Boundary problems

The house I hope to buy is set in a secluded plot in the country, but the boundaries are not clear. How do we know exactly where the boundaries are?

t The house I hope to buy is set in a secluded plot in the country, but the boundaries are not clear. How do we know exactly where the boundaries are?

Have a look at the plans with the title deeds and the agent's particulars. A seller does not have to define precisely the ownership of boundaries and Land Registry plans only give a general indication of the boundaries rather than the precise delineation. Your solicitor can raise enquiries as to responsibility for and maintenance of the boundaries. A site inspection will be necessary and a surveyor may be able to help establish the ownership of boundary features by reference to the title plans, Ordnance Survey maps and any historic plans.

t The house is near a road with a verge at the front. Will the verge be my responsibility?

A person who owns land abutting on a private or public highway is presumed to own the soil under the highway up to the middle line. The surface of the public highway is vested in the highway authority (which will be able to tell you whether the verge forms part of the public highway).

t The house has a garden with river frontage. Where will the boundary fall?

The “ad medium filum” rule applies so that the owners of properties on either bank of the stream own the bed up to the middle of the stream or river.

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t Along one side is a meadow with a ditch between the neighbouring property. Where does my land end?

The boundary line is presumed to lie on the far side of the ditch from the hedge, where two properties are separated by a hedge and a man-made ditch.

t How will I know which trees belong to me?

A tree belongs to the owner on whose land it was planted even if its trunk, roots or branches extend to a neighbouring property.

t What happens if my new neighbour does not agree with my understanding of boundary ownership?

If you are thorough before you buy and you raise all appropriate enquiries, you will hopefully be able to resolve amicably any question of boundary ownership.