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Legal boundaries and general boundaries

Every property has precise legal boundaries.  These are the invisible lines separating the land owned by one person from that owned by a neighbour. They may or may not coincide with the physical boundary features on the ground like fences or walls and are not shown on Ordnance Survey maps.  

The title deeds rarely identify the legal boundaries.  The owner probably does not know where they are and having to find out their position of the legal boundaries at the time of registration of the property could be expensive and lead to unnecessary disputes.  As a result, we usually register the property with “general boundaries”. In other words, we show the general extent of the property in the registered title – and we do so by a red line on the title plan. So you cannot use the title to establish the precise legal boundary.  

Note that, because of mapping specifications, measurements taken by scaling between features shown on the title plan may not agree with the actual distance measured between the same features on the ground.

Common beliefs about ownership of boundary features

There is no legal foundation for the belief that boundary features on the right (or on the left) as you look at the property from the front are automatically owned by the owner of the property. Nor is it the case that the post and rails of a fence are necessarily on the owner's side.

Deeds may contain wording where one owner covenants (promises) to maintain a wall or fence but such covenants do not necessarily mean that the owner concerned owns the wall or fence.

Responsibility for boundary features

Your title register or your neighbour's might give information about who owns or is responsible for boundary features such as fences, walls or hedges but generally only if this information was mentioned in the title deeds sent to us when the property was first registered; or if your property was originally part of a larger piece of land or property and provision was made in the transfer from the seller to the first owner, for its ownership or responsibility.

Have a look at any documents your solicitor may have given you when you bought your property to see if they mention anything about boundary features.

Sometimes registers refer to deeds as 'Copy filed'. If you want to get a copy of any such deed to see if it contains any information as to the ownership of and responsibility for a boundary feature, see 'How can I get copies of deeds?'

However, it is not unusual that neither your title register nor any deeds will contain any information about boundary ownership or responsibility.

Even if they do, the situation may have changed. For example, new boundary features might have been built and the owners at that time might have agreed who was responsible for them.

So, regardless of any information in the title register or in any deeds, it is probably best to talk to or write to your neighbour before doing anything to a fence, wall or hedge or other feature between your properties.

In any deeds that do contain information,the most common marking on deed plans indicating who owns and is responsible for the maintenance and repair of a boundary feature, is a 'T' mark.  Such a mark normally means that the owner of the property into which the 'T' extends owns the boundary feature and is responsible for its maintenance. But you must read the wording in the deed to make sure this is the case. 

We do not often reproduce 'T' marks on a title plan. If a 'T' mark is referred to in a deed we usually add a note at the end of the register entry which mentions the deed, such as: "The 'T' mark referred to affects the northern boundary of the land in this title."  

T Mark example

Fixing boundaries more precisely

You can fix your boundaries more precisely by a procedure known as ‘determining the boundary’, but it is quite a complex process.

You must send us:

Find out where to send your applications.

You need to make sure that the exact line of the boundary you ask for is consistent with the title deeds and, ideally, agree its position with your neighbour.

If you apply to determine your boundary without the written agreement of your neighbour, and we think you have a case, we have to write to your neighbour to give them notice of your application and give them an opportunity to object. Any dispute that arises which cannot be resolved will have to be determined by either the Land Registration division of the Property Chamber, First-tier Tribunal  or a Court.

Boundary agreements

If you have reached an agreement with your neighbour about where your boundaries are, you may be able to use it as the basis of an application for the determination of exact line of the boundary.  Alternatively, you can apply for the boundary agreement to be noted on your individual title registers. This will effectively record the agreement. If you want to make such an application you should send us:

Find out where to send your applications.
Whatever you decide to do you should think about taking legal advice first.

Can Land Registry resolve a boundary dispute between my neighbour and me?

No, we cannot.  It is not our function to determine disputes between property owners.   

Further information

These guides are aimed at the legal profession rather than members of the public.

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