The Protocol for Disputes between Neighbours and the Location of the Boundary (The Boundary Dispute Protocol) was introduced in September 2017. The Protocol applies to residential and commercial properties. The Protocol offers a step by step guide for landowners to follow to try to resolve disputes promptly and in a cost effective manner.
Why use the Protocol?
Litigation is often an ineffective way to resolve boundary disputes. Parties can end up spending a disproportionate amount of money and often irreconcilably fall out with their neighbours in the process. The Protocol promotes alternative dispute resolution which aims to resolve boundary disputes reasonably and proportionately.
How does the Protocol work?
The Protocol aims to focus the parties’ attention on early and effective compromise by setting out a prescribed timetable to follow. For example, within two weeks of the parties agreeing to adopt the Protocol, the parties must exchange official copies of Land Registry title information and seek to agree whether any determined boundaries exist.
Often the boundary line cannot be determined by reference to Official Copies from Land Registry alone. The Title Plan is intended for “identification purposes only”. This means that the Title plan can only show general boundaries of the property. The Protocol recognises that boundary disputes often require detailed interpretation of plans and the application of legal presumptions. The Protocol invites the involvement of lawyers and surveyors to help facilitate agreement and compliance with the Protocol. The aim is to eliminate arguments about process, particularly litigation, and concentrate the parties’ time and money on the substance of the issues in dispute.
The Protocol stresses that the parties must be clear about what is being agreed. The Protocol seeks to assist the negotiation of precise and enforceable settlements between neighbours to avoid future boundary disputes occurring. The Protocol requires any agreement reached to be recorded in writing and a plan annexed to the written agreement clearly defining the boundary. Each party must then register the agreement against their respective titles at the Land Registry.
What happens if the Protocol is not followed?
It is not compulsory to comply with the Protocol and it is does not (yet) have the same status as some protocols for certain types of disputes where a non-complying party can face adverse costs consequences. However, the objective will be to ensure that the Protocol is widely adopted so that parties to a dispute may face substantial cost consequences if the Protocol, or some form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), is not considered before referring the dispute to the appropriate court or tribunal.
What should I do if I have a boundary dispute?
It is advised that you should try and resolve the dispute by informal discussions with your neighbour. If informal discussions fail, you may wish to look at the Protocol for a guide on what steps are recommended to resolve your boundary dispute as effectively as possible. Please note the Protocol is not intended as a substitute for legal advice. If you are unsure as to your legal position please contact Alison Sparks in the Dispute Resolution department.