Could part of my land be stolen?

by Readers Question

9:39 AM, 12th February 2016
About 3 years ago

Could part of my land be stolen?

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Could part of my land be stolen?

One of my properties which is a 50 year old plus mid-terraced cottage has a front garden which has an unusual layout in that it extends all the way across the front of the house next door thereby leaving next door with no front garden since it all belongs to my property as indicated in the deeds.get orf

However in recent months, I became aware that following the sale of the house next door, the new owner erected a fence on this piece of land in-line with the partition between the two houses thereby in effect stealing part of my land. Having approached him about this, he concedes that the land belongs to me and expressed an interest in buying this portion of the land. I would also be interested in selling this portion of the land, but am concerned in case he gets cold feet and decides he no longer wishes to buy the land.

I’ve heard something about “legal theft of land” whereby a certain no of years after erecting the fence he can claim this portion of the land as his own. It may seem ludicrous as the law ought to weigh strongly in my favour, but experience tells me the law is rarely straight-forward and I would therefore appreciate any advice from anyone else who has been through a similar predicament or could assist in dealing with this matter and advising me of my rights.

Many thanks

GP



Comments

Neal Craven

10:15 AM, 12th February 2016
About 3 years ago

Is the property registered, (if next door has just sold that will be) if so download a copy of the tile documents and plans to check what they show. NB make sure you use http://www.landregistry.gov.uk/public/property-ownership and it will cost £6.00 per property

Jerry Jones

10:24 AM, 12th February 2016
About 3 years ago

Have you considered renting the land to your neighbour for a nominal rent? That would give him the use of it but enable you to confirm your ownership.

Simon Bentley

10:25 AM, 12th February 2016
About 3 years ago

I am not a solicitor but am going through the reverse process of claiming some land that my property has had included as though part of the property for well over 20 years. - the below is my understanding of things.

No need to panic, your neighbour needs to have the land for 12 years before he can apply for possessory title and then a further 12 years before he can apply for absolute title - you have plenty of time to resolve this.

Continue to access, use and tend the land in question if you can and keep a record of this by whatever means. By doing this you prevent him from claiming adverse possession. Doing this just once in the 12/24 years is enough to dispute a claim,doing it repetitively ought to completely remove the claim.

The big question is is the land registered with the Land registry- I forget the date but if it's been sold within the last 15ish years it will be on the register, if not unless you have registered it voluntarily it will not be. There's loads of info on the Land registry site on how to do this. Once registered if your neighbour tries to make a claim on the land you will be contacted by the LR so that you can dispute it.

Get a valuation from local agents on the land, if he wants it you may well be able to get a good price for it- though if your property is mortgaged the mortgage company may take issue depending on how heavily leveraged you are and what effect (if any) on the valuation of your property.

Neal Craven

10:32 AM, 12th February 2016
About 3 years ago

Main question is do you want any or all of the land and more particularly does it enhance your property, if not why not just sell it (or at least part of it) to him.

With specific regard to what Simon says I was once told the occupation has to be something like un opposed so I THINK it may be enough for you to dispute the matter for the neighbours 12 year claim to fail.

PS whatever you do don’t let it become a dispute.

Kate Mellor

11:04 AM, 12th February 2016
About 3 years ago

It will take a long time as stated by others above for this to become an issue, but it's best to deal with it immediately because the longer the neighbour goes on thinking of it as their front garden the less likely they will want to pay (even the legal costs) to get this resolved.

Currently they have nothing to lose by not doing anything as they retain all the benefits of your property for free, which they've knowingly fenced off! This sets alarm bells ringing to me that they had the cheek to deliberately and knowingly spend good money fencing you out of your own land!

Obviously it is best to keep things civil and remain on good terms with close neighbours, but I think you need to be firm about setting things in motion in regards to finalising these arangements. As Simon mentioned above if you have a mortgage on your house, you will not be able to sell this portion without your mortgage company's agreement and they may charge a potentially significant sum for this privilege. Ask them, but if it's not going to work, then I would get a formal rental agreement made up between yourself and the neighbour as suggested above by Jerry.

You should be able to find something suitable online to use either for free or fairly cheaply. This will act to retain your full legal claim to the property and also, psychologically reinforce to the neighbour that they are a tenant on it and not the owner.

Genghis Perriaman

13:42 PM, 12th February 2016
About 3 years ago

Hi thanks for the excellent advice - at this point we're on very cordial terms and I'm keen to progress the idea of selling the land to him (or renting as a fallback option) therefore agree disputes should be avoided where possible - however my concern was what avenues are available in case we fail to reach an agreement either selling or renting - for example could I then insist he removes the fence within say 30 days and erect my own or would it be advisable to get a solicitor on the case ?

Kate Mellor

19:47 PM, 12th February 2016
About 3 years ago

Read your deeds as you will possibly find that your neighbour has a right of way over the land at least on foot depending how far across the front of their property your land extends which may prevent you from erecting a fence potentially. You would be advised to take specific advice on this before you do it, but you are certainly within your rights to ask your neighbour to remove their fence from your land. You would be within your rights if given reasonable notice they failed to remove it to do so yourself without damaging it and return it to them. Although again if it came to this point I would first take professional advice.

Dr Monty Drawbridge

20:18 PM, 12th February 2016
About 3 years ago

Hi GP,

There is no risk to your ownership as long as you have exerted your rights, for instance by reminding him it is yours and either giving him permission to stay on it or asking him to get off. If you have your discussions in writing, keep them. If you don't, perhaps write to him to remind him that it is your land and you have not agreed to let him use it. Or give permission stating that it may be withdrawn at any time".

Even if you did not do this - with registered land he has to prove exclusive uncontested occupation for 10 years (so clock probably only started ticking when the fence went up) and then apply for permission to amend the title - which you have up to two years (or is it months?) to refuse.

Putting up the fence without permission is very cheeky indeed. It is your land. You are within your rights to take it down, just as you would be if he put the fence in the middle of your lawn.

I would write saying that you see that he has put a fence on your land without your permission, that you understand this to mean he would like to acquire the land from you, that you would be willing to sell it for £x, and that if he is not amenable to that he should remove the fence and make good any damage within 7 days - after which time you will pay someone to do the same and recover the costs from him.

Look at his having built the fence as an advantage - he has already spent the money and if he has to take it down it will have been wasted.

I know it sounds a little aggressive - but not half as aggressive as putting the fence on your land. Outrageous!

Ian Ringrose

11:29 AM, 13th February 2016
About 3 years ago

Remember your legal costs are likely to be as much of not more than the value of the land, therefore if you sell it, make the buyer pay your legal costs. Your mortgage provider may also charge you, as they need to consider the effect on the value of your house.

G Brown

13:52 PM, 16th February 2016
About 3 years ago

Hi GP
The process of claiming Adverse Possession is a crazy one where you can legally 'steal' someone's land. I believe the law changed about 2008 as described earlier.

From what I remember, the main points to test are; does the disputed land look as if it belongs to one property (ie fencing, hedges), has one party been taking care of the disputed land, and would one person be disadvantaged if the disputed land was taken from them, and how long has the disputed land been adversely possessed. For some reason, a time frame of 12 years rings a bell.

From what you've outlined, one thing seems positive, and that is that your neighbour has acknowledged that the disputed land is not his being that he offered to buy it?

Forgive the bitterness but I have fallen foul of this law and lost land with a story that's not too dissimilar to yours. Our local solicitors were employed to deal with it, as we didnt have a legal leg to stand on (due to the tests above) we did well to get the possesee to pay for the costs, solicitors fees and conveyancing. Hope that helps!

Geraint

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