A boundary dispute typically arises between two adjacent landowners who dispute the position of the boundary between their properties. By reviewing the deeds and plans filed at the Land Registry, the parties may come to the conclusion that the boundary line is not in the correct place.
Following an agreement between the landowners, the correct position of the boundary line can be recorded by agreement. Alternatively, if the boundary line has been in situ, abet in the wrong place, for more than 10 years, one of the landowners may apply for adverse possession of that piece of land.
Adverse possession may be claimed by a party who has occupied land for more than 10 years without the consent of the owner. The Land Registration Act 2002 came into force on 13 October 2003 and changed the requirements for successfully applying for adverse possession.
Before 13 October 2003, the applicant only had to occupy the land for more than 12 years, without consent of the owner, to automatically acquire adverse possession of the land in question. However, since 13 October 2003, an occupier who wishes to apply for adverse possession of registered land must apply to the Land Registry with proof that they have occupied the land for more than 10 years without consent of the owner.
Once the applicant has filed their application at the Land Registry, the Land Registry will notify the owner of the land who may file an objection to defeat the application for adverse possession. However, where under a mistaken belief an applicant has been treating land immediately adjacent to their own as belonging to them, the Land Registry may allow the land to be registered to the applicant notwithstanding the owner’s objection.
Applying for adverse possession can therefore offer a landowner an alternative to entering into a boundary agreement.