7 May 2024

Boundaries In Property Transactions

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Boundaries in property transactions

Boundaries of a property refer to the lines that separate it from other land or property. There are two types of boundaries, legal and physical. Legal boundaries are unseen lines identified in legal title documents, while physical boundaries are tangible structures that can be either naturally occurring or man-made.

Boundaries may also be vertical or horizontal. We usually think of boundaries as being vertical but horizontal boundaries can also have huge significance, for example, in the context of flying freeholds, rights to work mines and minerals beneath the surface of land, or in a leasehold context where the development of airspace is proposed.

The land registration system in England and Wales follows the “General Boundaries Rule” for registered properties. This rule considers any title plan as a representation of “general boundaries” only, and the exact boundaries are not determined by the Land Registry unless there’s a request to “fix” them formally.

For unregistered land, the boundary’s location is determined from the title deeds. If it’s still unclear, extrinsic evidence and inferences from topographical features may be examined.


The significance of Boundaries

Determining the exact placement of boundaries is a crucial aspect of comprehending the breadth and limitations of the entitlements that benefit and obligations that encumber the property.

A potential buyer or tenant will have a keen interest in:

  1. Determining the boundary ownership and responsibility for maintenance, especially developers who may need to demolish existing boundary features.
  2. Identifying any encroachments, whether by the current property owner or by adjacent landowners.
  3. Understanding the tenant’s repairing obligations, which are typically related to the property’s lease extent.
  4. Evaluating the leased property’s extent to reveal potential development prospects for those interested in purchasing or leasing the property.

How to proceed when purchasing or renting a property

Determining the precise location of a boundary can be a challenging and expensive task that may require the assistance of a specialist. A solicitor will review the title deeds and documents and conduct various searches and inquiries. Additionally, a property inspection should be conducted to identify any inconsistencies.

What to do when the location of a boundary remains uncertain?

If the title documents do not provide clear information, parties may rely on extrinsic evidence or common law presumptions to determine the location of boundaries. This may involve examining ordinance survey maps, old sales records, topographical features or the “hedge and ditch presumption”.

What to do if your boundary position lacks clarity?

These are some of the potential solutions to address ambiguity regarding boundary positions:

  1. The transfer of land between adjoining owners to clarify the position, if both parties agree to it.
  2. A statutory declaration that states the location of a boundary.
  3. Establishing a boundary agreement with the neighbouring property owner.
  4. Applying to the Land Registry to change the location of a boundary or fix an error in a document or plan.


The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Connaught Law and authors accept no responsibility for loss that may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Connaught Law. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Connaught Law.


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