Farming and the Law: Keep boundary disputes in proportion, says Jo McKenzie

AS can be seen from recent stories in the press, boundary disputes can get wildly out of control and, in the worst cases, can end with fatalities.

The fact is that property is a very emotive topic and people become very protective over what they own.

However, often, with boundary disputes, the physical area of dispute is very small compared to the amount of distress, emotion and energy each party put into it, not to mention legal costs, should it get that far.

So what can you do to try to ensure that emotions do not reach boiling point? If you are still talking to your neighbour, try to come to listen to their argument. It may be that the facts of the matter have been misconstrued. You may have to compromise over the land; this may mean both sides backing down on certain issues.

If you are no longer speaking to your neighbour, contact the local courts and enquire about using a local mediator, or look at the DirectGov website at Home & Community.

This provides a link to finding a local mediator who can help you to negotiate a settlement with your neighbour. A mediator is an independent party who will look at both sides argument and try to find a way to settle it to both parties satisfaction. The parties share the costs between them 50:50.

If you are still unable to reach a settlement you will need to approach a solicitor and obtain an initial opinion on your case.

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You can seek free legal advice at your local Citizens Advice Bureau (you may need to call up beforehand to make an appointment). Alternatively make an appointment with a solicitor local to you.

A solicitor will look at the matter as a whole and try to assess the risk:reward ratio of taking the matter to court.

Court proceedings can be costly and if you lose you may have to pay not only your legal costs but your neighbours legal costs which may run to thousands of pounds.

You will have to consider whether it is worth continuing as this analysis may result in you having to drop your arguments against your neighbour.

Remember that if you do have a boundary dispute with your neighbour, should you wish to move house you must disclose the issue to the buyers of the property.

This may devalue your property or make it less appealing to buyers.

If you do agree a solution with your neighbour it is always best to put this in writing to avoid confusion at a later date, and lodging a copy with your deeds or the Land Registry.

: : Jo McKenzie is a litigation lawyer with Barker Gotelee Solicitors

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