Know your boundaries: how to deal with a neighbour encroaching on your land

Couple outside of property

Jonathan Maskew explains a problem which he has a vast experience in – the issue of boundary disputes with their neighbours.

This is a very common problem, we get calls every day. Neighbours think they have a right almost to encroach on your land. Often, they play on the basis that they know you and they think they can get away with it. For example; the fence has fallen into disrepair and they get a contractor to replace it. You know it’s happening as a neighbour, but do you go out and check the new boundary line? In my experience, generally you can assume that they are going to place it on the boundary line that is already there, however, in reality, what typically follows is a contractor to site and there are difficulties and it appears easier to divert away from the original boundary line and this results in neighbours falling out.

The common-sense approach actually means there  isn’t much common sense used  and  they actually move the boundary. Clients often see a really  nice  new fence without looking in great detail but then several days later notice that it hasn’t been placed on the same boundary line.

The unintended consequences are really very disturbing for neighbours, often friends you have known for a long period of time and that relationship  breaks  down, which is very sad for many.

In a very recent matter, the block paving edging stone had been moved from the original boundary line and whilst only a couple of inches, it had been in place for thirty or forty years. Of course you would apply common sense and expect that the neighbour and contractor involved would know this, they choose to ignore it and hope you don’t notice!

The clients approaching April King Legal often assume the only way to resolve this is to get lawyers involved but this isn’t always the case. What we always say is we can guide and support you through this difficult and stressful situation. We can, where appropriate assist and have letters drafted for you, however, we don’t live there and have to face your neighbours every day and we understand that can be a very emotional and difficult environment for you. Discussing it calmly with them that the route for resolution  can  often  come  from  them is re-assuring and supportive at a time they feel very vulnerable.

Many clients find these situations very stressful as mentioned, and would have assumed that their neighbours of many years would have done the right thing, but sometimes they don’t, so how do you deal with it? In my experience, one of the best solutions is firstly, where you can, ensure to retain communication with your neighbour as the arrival of threatening letters arriving can only make the position worse and does not provide the solution either party desire and try to have common sense applied to the dispute.

One other very good solution is the route of mediation for such disputes and ensures that  both   parties  are not exposed to huge costs in the first instance. We can assist clients in this process and it results in many disputes being resolved swiftly with a real and positive outcome that reduces both cost and the stress often caused.

A great example of where mediation has helped with a boundary dispute is where two neighbours had been battling over a boundary line and spent significant amounts on lawyers writing to each other over many months without any real outcome. Finally, they agreed that attending a mediation may well provide the solution. The mediator, whom we know very well took the common sense approach, he attended the site with both the neighbours and suggested that the boundary line be positioned halfway, ie 3 inches either side of the disputed boundary line, they both agreed.  It goes to show there is a route for common sense  to prevail.

To get in touch with Jonathan for an initial chat without obligation regarding a boundary dispute, call us on 0800 788 0500 or email

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