Land ownership disputes: mediation vs court proceedings

Land ownership disputes usually happen for one of three reasons:

  1. First, the plans that a seller gives to a buyer are often out of date, do not show fixed things on the ground like gateposts, walls and manhole covers and are too small in scale. Plans filed at the Land Registry at part of an owner’s title usually only show “general boundaries” with thick lines which have a big margin of error.
  2. Second, the ground itself changes. Hedges and trees grow or are cut down, or a new fence or wall is built which cuts a corner or is wider than the original boundary feature.
  3. Third, a neighbour might claim adverse possession, by occupying your land for a long time – here the law is tricky. Disputes about boundaries often turn into claims of trespass by my climbing rose or by your overhanging gutter. Good neighbours become enemies. Their houses become impossible to sell.

A judge, when a claim reaches trial, will define a boundary with the help of expert evidence and it can be marked on the ground and shown on a large scale filed plan. But the costs of going to trial are far out of proportion to the value of the disputed strip of land, which may be only a few inches wide.

Mediation in land ownership disputes

Mediation is always the better choice because the agreement reached can do everything a judge can do, but also do things a judge can’t, such as agreeing a new boundary that is not straight but suits both neighbours – a small-scale land swap. Mediation is quicker, far less stressful and allows neighbours to put the dispute behind them faster. Once agreement is reached and carried out it means that there is no longer a dispute to put potential buyers off  if one neighbour wants to sell. And it is far cheaper.

To get in touch with a member of our Direct Access legal team to assist with your dispute, read our simple step-by-step guide, then fill in the online form for our clerks to advise you on your next steps and put you in touch with an experienced barrister or mediator. 

By Paul Ashwell | Property

Land ownership disputes: mediation vs court proceedings

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