Where are the boundaries of my farm?


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Where are the boundaries of my farm?



No one ever wants to get involved in a boundary  dispute – they are usually disproportionately expensive, emotionally draining and potentially destructive of any cordial relations with adjoining owners and which can impact on the general enjoyment of property. Judges dislike such disputes often making their views over the parties’ approach very clear in any Judgment and consequential Costs Orders. The advice is if at all possible avoid, avoid, avoid!

Relevance of boundary lines

Boundary lines though can be important. In a farming context for example

  • It may involve a significant amount of land…an undefined boundary line running along the edge of many fields can soon add up in acreage terms.
  • If part of a farm has been sold off (such as the farmhouse or a farm cottage, with perhaps a paddock or a few acres )
  • Clarifying and maximising the full extent of any land which is linked to a development scheme can be critical and valuable.


General and Determined boundaries

A few points therefore to keep in mind: –

  1. The lines shown on the filed title plan of registered land is not (unless it specifically states it is) the legal boundary line. It is a `general’ boundary line. The general boundary does not determine the exact line of a boundary.


  1. If a landowner wants to be more certain about a boundary line position there are several options. Parties can enter into an informal boundary agreement. This obviously requires cooperation and agreement between adjoining owners. An agreed line can be documented (often sensibly using the services of a surveyor specialising in such issues and/or if necessary possibly by way of an agreed binding independent evaluation by such a party) who can draw up a suitable detailed plan documenting the boundary line. There is then an available Land Registry procedure to seek to have such an agreement noted on both parties’ titles which has the effect of ‘bringing the registers up to date’. Whilst that legally does not formally amend the registers (and therefore does not necessarily bind successors in title) and the filed title plan will remain showing a general boundary , a noted agreement will act as very persuasive evidence if any future boundary issues ever emerge.


A more formal step is to apply for what is known as a determined boundary. Again there is a Land Registry procedure for this process.  This is a more detailed application requiring convincing and supporting evidence as to the exact position of the boundary line as it will change a general boundary into a determined boundary (which acts as the defined legal boundary). An application can be made consensually or unilaterally. If made unilaterally the Land Registry will initially consider the application and if it is considered sufficiently made out they will then inform an adjoining owner(s) of the application and allow time for that party to object. If a meritorious objection is made the matter will then be referred for determination to the Land Registry Division of the Property Chamber of the First Tribunal.  Although there is a conflict of authorities on the issue ( Bean v Katz ( 2016 ) / Murdoch v Amesbury ( 2016 )  )  it is thought that the Tribunal can only decide if the application seeking the boundary line position is right or wrong – if wrong the Tribunal cannot make an alternative determination of any considered correct position – the application is simply rejected.


An alternative option is to pursue matters through the courts seeking a declaration as to the position of the legal boundary. [This is sometimes a consequential route taken if a party needs to seek injunctive relief to prevent works being undertaken by an adjoining owner which are relevant to the boundary ]. There is a property protocol (the Boundary Disputes Protocol) to assist parties in seeking a resolution over a boundary dispute without recourse to actual proceedings. It is applicable to commercial and residential properties although there is no reason  why it should not be used more widely. If though proceedings are pursued and once a court order has been obtained that order can then be used as part of the Land Registry application for a determined boundary as above.


  1. Whether it be an informal boundary agreement or a determined boundary application provided the assessed legal boundary is no more than a clarification of land ownership then it will not amount to a transfer of land necessitating compliance with further formalities such as compliance with section2(1) of the Law of Property ( Miscellaneous Provisions ) Act 1989 . Yeates v Line ( 2012 ) makes reference to the clarification not having a “disposing purpose”. If though it is assessed as significant then there will be the requirement for a formal transfer of land with registration obligations.


Evidential issues

Critical to any boundary line clarification is of course the available evidence in establishing the legal boundary. The original transfer or conveyance which split the land to create the boundary is clearly the critical and most persuasive piece of evidence. As well as any description of the boundary within such a document there is likely to be an attached plan which is vital ( but less so if it is stated to be only for identification purposes) to assist a surveyor in seeking to plot the correct boundary line with reference to any distinguishing features of the land. In the absence of the availability of the original transfer/conveyance additional extrinsic evidence ( old photographs / witnesses ) can be useful to provide proof , knowledge and recollection of any key boundary features in existence at the relevant time.


Adverse possession

 A boundary line can change over time from that which was originally transferred as a result of adverse possession. In respect of boundary lines affecting registered land that requires a party to have adversely possessed the land for ten years or more with the view, reasonably, that the land so occupied belonged to them. (For unregistered land the position is a requirement for twelve years adverse possession).


( A Private Members Bill …( The Property Boundaries ( Resolution of Disputes ) Bill ) requiring , amongst other proposals , a mandatory expert determination of boundary disputes by a single expert before any Court proceedings could be commenced  ….was making its way through the House of Lords  when Parliament was prorogue in November 2019 ….. At present there is no indication that the Bill will be reintroduced . )

© Richard Bedford

June 2020

Contact Richard Bedford, Ebery Williams , richard.bedford@eberywilliams.com

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