Chartered Building Surveyors

Determination of a Boundary


How we can help solve disputes about where and what is a boundary


Start sorting out a boundary dispute

You do NOT need to use a solicitor to solve a typical boundary dispute!

Resolution of a boundary dispute is not a war of attrition.  Simple posturing and the use of solicitors to argue over the location is not something that will make the problem go away.


In the UK we have a complicated system of property law that is always trying to accommodate some ancient and established practices into a more modern system of governance.  What you need to do, and thereby save many months of worry and expensive legal fees, is to exploit some of the improvements in the way in which boundary disputes can be resolved using modern legislation.


Although far from perfect, and a lot weaker than systems operated in some former British colonies when land was being divided into modern ownerships for the first time, there is a method that can be followed that in many situations can resolve questions over a boundary position once and for all, adding value to your property and avoiding protracted disputes with your neighbours which themselves can reduce the value of your property.


Contact us today about your boundary dispute and let us sort things out for you without a bitter conflict.

Land Titles in the United Kingdom

The Land Registration Act 2002 deals with "registered land" which is distinct from "unregistered land".  In the United Kingdom it is now mandatory to register all new titles in freehold, and certain types of leasehold of land, but large areas of land have not yet changed ownership and as such remain unregistered in the newer system.  To clarify. "land" includes interests in land and buildings upon it .


"Unregistered land" is held by "Title Deed" which may have been examined at the Land Registry but only as a deed for a previous conveyance to a new owner.  The deed will contain a description of the land and title in that land, and a plan or a description (sometimes both) of the general arrangement of the land concerned. There are no harmonised rules applicable to what information is contained on a deed plan or even its accuracy.   If you were to lose the deed documents, you might be unable to prove ownership of the land and you could face losing it.


"Registered land" is recorded in documents held and maintained by the Land Registry, who in turn thereby guarantee your ownership of the registered title in the land.  The title document is based on a number of registration entries made over time and there is a title plan accompanying this.   If you have no mortgage or other charges on the property, you will receive a Land Certificate which includes all the relevant information about the property.   If you lose the Land Certificate it can be replaced without affecting your title.  It is therefore a more secure system by which land interests can be bought and sold.


When land registration in its modern form was introduced in the Land Registration Act 1925, it simply developed the practice of title deeds into a more formal registration system.  It imposed no significant requirements upon the accuracy or detail of any plans and the description of any boundaries such as has been widely adopted in newer countries such as Australia and New Zealand, parts of Canada and twenty-one of the states within the United States of America.  The system adopted in these countries is based on that introduced to the colony of South Australia in the Real Property Act 1886, known as the "Torrens system" as it was promoted by Sir Robert Torrens, amongst others.  In this system there are extensive rules given to determine the information shown on plans and in descriptions of land and the production of plans is strictly regulated to licensed cadastral surveyors.  It is possible to accurately place a boundary position by its relationship to known points beyond the land concerned, such that it creates a record of land ownership by increments to a central registry.


Under UK law, any boundary shown should be construed only as a "general boundary."  Since Britain had been mapped by the Ordnance Survey for quite different purposes in the late 18th and throughout the 19th and early 20th century to an ever increasingly accurate scale, this mapping was adopted as the basis for our own cadastral system.  It was felt to offer an economic solution that better suited a land that had been divided into myriad portions of separate land titles and the outright adoption of a Torrens system was onerous.  For most purposes, simply using a 1:1250 scale OS map is sufficient to show the general boundaries of a title in land and it was on this basis that registration was progressed by transferring former deed plans onto the OS maps.


A key distinction is that Ordnance Survey maps do not show legal boundaries, only such physical objects as might be a boundary.  However, that is always open to interpretation based on a series of cases brought to the courts in the past.  The current Land Registration Act 2002 further clarifies the purpose of marking out on a plan or within a description the boundary of land.  The Act states -


s60 Boundaries

(1) The boundary of a registered estate as shown for the purposes of the register is a general boundary, unless shown as determined under this section.

(2) A general boundary does not determine the exact line of the boundary.

(3) Rules may make provision enabling or requiring the exact line of the boundary of a registered estate to be determined and may, in particular, make provision about—

                                 (a) the circumstances in which the exact line of a boundary may or must be determined,

                                 (b) how the exact line of a boundary may be determined,

                                 (c) procedure in relation to applications for determination, and

                                 (d) the recording of the fact of determination in the register or the index maintained under section 68.

(4) Rules under this section must provide for applications for determination to be made to the registrar.


To some extent, the present system of land registration is trying to improve the definition of boundaries but the process is not as straightforward as it has proven to be in a Torrens system.  The rules referred to in clauses (3) and (4) of section 60 of the Act are contained in the Land Registry Rules 2003 at Part 10, which state at Rule 118 -


Application for the determination of the exact line of a boundary


  1. A proprietor of a registered estate may apply to the registrar for the exact line of the boundary of that registered estate to be determined.
  2. An application under paragraph (1) must be made in Form DB and be accompanied by—


  1. a plan, or a plan and a verbal description, identifying the exact line of the boundary claimed and showing sufficient surrounding physical features to allow the general position of the boundary to be drawn on the Ordnance Survey map, and
  2. evidence to establish the exact line of the boundary.


As you can see, the procedure is something that we, as experienced surveyors, are well-suited to undertake for you and it could save you money avoiding the costly and often inflammatory use of solicitors.


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