Property Clinic: Neighbours removed our boundary fence. Have we redress?
Your property questions answered
Notify the site owners, meet them on site, point out the precise line of the p&w fence, and ask them to reinstate it. File photograph: Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters
The developer owners of a two acre site adjoining our rear garden have recently had a JCB carry out a general site clearance and clean up. Our initial joy with this turned to annoyance when we realised that the JCB had swept away an old whitethorn hedge which contained the remnants of a post and wire fence which was the original boundary of our garden. A two-metre high laurel hedge which we had planted about a metre on our side some years ago for privacy had obscured our view of what was going on. Have we any redress?
What you had was two physical boundaries. The post and wire (p&w) fence was likely to be marking the legal boundary between your respective properties. There is always a risk that two physical boundaries (hedges, fences, etc), to a property will become problematic, especially when one party acts unilaterally. They can also be misinterpreted on maps and such maps may be used in conveyancing. This in turn frequently results in protracted, contentious, stressful and costly resolution.
Your immediate actions should be:
(a) notify the site owners, meet them on site, point out the precise line of the p&w fence, and ask them to reinstate it.
(b) obtain your deed map.
(c) check the Local Authority Planning register.
The least you should expect is that the owners will reinstate the p&w fence. A detailed deed map should indicate that the p&w fence defined the legal boundary.
If the adjoining site owners do not respond favourably, you should, without delay, collect evidence to support your case. In addition to your deed and deed map, you should obtain any information, including old photographs, which indicate the p&w fence as your boundary.
If your property is registered, the Land Registry map may be helpful but note that the Land Registry operates a ‘non-conclusive’ boundary system. You will need to engage a chartered geomatics surveyor to interpret the maps and mark out the boundary on site. If required the surveyor will prepare a report and deal with the adjoining owners on your behalf.
If the owners refuse to accept the surveyor’s findings you should seek legal advice. The evidence you have assembled, including the surveyor’s report will be essential information for your solicitor. You should, however, try to avoid an escalation that would lead to litigation, as the outcome is unpredictable.
You may find the adjoining owners will not want a marginal boundary issue to delay any development proposals they may have and that they will want to resolve it without delay. Alternatively, you may find from the planning register that they have already submitted a development proposal that requires the inclusion of the 1m strip that is your property. This latter scenario is potentially more serious, therefore it would be imperative to take the steps outlined above.
In summary, if the situation is not resolved to your satisfaction without delay, obtain your evidence, engage a surveyor and consult your solicitor.
Patrick Shine is a Chartered Geomatics Surveyor, a Chartered Civil Engineer and a member of SCSI, scsi.ie