Don’t spoil Christmas with a Boundary Dispute

Don’t spoil Christmas with a Boundary Dispute

9:13 AM, 20th December 2021, About 2 years ago

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For most Christmas is about spending time with friends and family, but for nearly 2000[1]  in England and Wales who are involved in boundary disputes each year, the ongoing questions over poorly maintained fences or who owns what land might well spoil the festive mood altogether.

To help more neighbours break out the mince pies rather than a war of words, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has published its latest advice on how homeowners can approach tricky issues such as boundary disputes.

Adopted by HM Land Registry and the Citizens Advice Bureau, RICS has worked with experts across real estate, conflict resolution and legal system to come up with easy solutions that might prevent disputes being taken through a lengthy formal process.

The advice, which is freely available online, outlines what neighbours can do to either resolve disputes informally, or how to prepare for mediation or even court action if that is not possible, including:

  • GET THE TITLE PLAN: Before buying always ask for the ‘title plan’ from HM Land Registry and compare it to what’s being sold. This shows the general boundaries of a property and you can usually spot and challenge any differences.
  • NOT JUST FENCES: Most boundaries would typically be a fence or wall exterior, however this could also include ditches, rivers and hedge rows when going out into more rural areas – even a series of stones set out to show who owns what counts as a boundary. The law requires owners to keep their boundaries in good order, otherwise this could cause a dispute.
  • TALK TO NEIGHBOURS: It might seem obvious, but once you’ve got the keys, knock on your neighbour’s door to introduce yourself and ask any questions about the issues you’d like to address. Getting to problems quickly, rather than sitting on them, will help find a resolution.
  • DON’T JUST BUILD: It’s also best to speak to your neighbour if you’re planning on putting up a new fence or building close to the boundary. This may help iron out any feelings about it and any misconceptions over ownership.
  • CALL IN THE EXPERTS: If you’re seeking mediation for a dispute or even plan to going to court, then always seek the best advice available. An expert chartered surveyor will not only survey the site and check the deeds and plans, but also refer to historical documents and aerial photographs.

Julia Stolle, Co-chair of the RICS Boundaries Expert Working Group, said: “Having seen many neighbours falling out over a few inches and spending far too much money on boundary disputes, I am confident that this guide will help many to settle their arguments, reach a sensible boundary agreement and maybe even enjoy the festive season with a mulled wine over the fence.”

James Kavanagh, Head of Land & Resource Management at RICS, added: “Good boundaries make good neighbours and at this time of the year when thoughts turn towards goodwill to all, presents under the tree and of course a visit from Father Christmas perhaps it might also be time to consider neighbours and how we can all improve good neighbourliness during these, for many, difficult times.

“This guide helps consumers take those first steps towards agreement on boundaries before entering into a very un-Christmassy/seasonal escalating dispute.”

The guide is freely available here:

Seek expert advice and boundary services from a chartered surveyor in your area by searching FindASurveyor:

Anyone seeking mediation services to resolve a dispute can contact the Boundary Disputes Mediation Service (BDMS) which was set up by RICS with the Property Litigation Association with support from the Civil Justice Council.

BDMS provides a quicker, cheaper and more informal approach than litigation, while helping neighbours to deal with issues at the heart of their dispute in a positive and proactive way.

A free thirty-minute consultation with participating experts is also available to the public through the RICS advice helpline service:

[1] Figures according to the Ministry of Justice ’Boundary Disputes’ scoping study report: Boundary Disputes – A Scoping Study (

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