Posted by Rachel McCarthy, Paralegal
Boundary Disputes Protocol – welcome news for homeowners?
The way property boundary disputes are dealt with in law is evolving.
The Property Litigation Association (PLA) has recently published a Protocol for Disputes between Neighbours about the Location of their Boundary (“Boundary Disputes Protocol”), which is set to clarify the process where neighbours are in dispute about the location of the boundary between their properties.
The Boundary Disputes Protocol provides both a structure and additional guidance which together set out how to resolve boundary issues.
What measures does the Protocol introduce?
Although currently only a draft, if approved and enforced in its current form, the Protocol will set out that neighbours should exchange information in a reasonably timely manner in order to prevent the dispute becoming unnecessarily protracted, complicated, or escalated.
Clause 2 of the Protocol sets out that you should be exchanging basic Land Registry title information within two weeks of agreeing to adopt the Boundary Disputes Protocol and exchanging substantial information in relation to the boundary (including photographs and past conveyances) within four weeks.
It also places Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as the central route for resolving these boundary issues to help keep costs to a minimum.
The supplementary guidance note sets out what you can expect from a surveyor who may be appointed to assist in resolving the issue, from the beginning to end of the involvement of a surveyor. Such guidance is particularly helpful if you have had little contact with or never needed to instruct a surveyor previously.
Clarification – or competing suggestions?
The PLA’s draft Boundary Disputes Protocol has been published while the Property Boundaries (Resolution of Disputes) Bill (“Property Boundaries Bill”) is being processed through Parliament. The Property Boundaries Bill is currently due for the second reading in the House of Lords, on a date yet to be announced.
It could take a long time for the Bill to pass through all the stages in Parliament, but both the Bill and the Protocol are currently providing competing suggestions of how to revolutionise the way in which boundary disputes are handled and resolved. The ultimate aim of both is to do so without the involvement of the Court and solicitors, and therefore resolve matters quicker and without the same level of cost than currently. However, the draft Boundary Disputes Protocol is published with the proviso that it does not provide or form legal advice.
A solicitor will be able to advise you in relation to the boundary dispute itself, but also crucially assist with any timescales imposed by either the Property Boundaries Bill or the Boundary Disputes Protocol – should either be introduced.
Please click here for the full details of the Boundary Disputes Protocol, and supplementary guidance notes.