The Property Boundaries (Resolution of Disputes) Bill had its first reading in the House of Lords on 13th July 2017 following an earlier attempt to introduce legislation in 2012. This stage is a formality that signals the start of the Bill’s journey through the Lords. The Bill will receive a second reading (the general debate on all aspects of the Bill ) at a later unspecified date.
This Bill is to make provision for the resolution of disputes concerning the location or placement of boundaries and private rights of way relating to the title of an estate in land; and for connected purposes.
This Bill includes:
- Proposals aimed at providing an alternative to the Court and Tribunal determination of boundary disputes and rights of way;
- Introducing the expert determination of boundary and rights of way disputes by qualified surveyors;
- Discussion on issues including the costs of conventional litigation and the adversarial nature of disputes;
- An aim to take the dispute out of the hands of the neighbours and to be dealt with instead by appointed surveyors – these may be appointed jointly.
An overview of the Proposed Procedure:
- Where a land owner wishes to establish the position of a boundary or private right of way, a written notice, accompanied by a plan, is to be served on the adjoining owner of the land or user of a private right of way establishing the proposed line of boundary or the private right of way. However, the adequacy of the plan, its scale and dimensions are not yet stipulated.
- The land owner will need to provide the neighbour with 14 days within which to agree to the boundary.
- If the adjoining owner does not consent to the line of the boundary contained in the notice or the right of way a dispute is deemed to have arisen.
- Where a dispute arises, the Bill provides for the dispute to be resolved by a single surveyor who is agreed to by both parties or by three surveyors consisting of one appointed by each party and a third selected by the appointed surveyors.
- If reasonable access is denied to allow the surveyor entry onto the land, then an offence may be committed.
- The surveyor would then determine the dispute and set out his decision in an award, which would also provide who should pay the costs of the dispute. There is no indication or guidance on the fee structure yet.
- The surveyor’s findings would be conclusive, and could only be challenged if an appeal was made within 28 days to the High Court of England and Wales.
- The decision of the surveyor is conclusive, unless and application is made to the High Court within the 28-day period. After this time, the surveyor will submit details of its award to the Land Registry.
This Bill’s procedure, whilst in theory could be quicker and cheaper than the current route to boundary dispute resolution, will rely on the expertise of surveyors and their ability to comprehend fully the legal implications of the historic conveyances and property documents. Often these documents have a significant bearing in establishing the line of the boundary and title to land.
The Bill has not yet passed through the Lords (which will need to be followed by approval in the Commons) and therefore has a long way to go before becoming law.
Written by our Conveyancing Team.
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