Defining Boundaries. Resolving Disputes

Don't fight over a fence. 
 

boundary-disputes-edinburgh

Assisting in the resolution of land ownership dispute accounts for a significant portion of the work that comes to our business. Interestingly, we often find that when we are appointed, the parties involved have been peaceful neighbours for many years. Further, and more often than not, our site visit informs that none of the disputed boundaries have been physically changed: a fence has not been moved by a sneaky neighbour hoping to increase the size of their garden when next door is on holiday; the retiree next door hasn't built an eleven story shed to fill his days, with half falling within the neighbour’s garden. 

 
How can long-term, mutual contentedness for the position of a boundary turn into a vicious argument between neighbours when nothing has even changed? Well, the dispute often coincides with the sale of one of the properties either side of the boundary. The fly in the ointment of years of neighbourly peace: The Land Registration etc (Scotland) Act 2012.
 
The Land Registration etc (Scotland) Act 2012 was introduced to "reform and restate the law on the registration of rights to land" while establishing a complete "map-based public register of land and property ownership" in Scotland. While we fully support the intent of the register, we know that a project of this scale is rarely executed without some snags...
 
The re-registration of a Title under the new act requires all existing boundaries to be outlined on the Ordnance Survey Map. This is where problems begin to arise. You see, the Ordnance Survey map only exists as a representation of what can actually be found on the ground. In our experience, it is rarely truly accurate.
 
The second issue arises when the historical title plan for a property is compared with the Ordnance Survey map. Often, historical title plans exist as incomprehensible floating shapes that are difficult to correlate with the property in question. Adding to this is a likely inaccuracy of the measurements displayed on the plan, attributed to historical measurement techniques. Therefore, many of the age-old plans that we see also do not accurately reflect the actual occupied extent of boundaries that have existed for years. Until now, this has never been considered a problem.

So, when two documents that are prone to error are compared, discrepancies are likely to occur. This is often when the Keeper of the Deeds sends a report (known as a Plans Report) to the solicitor involved in a sale. The issued Plans Report highlights where discrepancies have arisen. However, we stress that it is quite common for no report to be issued by the Keeper. Do be aware that this does not guarantee that the Ordnance Survey submitted plan has been deemed accurate it's just that part of the Land Registration etc (Scotland) Act 2012 places responsibility on the solicitor for ensuring the accuracy of each plan submitted. Therefore, should it be discovered further down the line that the plan isn't accurate, this could lead to a legal nightmare for the parties involved, with the Soliciting firm that originally submitted the plan being the first to be blamed.
 
Now back to our story of a war between formerly peaceful neighbours. In our experience, when discrepancies arise, they often create the illusion that one or more of the boundaries surrounding a property is in the wrong place - usually making it seem that the legal extent of one piece of land is actually larger than what is shown on the ground. The party who owns this property is typically quick to think that they've won the land ownership jackpot and can become convinced that they can "claim back" the land they feel they are legally entitled to. Bitterness ensues. Aura is called.

Using the latest in survey technology, our experienced team accurately model the position of the boundaries as they exist. Our investigation then involves the digital recreation of the historical Title Plan. Both of these are then overlaid on the Ordnance Survey map, meaning that we can effectively demonstrate where discrepancies have been born from. This investigation has led to the rapid resolution of countless disputes or Plans Report challenges.
 
As professionals in our field, we highly recommend that a survey of the boundaries of any property is conducted. This means that the chance of ownership ambiguity causing issues in the future is eliminated. Moreover, we can conduct a survey at any time so there is no need to wait for things to get nasty between neighbours. For peace of mind now, or during the purchase of a new home or piece of land, Aura can mitigate the potential for expensive and unnecessary disputes. If there is already an on-going legal battle or there is already trouble with registering a Title Plan in the new system, we can help to resolve that too!