Public Guide 19 – Title plans and boundaries
Updated: March 2012
This edition of the guide replaces the November 2011 edition. Section 9 has been updated to include guidance on the potential drawbacks associated with litigation over boundary disputes.
What this guide covers
This guide is aimed primarily at members of the public. It sets out the purpose of title plans and what information Land Registry may be able to provide. It also deals with some common boundary questions and problems.
When Land Registry registers a property, we prepare both a register and a title plan. The register shows the name(s) of the owner(s) and contains other information about the property. The title plan shows the general boundary of the registered land, unless shown as having been determined as an exact boundary pursuant to section 60 of the Land Registration Act 2002.
Land Registry bases its title plans on Ordnance Survey maps because they enable us to draw our plans to a satisfactory standard and to relate individual title plans to one another.
This guide sets out the purpose of title plans and explains what information Land Registry may be able to provide. Many enquiries we deal with are about boundaries and title plans play an important role with regard to these. This guide, therefore, deals with some common boundary questions and problems. More often than not, however, information held by Land Registry may not help in solving boundary problems and we cannot provide legal advice in relation to boundary disputes or any other matters.
If your property is not registered, you will have to rely primarily on your title deeds to try to establish the position of your legal boundary.
Boundary issues and disputes can be complex and we strongly advise you to seek professional advice, such as from a solicitor.
2 What is shown on a title plan?
A title plan shows:
the unique title number of the registered property
the Ordnance Survey map used to prepare the title plan
the scale to which the plan is drawn. This is usually 1:1250 for urban areas and 1:2500 for rural areas
the administrative area the property falls in
the north point
black lines that represent features such as buildings, walls, fences or hedges
a red line indicating the general boundary of the registered land, unless shown as having been determined as an exact boundary pursuant to section 60 of the Land Registration Act 2002, and
sometimes other colours, which will be explained in notes on the title plan or in the register. (The register also describes the land in the registered title and this description sometimes includes additional information on the extent of the property. For example, the register of a flat contains information about the floor on which the flat is situated.)
An example of a title plan is shown in Appendix A – Example of a title plan.
3 Can I obtain a copy of a register and/or title plan?
Yes, you can buy a copy of any register or title plan. For further information please see our Public Guide 1 – A guide to the information we keep and how you can obtain it. You can view and download the guide free of charge from our website at www.landregistry.gov.uk or it can be obtained from Customer Support (see Contact details). Our Find a property service allows you to buy copies of title plans and registers, provided the land in question is registered.
4 How can I use the information on the title plan?
Title plans are carefully prepared using the latest Ordnance Survey map available when the land was registered. However, you cannot establish the precise position of the boundary of a property by scaling from the title plan. This is because title plans show only the ‘general’ position of boundaries, unless they are shown as having been determined as exact boundaries pursuant to section 60 of the Land Registration Act 2002. Therefore, the title plan will not show you if your boundary:
runs somewhere within a feature on the title plan
runs along one particular side of a feature
includes all or any part of a road or stream alongside a feature.
Also, the scale to which the title plan is drawn limits the information shown. A black line on the title plan may correspond to a wide hedge or a narrow fence. It may also represent one feature – such as a fence – or more than one – such as a fence and a hedge that are close together on the ground. A feature may be shown as a straight line on the title plan but may not be straight on the ground.
Ordnance Survey publishes details of the accuracy to which their maps are drawn. Although we draw title plans to scale they are only a representation of what is on the ground. Because of this and the difficulty of establishing a point to start measuring from, measurements taken by scaling between features shown on the title plan may not agree with the actual distance measured between those same features on the ground. This may be the case if, for example, the property was on the side of a hill.
You also need to be aware that although Ordnance Survey regularly updates its maps, features may change between updates. For example, a building may be demolished or new extensions or fences erected, so a title plan may not show all the features as they now appear on the ground. Small buildings such as domestic sheds and greenhouses are not shown on Ordnance Survey maps.
Please visit Ordnance Survey’s website at www.ordnancesurvey.gov.uk for more information.
5 Can I rely on any measurements shown on my title plan?
Some title plans show measurements that were taken from the deeds, usually at the time the land was registered. Title plans will only show measurements if these were shown on plans contained in the title deeds. Although these may give some indication of the position of the boundary, they do not add any greater precision to the title plan as the title plan still only shows the general position of boundaries. Furthermore, the exact point or feature from which measurements were made may disappeared or changed, making any dimensions shown unreliable.
6 Can a register tell me anything about boundaries?
A register may contain information about who owns the boundaries or who is responsible for their maintenance. However, this information will only be available if the deeds sent to Land Registry at the time of registration mention this; most do not.
Even when the individual register refers to walls, fences, hedges and other boundary features, these may have changed. For example, new boundary features might have been built and the neighbours at that time might have agreed who was responsible for them. Regardless of any information in an individual register, it is best to agree with your neighbour who owns a fence, hedge or other feature before doing anything to it.
The neighbours’ register and title plan, if the property is registered, may provide information you are looking for.
Plans in deeds and documents that would have been sent to Land Registry when the property was first registered may also provide information that may help. However, these plans will usually have been considered when the property was first registered and we do not normally keep all deeds and documents once registration has been completed.
7 Why are the exact boundaries not shown?
Every property, whether or not it is registered, has exact legal boundaries. These are lines separating the land owned by one person from that owned by a neighbour. Deeds rarely identify these legal boundaries precisely and often the owners do not know where they are. Trying to establish the exact position of the boundaries at the time of registration could involve a great deal of expense and may cause a dispute that would otherwise not have happened. For these reasons the great majority of land in England and Wales is registered with general boundaries only.
8 Can my boundaries be fixed more precisely?
This can be done by a procedure known as ‘determining the boundary’. To do this you must produce a very precise plan showing where the exact line of the boundary is. The plan will need to be sent to Land Registry with a completed application form (form DB) together with the appropriate fee, which is set out in the latest Land Registry Fee Order. The easiest way to find out the fee payable for determining a boundary is to use our online calculator, which can be found under Fees on our website.
To successfully determine the exact line of a boundary, you will need to make sure that the exact line of the boundary sought is consistent with the title deeds and, preferably, agree its position with your neighbour. You will also need to use a qualified surveyor to draw up a plan that meets Land Registry’s requirements.
If you apply to us to have the exact line of your boundary determined 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 the application and give them an opportunity to object. If your neighbour objects, we would strongly recommend that you try to agree the matter between yourselves.
9 My neighbour and I cannot agree on exactly where our boundary should be – can Land Registry decide it for us?
No, Land Registry can only go as far as showing the general position of boundaries. If you and your neighbour need more precise details, and you cannot agree between yourselves, and you still want to go ahead with determining the boundary, the dispute will need to be decided by the Adjudicator to HM Land Registry or a court judge. You would need to ask a solicitor or other legal adviser for advice about court proceedings and what options are available to you.
Your solicitor, or legal adviser, may ask you to consider the effects of any boundary dispute and of not reaching an agreement with your neighbour. These may include:
court proceedings which may take a long time
expensive costs of litigation which may be disproportionate to the value of the land
if the loss of the land would be detrimental to the value of the property
in the longer term, possible effects on the re-sale on the property.
It is always better to reach an agreement with your neighbour if possible. For more information about the adjudicator please see Land Registry Practice Guide 37 – Objections and disputes – A guide to Land Registry practice and procedures. Land Registry practice guides are aimed primarily at the legal profession rather than members of the public. Please note the adjudicator can normally only deal with a dispute arising from a Land Registry application.
10 I have reached an agreement with my neighbour about where our boundary should be – what should we do?
It is best to record the agreement formally. You can do this by either applying for the precise boundary to be determined or by setting your agreement down in a formal document. As with other documents that have a legal effect, you should think about getting a solicitor or other legal adviser to draw the agreement up for you.
11 What if I think there is a mistake on my title plan?
If you think your title plan is wrong in some way, please contact Customer Support (see Contact details) and we will look into the matter. If we do not agree that something is wrong we will tell you why. If we agree that there is a mistake, we will explain how it happened and try to put it right. Mistakes may not always be our fault, but we are responsible for making sure that our title plans are accurate.
You may be asked to put your comments in writing.
Appendix A – Example of a title plan