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Adverse Possession / boundaries

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philhaden1 | 16:39 Sun 10th Jan 2010 | Law
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Please, please can anyone help. I own a bungalow in Wales that had a hedge to the left hand side. It was narrower at the top, got wider in the middle and the narrower at the bottom so it never ran parallel to the property.

The land the other side of the hedge is grass that is owned by 16 flat owners. The hedge was there for about 40yrs and the flats 30yrs. Initially the flats were leasehold but are now freehold.

They have always cut the grass but never the hedge, even the side that faced them.

I removed the hedge (no issues there) as I own that boundary and placed several posts highlighting where the real boundary is according to deeds and they do not disagree with this, they even had a letter from a Surveyor saying what I had done seemed right.

However, If the boundary now runs parallel then I am taking a piece of land that they have been cutting for the last 30 years. They say that under Adverse possession pre 2003 then it is their's and we have never owned it as we have only owned the bugalow for 5 years.

They say the fence should run in the same sideward V-shape that the hedge followed and should be placed where the roots were.

My plan is to run the fence parallel to the property and therefore claim a piece of the grass that was on the other side ofthe hedge but I have always had access as there was an opening at the top of the hedge that allowed me to wlk on to this land to cut the other side of the hedge. Thye have never fenced it off and I, as well as the public, walk on this land rather than walking the long way around.

They have never formally claimed the land but do you think they would have a claim for AP or should I stand up to these bullies, having been interrogated yesterday.

If they could win the AP claim then are they right in saying the fence should be situated where the roots were, as I maintained all sides.

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This sounds like a battle that isn't worth fighting. I am struglling to come to terms with your descriptions but if I understand it right you are maintaining that part of the land on the other side of the fence from you, which you have been accessing in order to cut the hedge on their side is yours?
That would indeed be unusual.
It matters not what line the hedge runs along - you cannot assert that it runs parallel with your property or in a straight line either. It runs according to where the historical boundary features are. In this case it is very likely to be the old hedge.
Now, here's my problem - you say you put stakes in the ground where the centre of the old root were - and no-one has to problem with that. You then go on to claim that you believe you own more land than that - up to the line to which the hedge 'stuck out' because of its width into 'their' land. If I've understood that right, I think you are pushing your luck.
Maintaining a hedge on 'their' side, and hence you claiming adverse possession on the basis that you claim ownership rights down to the ground of the full width of the hedge seems unlikely to succeed to me - if that is what you are doing.
You can't be talking about much land here - so I go back to my original point - is it really worth it?
Sorry, third line, the word 'fence' should read 'boundary'
Question Author
Many thanks or your reply. It really is appreciated.

I may not explain myself too well but I have maintained the hedge and they have maintained the grass the other side but I have gone on to that grass to cut my hedge.

I originally put stakes in where the old boundary lines are on the deeds, hence why I end up with what was orignally mine but they say the boundary line is not that line but a line that runs in line with the hedge roots. I therefore lose the triangle of land that they have cut and they plan to apply for AP and me contest it.

I am really please you replied as I have seen your replies previously.

I do not know what you do but seem knowlegeable and is there any way we can discuss, if so then is there a fee?

If you can take a minute then on google maps you can see it. You will need to type in the postcose LL35 0PN but you wil see the property, first on the right and the hedge. The hedge is obviously angled but if you imagine a parallel line then you will see what I mean about the triangle at the top.

Any time you can help is appreciated.

Kind Regards
Phil
Question Author
Sorry, also meant to say that it is quite a few feet and woul dmake a difference to us but not really any difference to the flat owners but there are 2 that will really fit and have described themselves as 'God', which I am not happy about.
they cant have it both ways - if they want to apply for AP, that means they are aknowledging that it is yours, otherwise they would simply produce their deeds which say it was theirs. If it was their land, they wouldn't need to claim Adverse possession, they could simply claim possession!
I dont really understand how if it would make a significant difference to you, you think it wouldn't to them though. I looked at the postcode n maps but it covers a big area, too wide to show house/hedge
Question Author
Just in case anyone can take the time, if you type the post code in and then zoom in as much as possible and change the setting to satellite you wil be able to see the flats on the left with the bending hedge and the first bungalow.

The parallel boundary line on our deeds state that it runs from the bottom of the hedge parallel to the bungalow and hence we own the triangle piece of grass. You can also see where the hedge finishes and the gap between the end and the pavement and this provided access to the piece of grass that they maintained so I cut the otherside of our hedge.

Hope that makes a bit more sense. They have acknowleged it to be the previous owners orginally and they have automatic AP due to the time. I have disagreed as we have always had access. Thye have also said that they will not make a formal application for AP but will issue an injunction if I put the fence in line with the original boundary.

I just do not know what to do for the best and whether I have to try and reclaim that piece of land or is it too late or is it mine anyway so it is up to them to stop me.

Thanks again to anyone that helps and if anyone can on a more individual basis then please do not hesitate to let me know as I feel I will need major help but initial guidance is really appreciated.

Kind Regards
Question Author
The difference it makes to me is that it will provide more space for my children to play or could even make space for a car, although this is not the plan.

A similar problem has also occured at the back but we are not planning to put up a fence there but the same flat owners are saying that is also their by default now.

I just want to make sure we have what is rightfully ours as once the fence is in then that is that.
I've had my own troubles with adverse possession, which is how I came to try and understand it. I will try and look at the area on Google tomorrow, though do not wish to get involved any further than anonymously through this site.

Based on your further information I think you are saying that a triangular area of grass on the other side of this hedge is in dispute, but that there is agreement on where the 'general boundary' between the 2 plots is? If that it true and your land is registered, there may not be anything they can do - because the law on Adverse Possession was changed by the Land Registration Act 2002 for REGISTERED LAND only. The change meant that, if a person is claiming adverse possession over registered land, LR is obliged to write to the registered land owner and advise him/her of the claim. The land owner then has a period of time in which to reply and deny the claim. The change in the law was made because the law of adverse possession did not fit well with the principle of land registration, in that the purpose of registration (going back to the original laws in the 1920s when registration was introduced) was to assure the registered owner that the land was his. There was no change in law regarding unregistered land in 2002.
However this dispute does not sound like a simple AP claim to me - where a fenced area of land is being claimed by a person who claims to have maintained it for more than 12 years. This sounds me like a dispute as to where the boundary actually is? That is a different issue.
I suggest you read these 2 documents and report back.
http://www1.landregis...documents/lrpg004.pdf
http://www1.landregis.../public_guide_019.pdf
Question Author
In terms of contact then fine as I was not sure of your position but glad to be in contact with you through this site.

I know the rules changed but as they had built up 10, or even 12 years, prior to 2003 then understand that they coul dstill claim for AP, if that is what it is, under transitional rules.

I see your point about not being AP but about boundaries but when I have shown them their deeds and mine and showed them the original boundary they accepted this might have been the case but their arguement was because the land I say is mine has been cut by them for so long and not because they say the boundary line was the old hedge.

This is why they say that they would win a AP claim and suggest I put a fence where the middle of the hedge was to avoid action. I suppose they are saying that the triangle is automatically theirs and the hedg ehas become the new boundary but I would object to this as I have always maintained the hedge and accessed the piece of land to cut the hedge so never stopped my access which I thought was one requirement?

I will take alook through your attachments, many thanks.
I'll try and look at the transition arrangements under during the day - I know what you mean. The rules are quite complicated but one thing that will certainly drive the route by which they may (or may not) be able to make an AP application is the date of first registration of your land. What is the date please? - this is important in determining the route options they have under LRA2002. I don't need the date you moved in (when the land will definitely have had to be registered at LR because of the compulsory registration requirements) - I mean the date of first registration.
The problem you are going to have (I suspect) is captured in these words copied from section 2.1 of the Practice Guide 4 I gave you the link for.
"the squatter has been in adverse possession of land adjacent to their own under the mistaken but reasonable belief that they are the owner of it, the exact line of the boundary with this adjacent land has not been determined and the estate to which the application relates was registered more than a year prior to the date of the
application." This appears to me to be what they could claim has happened here. The onus is on the claimant to deminstrate it.

For reference, you may also need to refer to Practice Guide 5 to look at.
http://www1.landregis...documents/lrpg005.pdf
This deals with the transition situation where the land claimed is registered now but where the AP claim is made using a period of time prior to the random date in 2003 which was chosen for all this to switch-over.
I can't make head-or-tail of the Google Earth map. There's a cul-de-sac with 3 dark-coloured cars parked towards the head of the close, but its impossible to work out which bit of land we are talking about.
Question Author
many thanks for your reply. In case yo ulook at the map again, there are 3 buildings opposite the 3 cars you mention. there are 2 buildings opposite the cars on the other side of the road and then a longer building to the left as this is 2 semi detached bungalows.

Of this longer building we are the left hand half and the hedge is on the left of that.

I will take alook at the attachments you sent.

Many thanks again.
Question Author
I am not quite sure of what you mean by date of registration but our building and the land on the deeds are dated 1964 and the flats did not exist.

The Flats were built, and I understand their land was registered in 1977 and it is since this time that they have looked after the surrounding grass, i think but cannot really provie either way but by 2002 I would guess they had been cutting the grass for 20 years.
Question Author
I meantto say that their original plans also shows a parallel boundary line to the triangle in question has never been registrered by them as they have never completed any forms and by the sounds of it they never realised it wa my land until I showed them having removed the fence.
Right - simple tutorial on registered and unregistered land.
Going back a couple of hundred years, land was transferred from one person to another by a legal document called a conveyance. This document was kept by the purchaser as proof of his ownership. In the 1920s, land registration was first introduced in England & Wales and it became possible (but never essential) to send the conveyance to the Land Registry. They in turn would hold the conveyance, but more importantly would provide a Land Title and a Title Plan (based on the words and plans in the conveyance) that proved the land title in the name of the proprietor (owner). Your land will now be registered at the Land Registry. I know this because compulsory registration now happens when sale of a plot happens - it has become law - so yours must have become registered at LR no later than when you bought it 5 years ago. But I wanted to know if the date is earlier than that. It may help because registered land is more difficult to lose through AP by another party.
You can find out here your Property Title Number and for £4 you can download a copy of your Land Title. In this document it will tell you when the land was first registered.
http://www.landregist...ortal/Property_Search
In your reply you used the term 'Deeds'. Deeds is a term used for a conveyance - but is that what you have or have you got a Land Registry document (on the top of it) that details what you own?
It looks like this example. This example was first registered at the LR on 29 August 1974 but the conveyance of the land (deeds) dated back earlier to 1968.
http://www.landregist.../example_register.pdf
Phil
I looked at the aerial view so I understand the 'shape' of what you mean.
We are probably getting close the limit of advice that I can provide you with, though I'm happy to answer further questions.
I'm going to provide you with a link to a specific piece of case law on AP - Pye v. Graham which was a landmark case heard in the HoL in 2002. As I'm sure you know every case it different and although circumstances of one determined case (especially at H o Lords) inform future cases down the line, the individual circumstances of the case have to be taken into account.
http://www.propertyla...sessionpyegraham.html
In Pye v. Graham, the claim by the squatter Graham was upheld, however the boundary was separated by hedges (yours isn't - the disputed boundary is a line across the grass).
In Pye v. Graham, the land had been completely contained at all material times (yours isn't - you have continued to gain access to the disputed land to trim the hedge - which you regard as in the midst of your plot) - can I ask - how tall is the fencing at the edge of the grass, between the back of the land behind the flats and the road on which your house is?
But these are legal points on which you need proper legal advice. As a fist step, you may be able to get free/modestly-priced but good advice from the property law website if you register there.
Question Author
Hi again, I have taken time to read and try and inform you as much as possible.

My land, and that of the flats, although the flats weren't in place, were registered in 1962. There is no unregistered land in the area.

The fence between the pavement and the grass land of the flats is about 2 -3 feet high but it does not fence off their land fro the pavement as there is a gap, in addiiton, I can, and have, accessed the land as there is a gap between the pavement ad the end of the hedge.

Just to clarify. I am not trying to claim AP of the triangle. It is mine according to Land Registry, they confirmed this today, and I just want to put a fence on the original boundary line bu thte flat owners say I can't as they say te land is now theirs, even thought they have not claimed AP and ay they did not plan to do so but would stop me putting in the fence on the original boundary line as they say it should be where the hedge was

I have loked at transitional rules and think they could claim under these rules and the statement from 2.1 is a potential issue but on the other hand the intent to possess and exclude me for the land are the 2 arguements I feel counter their arguement?

Also, do you know when transitional provisions have to be applied for as I cannot see anything about a deadline and think I would have an even stronger case and minimise the risk and defending an AP claim if they had to do it under new regime.

What do you think?
If the Land Registry Title Plan shows that the boundary appears to run across the grass, forming a triangle of grassy land that is on the other side of where the hedge once was (before you uprooted it), then that is where you are entitled to fence off your land. You have a right to do that; it is they that have to demonstrate via an application for AP that you don't legally own that triangle at all.

However do look at one of the documents I gave you on the first set of links - the one about Boundaries. LR boundaries are called 'General Boundaries' because the lines drawn on the Title Plan - there is some stuff in that document about how one can employ the LR at a cost to determine the exact boundaries.

Now that you have confirmed that your land is registered at the LR (and has been throughout this period of uncertain ownership claim), I will look more closely at how the transition arrangements work for making a claim for AP using periods of time prior to 2003 when the law changed. I will report back. I will be looking for either:
1) what evidence has to be shown by the AP claiming party, or
2) whether there was any cut-off date following the introduction of the new legislation, by which claimants for AP under the law prior to 2003 had to register their claim. I don't know this. Am I sure you realise that under the new law now, because your land is registered, you cannot lose it via AP easily. Its the transition rules I need to examine.

Finally let me say that I think that this group (when they get their heads around AP or decide to employ a solicitor) are more likely to use the argument that it is the hedge formed the boundary - not some line drawn across the grass - and thus that the 'General Boundary' drawn on the LR Plan is in fact the old hedge-line.

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