Resolving boundary disputes: a new way forward?

Residential boundary disputes continue to trouble the courts, frequently costing the parties vast sums of money far exceeding the value of the land in question, which is often a small strip fought over as a point of principle. 

Litigation between neighbours is inevitably stressful and unpleasant, and can have unfortunate long term consequences not only in terms of relations between the parties but also if the taint of litigation damages the possibility of either party moving house to escape, which may be the only long term solution. 

On 25 June last year Charlie Elphicke MP presented a Private Member's Bill in Parliament, proposing that boundary disputes should be resolved in the same way as party wall disputes, by the early appointment of surveyors, either by the parties jointly or by each party appointing their own. Where separately appointed surveyors could not reach agreement, they could appoint a third surveyor to resolve the case. Any appeals would be determined by the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber). 

The Bill is expected to have its second reading debate on 1 March 2013, and could apply to commercial property disputes too. Although this form of dispute resolution mechanism is finding favour, there is concern that it is rare for Private Member's Bills to make it through the UK’s rigorous legislative procedure. 

However, at the very least the second reading should spark legislative debate within government, and perhaps clear the way for much needed legislative change in the future.

by Mike Scott, Partner