Boundary myths

Jon Maynard Boundaries Ltd, Boundary Demarcation and Disputes, Rights of Way, Expert Witness, Chartered Land Surveyor

BOUNDARY
PROBLEMS

An Internet resource provided free since February 2000 by Jon Maynard Boundaries Ltd
This web site does not collect personal data from its readers.

Boundary Myths Busted

  You are here:    Boundary Problems | Boundary Myths Busted
Myth 1 Land Registry is responsible for deciding where property boundaries are.
Myth 2 Ordnance Survey maps show property boundaries.
Myth 3 Land Registry's title plans show you exactly where the boundary is.
Myth 4 Ordnance Survey maps are accurate: they must be because they are government-backed.
Myth 5 The position of a boundary can be ascertained by scaling from the title plan its distance from other nearby objects that appear on the title plan.
Myth 6 Land Registry is the national authority on boundaries.
Myth 7 When you and your neighbour are disputing the boundary, Land Registry can Determine the Exact Line of the Boundary for you.
Myth 8 Every homeowner is responsible for the fence on the left hand side of his land.
Myth 9 Every homeowner is responsible for those of the fences surrounding his garden that have the good-looking,side facing the neighbour.
Myth 10 You can claim ownership of part of your neighbour's open-plan front garden by mowing the grass that grows on the land you are trying to claim.
Myth 11 You can park anywhere upon your own land, even if you are parking on a part of your land that is burdened by a private right of way over which one or more of your neighbours is entitled to drive or to walk.
Myth 12 If you access your land via a private right of way, you can park your car on that private right of way.

 

Very few landowners are privileged to have had any sort of education in land or property law. Good information about property ownership, and particularly boundaries, has been difficult for landowners to find. Unsurprisingly, there has grown up a culture of myths surrounding boundaries. What follows is an explanation of why each of these myths is untrue.

 

 
Myth 1
Land Registry is responsible for deciding where property boundaries are.

Get real

That is rather like saying that DVLA - who compile registers of motor vehicles and whose V5C document lists, among other things, the colour of your car - was responsible for deciding the colour of the car that you drive.

The truth

Land Registry is nothing more than a technical library whose contents relate to land ownership. The person to "first register" the title to a parcel of land is responsible for supplying Land Registry with documents that provide a description of the boundaries. Land Registry is responsible for interpreting that boundary description onto a map base that is surveyed and drawn to a consistent standard across the whole of England and Wales. Land Registry is a secondary source for information about your land, and the boundaries were decided upon before Land Registry had any involvement.

 

    Return to Top of Page

 

 
Myth 2
Ordnance Survey maps show property boundaries.

Get real

Boundaries are invisible. The surveyors employed by Ordnance Survey are trained in surveying those things that they can see; they are not trained in boundary determination.

The truth

Ordnance Survey maps are prevented in law from showing property boundaries, or as section 12 of the Ordnance Survey Act 1841 puts it:
" ... This present Act ... shall not ... affect, any Boundary or Boundaries of ... any Land or Property ... but that all Right and Title of any Owner shall remain to all Intents and Purposes in like State and Condition as if this Act had not been passed".

 

    Return to Top of Page

 

 
Myth 3
Land Registry's title plans show you exactly where the boundary is.

Get real

Title plans show you only the general position of the boundary.

The truth

In accordance with section 60 of the Land Registration Act 2002, Land Registry's title plans come with the warning:
"This title plan shows the general position, not the exact line, of the boundaries. It may be subject to distortions in scale. Measurements scaled from this plan may not match measurements between the same points on the ground."

 

    Return to Top of Page

 

 
Myth 4
Ordnance Survey maps are accurate: they must be because they are government-backed.

Get real

The line on a printed and published Ordnance Survey map is 0.2 mm wide on the paper, which is to say that it is the equivalent of 25 cm (10 in) wide on the ground if the map is at 1:1250 scale, or 50 cm (20 in) wide on the ground if the map is at 1:2500 scale.

The truth

Beyond the thickness of the line, the position of the centre of the line on the map is:

  • at best anything up to 400 mm (16 in) on 1:1250 scale maps and up to 1 metre (3 ft 4 in) on 1:2500 scale maps, and
  • generally anything up to 1 metre (3 ft 4 in) on 1:1250 scale maps and up to 2 metre (6 ft 8 in) on 1:2500 scale maps, and
  • exceptionally more than 2 metre (6 ft 7 in) on 1:1250 scale maps and more than 2.5 metre (8 ft 2 in) on 1:2500 scale maps,
away from the true ground position of the ground feature that is represented by that line.

 

    Return to Top of Page

 

 
Myth 5
The position of a boundary can be ascertained by scaling from the title plan its distance from other nearby objects that appear on the title plan.

Get real

That approach is treating as a blueprint both the title plan and the Ordnance Survey map on which the title plan is based.

The truth

A blueprint is used in mechanical engineering and other disciplines for recording a design for something that has yet to be built.

Ordnance Survey does not design the landscape but measures to, and draws maps that show, physical features that already exist on the ground. Ordnance Survey's maps are not, and should not be mistaken for, blueprints.

Land Registry is only a secondary source for, not a designer of, boundaries, see Myth 1. Ordnance Survey has no part to play, see Myth 2, in deciding where property boundaries will be and is prohibited in law from investigating property boundaries and from showing them on its maps.

Moreover, the Ordnance Survey map has accuracy limitations that are explained at Myth 4. Further information on the difficulties in interpreting the Ordnance Survey maps can be found on the Using Ordnance Survey maps page of this web site.

 

    Return to Top of Page

 

 
Myth 6
Land Registry is the national authority on property boundaries.

Get real

How can they be the authority on boundaries when they deal with only the general positions of boundaries?

The truth

Land Registry is required to maintain a register of every parcel of land the title to which has been registered. Section 60 of the Land Registration Act 2002 states:

"(1) The boundary of a registered estate as shown for the purposes of the register is a general boundary, unless shown as determined under this section."

The definition given at Section 60 of the Land Registration Act 2002 is no more enlightening:

"(2) A general boundary does not determine the exact line of the boundary."

Land Registry's Practice Guide 40, supplement 5: title plan tells us:

"The purpose of the title plan is to support the property description in the register by providing a graphic representation and identifying the general extent of the land in a registered title." Also:

"All title plans show general boundaries unless the line of boundary is shown as having been determined under section 60 of the Land Registration Act 2002."

Land Registry is not the originator of information concerning property boundaries;
Land Registry is a secondary source of information concerning property boundaries;
Land Registry is not, and cannot be, the national authority on property boundaries.


If the owners of adjoining lands find themselves in dispute as to the exact position of the common boundary of their respective lands, then they have to accept that there is no national authority to whom they can turn. To resolve their dispute they must agree to use one of the following processes:

a) amicably negotiate with each other the exact line of their common boundary for the purpose of clarifying the boundary shown on their respective title plans or preferably on the pre-registration title deeds (if such still exist) for their respective properties;
or

b) use an Alternative Dispute Resolution method, such as:
- appoint an Adjudicator or an Arbitrator to consider the evidence and determine the position of the boundary;
- appoint an Expert to determine the position of the boundary;
- appoint a Mediator to oversee a negotiation between the two adjoining landowners;
or

c) resort to litigation through the Land Registration Division of the Property Chamber (First Tier Tribunal).

 

    Return to Top of Page

 

 
Myth 7
When you and your neighbour are disputing the boundary, Land Registry can Determine the Exact Line of the Boundary for you.

Get real

Land Registry does not get involved in Boundary disputes. Land Registry deals only in the general positions of boundaries and lacks the expertise to establish the true position of the boundary.

The truth

Land Registry is required under section 60 of the Land Registration Act 2002 to record only the general positions of the boundaries of any parcel of land. Land Registry is required under section 5 of the Land Registration Rules 2003 to use the Ordnance Survey map as the basis of its title plans. And section 12 of the Ordnance Survey Act 1841 holds that "all Right and Title of any Owner shall remain to all Intents and Purposes in like State and Condition as if this Act had not been passed . . .", i.e. the Ordnance Survey map has no effect on the boundaries of private land. Thus, Land Registry does not have the ability to establish the exact line of any boundary.

Anyone wishing to record the exact line of a boundary that has been agreed between themselves and the neighbouring landowner can do so by submitting to Land Registry the necessary plan (made by a land surveyor appointed jointly by the affected landowners) together with a Form DB (obtainable from Land Registry).

Initially that form DB was titled "Application to Determine the Exact line of a Boundary". The title was misleading as it gave the impression that the form's purpose was to commission Land Registry to decide where the exact line of the boundary was to be found. Land Registry later re-titled form DB as "Exact line of boundary: registration".

In spite of this, many people still, erroneously, think that Land Registry will, upon receipt of a Form DB, come and decide for you exactly where your boundary is.

 

    Return to Top of Page

 

 
Myth 8
Every homeowner is responsible for the fence on the left hand side of his land when the land is viewed from the street.

This is also sometimes stated as:
Every homeowner is responsible for the fence on the right hand side of his land when the land is viewed from the street.

Get real

Sadly, this myth results from wishful thinking.

The truth

There is no law or regulation that prescribes this.

It is for the seller of a parcel of land to set out in the conveyance deed (for unregistered land) or the transfer deed (for registered land) the details of those boundaries for which the buyer will assume the responsibility to maintain, repair and replace the boundary markers. That goes for the rear boundaries as well as the flank boundaries. All too often, the said deed is silent as to which boundaries are to be maintained. In such cases, Land Registry is unable to record for which boundaries the registered proprietor is responsible, and it becomes necessary for the adjoining homeowners to try to work out, or to negotiate with each other, which boundaries they are each responsible for.

It is normal practice for the property owner to be responsible for marking the boundary along his or her road frontge

 

    Return to Top of Page

 

 
Myth 9
Every homeowner is responsible for those of the fences surrounding his garden that have the good, or good-looking, side facing the neighbour.

Get real

Again, this myth results from wishful thinking.

The truth

There is no law or regulation that prescribes this. There is only the custom that this is practised on the fence that runs along a homeowner's road frontage.

 

    Return to Top of Page

 

 
Myth 10
You can claim ownership of part of your neighbour's open-plan front garden by mowing the grass that grows on the land you are trying to claim.

Get real

Again, this myth results from wishful thinking.

The truth

The myth is based on a failure to understand the principle of "adverse possession". To be able to claim adverse possession over a strip of land that adjoins your own you must demonstrate "exclusive enjoyment", which involves enclosing (fencing-off) the claimed land for a period of at least 10 years so as to prevent both the rightful owner and the general public from using the land. As the claimed land is part of an open-plan front garden it is not possible to fence it, and therefore not possible to claim adverse possession.

 

    Return to Top of Page

 

 
Myth 11
You can park anywhere upon your own land, even if you are parking on a part of your land that is burdened by a private right of way over which one or more of your neighbours is entitled to drive or to walk.

Get real

Park your car somewhere else where it doesn't obstruct your neighbours' cars.

The truth

If the right of way is narrow enough to be impassable (when your car is parked on it) to others who enjoy the use of that right of way, then you will be obstructing their right of way and they can seek a court order requiring you not to park on it.

 

    Return to Top of Page

 

 
Myth 12
If you access your land via a private right of way, you can park your car on that private right of way.

Get real

Park your car somewhere on your own land where it cannot obstruct passage by others along the right of way.

The truth

If the right of way is narrow enough to be impassable to others when your car is parked on it, then you will be obstructing their right of way and they can seek a court order requiring you not to park on it.

 

    Return to Top of Page