It’s the season for goodwill What to do if your neighbor has a problem with a badly maintained fence? Who owns the land?

  • RICS Issues New Advice to Help Address Disputes Between Neighbors
  • Guidance addresses all disputes, even those regarding who is the owner of what land

Poorly maintained fences and disputes about land ownership can cause a rift between neighbors that could ruin festive spirit.

New advice by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors aims at bringing neighbors together to avoid a war of words during Christmas.

This institution worked closely with property and legal experts to find simple solutions to avoid disputes that could lead to lengthy formal processes.

Here’s some advice on how neighbors can be most helpful in resolving tricky boundary issues.

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has released new information to assist in resolving disputes among neighbours

You should obtain the Land Registry’s title plan of the property and communicate as often as you can with your neighbors.

Jeremy Leaf of North London Estate Agent, however, was pleased to see the RICS guide on boundary disputes. He added that solutions for such problems were rarely easy.

“Many neighbors aren’t keen to solve problems and pay their debts even though it’s in their best interest to do so, except perhaps they are thinking about moving.”

He said, “If there is a problem it would be best to consult the title plan. This may not work if your property is in an area with hard boundaries or that have changed from the original plotted.

“Properties are frequently occupied by tenants, with owners far from home with little interest to resolving what is deemed minor squabbles or paying for them.

He said: ‘The best advice is to try to establish boundary ownership and responsibility before you buy a property if possible.

“It is also important to communicate with your neighbours regarding boundaries. Their condition may change due to weather damage or any other reason. Although you may be right, it is sometimes difficult to make sure your rights are upheld and to force your neighbours to do the same.

Here is the RICS new guidance….

1. Register for the Title Plan

Always ask to see the HM Land Registry’s title plan before you buy. Compare it with what is being sold.

These are the boundaries for a property. You can often spot or challenge differences.

2. Fences are not the only thing you need

A fence or wall outside is the most popular boundary. This could include rivers, ditches and hedge rows if you are going into rural areas. Even a set of stones to indicate who is the boundary.

If owners do not keep their boundary lines in good order, it could result in a dispute.

3. Talk with neighbors 

Although it may seem obvious, once you have the keys, you should knock at the door of your neighbor to say hello and answer any questions you might have about the problems you are trying to solve.

It’s better to solve problems immediately than to sit on them.

4. Build more than just buildings

Talk to your neighbor if you are planning to build a fence near the boundary. You can also clarify any misperceptions or feelings you may have about the ownership.

5. The experts are available 

You should always get the best possible advice when you seek mediation in a dispute.

Expert chartered surveyors will inspect the site, check deeds and plan and refer to historic documents and aerial photography.

James Kavanagh of RICS explained that good boundaries are the best kind of neighbours. This time of year is a great opportunity to think about goodwill and bringing Father Christmas a visit. Maybe it’s time to also think of our neighbors and the ways we can improve neighborliness during difficult times.

‘This advice helps consumers take those first steps towards agreement on boundaries before entering into a very un-Christmassy/seasonal escalating dispute.’

Anybody looking for mediation to settle a dispute should contact the Boundary Disputes Mediation Service, (BDMS), which has been established by RICS and the Property Litigation Association. It is supported by the Civil Justice Council.

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