‘T’ marks are drawn and appear to make an ‘H’ straddling the line. Often there are no marks at all, but the responsibility is described in the Title Document in words instead.

Can I tell which fence is mine by seeing who has the ‘ugly’ side?
No. It was often thought customary to give your neighbour the ‘good’ side and yourself the ‘ugly’ side (the side with the bracing, support fittings or brick piers). However not everyone did this, and the practice is less common place these days.

Can I tell where the boundary is by knowing which fence or wall is mine?
No. A fence or wall or other boundary feature does not necessarily stand within the responsible owners land. It may stand up to the boundary line, astride it, over it or cross back and forth.

Can I tell where the boundary is because a fence or wall is there?
No. A fence, wall or other feature does not necessarily mean the boundary is there. They boundary line is a separate thing, the fences etc. might be right or wrong.

We had a party wall award made by surveyors, so has this changed or confirmed the boundary?
No. Party wall awards do not change or confirm the legal boundary, the boundary is only established by the party wall surveyors for the purposes of the party wall award and applies only to the related work. A party wall award is tied to owners and not the property so cannot pass on in a sale. The legal boundary which does pass on with the property can only be changed by having a boundary determination recorded at Land Registry.

I have used a piece of land for the last 12 years, can I claim ownership under Adverse Possession rights?
No. The rules for Adverse Possession (‘squatters rights’) changed on
13 October 2003. You would need to prove use for 12 years prior to this date to make a claim. After this date you need to prove 10 years, plus applying to Land Registry who write to any known owners and only after another 2 years without objections can you make a claim. In both cases you need to provide evidence to prove continuous use for the required periods and Land Registry will assess it.

Can I make an application for a boundary to be recorded at Land Registry myself?
Both property owners need to sign the form to agree the boundary position
application. Supporting evidence such as plans needs to be provided for which you may need a professional surveyor.

What if we can’t agree the boundary position?
You can jointly appoint Dorian Burt to resolve the dispute by making an independent Boundary Determination. Read our Boundary Determination page to find out why this is best and how it works.

Should we go to solicitors, our own surveyor and even court?
No. Having a single independent surveyor jointly appointed to determine the boundary is the quickest, cheapest and least stressful option. Opposing solicitors, expert witness reports as adversaries and court will only rack up fees, time and stress. It would also be likely to irreparably damage relations where you will continue to live. If the matter ultimately goes to court, it is decided by a single person taking account of all the evidence; this is what Dorian Burt as the single surveyor would have done in the first place in an independent Boundary Determination.