My query is in relation to squatters’ rights. I own a parcel of land that adjoins another parcel of land and which is separated by a fence. While I have had a good relationship with the owner of the adjoining parcel of land, recently he has claimed that the fence is in the wrong position and that he owns a portion of my parcel of land. I have owned the land for almost 25 years and I am wondering if I am entitled to squatter’s rights.
Before you take any particular course of action in relation to this you should obtain as much information as possible concerning your ownership of your parcel of land. You have not indicated what documentation, if any, you have in your possession.
You need to source your deeds, which hopefully will have a map with dimensions attached, the Land Registry folio with the file plan (map) if the property is registered, and any other relevant historic information or evidence you can source that will enable you to prove the length of time and extent of your ownership.
Note, however, that the Land Registry maps have non-conclusive boundaries. There may be useful information contained in the relevant instrument which can also be obtained from the Land Registry. You may need the assistance of a chartered geomatics surveyor to interpret the relevant boundary information and compare it against the actual boundary fence position on site. You do not state how much land is in question or the nature and permanence of the existing fence.
You may find from this information that your legal title covers all the land in your possession and that it will not be necessary to claim squatters’ rights (adverse possession), or if it is necessary to claim, having the information will be of significant benefit to your solicitor.
Claiming adverse possession can be a complex process which necessitates legal advice. You state that you have owned it for 25 years. This is considerably in excess of the 12 years possession requirement for adverse possession, which must be continuous and unchallenged.
However, do consult your solicitor. An overriding consideration when any land boundary issue arises is to prevent it from escalating to a contentious dispute. Try to maintain a friendly dialogue with the adjoining owner but maintain a record of all contact between you, especially dates.
As with any such boundary issue this has the potential to escalate and end up in litigation, in which event it could be a long, stressful and very costly process with an uncertain outcome. Avoid it if possible.
Patrick Shine is a chartered geomatics surveyor, a chartered civil engineer and a member of SCSI