In my last post I explained that the starting point in any boundary dispute is to find and analyse the first conveyance. In this post I will cover the next stage, which is to commission a boundary surveyor’s report.
The Court of Appeal set out what the surveyor should be asked to do in the case of Childs v Vernon  EWCA Civ 305:-
“On the issue of the boundaries the directions to the expert should have been that he should do the following:
- Inspect all relevant plans;
- Carry out a site examination;
- Examine any available objective evidence, eg photographs, showing changes to the properties or boundary markers since the properties had been built; and
- Prepare a report and plan, possibly with photos, a) showing the position of the properties and any relevant features, such as fences, and b) transposing onto the plan, if and insofar as this was possible, the lines of the boundaries shown on the original transfer plans. If that was problematic or uncertain, the report needed to explain the reasons.
Let’s take each point in turn.
[pullquote_left]the aim of the exercise is to try and match the first conveyance to the features on the ground at the time[/pullquote_left]First, the surveyor should be provided with all of the original plans and ideally the original deeds. This is because most photocopiers distort scale, and enlarge or reduce the document. They also turn neatly drawn red lines on plans into a thick black line.
Second, the surveyor must inspect the land to try and find any features that would have been present at the date of the first conveyance. This will include old fences, the foundation of old fence posts and the roots or stumps of any hedges or trees that have been removed. Later fences or similar are less relevant here, because the aim of the exercise is to try and match the first conveyance to the features on the ground at the time.
Third, the surveyor will need to see any other evidence that may be available, for example aerial photography (try English Heritage) or maps or photos from a local museum that would have been produced at around that time.
Once those stages are complete the surveyor can then draft his report. This should identify and describe the features as they are found on the ground, and include a detailed site plan. The plan should ideally be drawn on A1 paper at 1:100 scale and show all of the features on the ground, no matter how small.
Now that you have all of the available evidence and a suitably detailed surveyors report you can form a view on where the boundary line is likely to be, and who is the owner of the land. But the process does not stop there. Once the Court has completed this first stage, it will then go on to consider whether ownership of the land may have subsequently changed through adverse possession. I will deal with this in my next post.
If in the meantime you need advice on party walls, boundary disputes, rights of way or any other property-related disputes then please do get in touch