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Our garden fence is in the wrong place, can I claim back a lost metre?

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Our neighbour’s fence is encroaching on to our land. I’ve checked the plan on the title deeds and I am certain that the fence has been erected at least one metre over where the boundary should be between me and my next door neighbour.

It means our garden is at least one metre narrower than it should be. Given that our garden is five metres wide this is a considerable loss of territory. The fence was installed before we moved in but we unfortunately have no idea when this was.

We have pointed the issue out to our neighbour but he and his wife say this was how it was when they moved in and they are refusing to move it.

Neighbourly divisions: If your garden has lost one sixth of its width, it could be worth contesting - though the people living next door are unlikely to thank you for it

Neighbourly divisions: If your garden has lost one sixth of its width, it could be worth contesting – though the people living next door are unlikely to thank you for it

What are our legal rights in this situation? How should we go about proving the error and challenging our neighbour? 

Would we be within our right to have a fencer move the fence to its correct position without our neighbour’s consent – neither he or his wife work from home so this wouldn’t be problematic to achieve. Via email

Ed Magnus of This is Money replies: Property boundaries seem to breed nothing but conflict and resentment between those who live alongside one another.

If this issue can’t be solved amicably, you will probably need to prepare yourself for an awkward relationship with your neighbour. 

But perhaps you take the view of Winston Churchill, who once said: ‘You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.’

If your garden has lost one sixth of its width, then perhaps it’s something worth standing up for. And neighbours have been known to fight over much less.

Take a side: Our reader believes the fence that was erected before they moved into the property was built at least a metre beyond where the boundary should be

Take a side: Our reader believes the fence that was erected before they moved into the property was built at least a metre beyond where the boundary should be

However, before involving any lawyers you want to be certain of two things: that the fence is in the wrong place; and that your neighbour can’t be convinced into changing their mind via friendly discussion.

You say you have checked the title plan, but this is unlikely to form conclusive evidence because most title plans don’t show exact boundaries.

It would be wise to re-read all the legal paperwork you received during your purchase as the position of the fence may have been addressed during the legal enquiries.

Who’s responsibility is the fence? 

Our reader seems sure the fence is their neighbour’s and is therefore their responsibility to maintain. It may be worth double checking who’s responsibility it is before involving lawyers.

To do this, check any copies of the title deeds or obtain an official copy of the title plan from the Land Registry.

These may reveal the extent of any boundary lines and also covenants setting out who is responsible for the upkeep of a boundary fence.

If there are T marks on the boundary line, this can show who is liable for the upkeep – if there is a T mark on both side of the boundary line, this indicates a party boundary with upkeep being a joint responsibility.

 

For example, you could discover that a sale agreement was made between past neighbours regarding that strip of land.

Ultimately, you don’t want to risk the prospect of being left thousands of pounds out of pocket in a prolonged legal battle unless you are certain.

However, if this land is rightfully yours, then that not only represents extra garden space, but also potential added value, so it could be worthwhile to take matters further.   

One final complication in this instance appears to be the fact neither you or your neighbour appear to know when the fence was erected.

This could be a problem depending on how long your neighbour has lived in their property. 

After 10 years of adverse possession, your neighbour may be entitled to apply to be registered as the proprietor of the land in place of you. This is otherwise known as having ‘squatters’ rights.

This could be claimed on the basis they have been in adverse possession of land adjacent to their own under the mistaken but reasonable belief that they are the owner of it.

To help in answering our reader’s dilemma, we spoke to Hollie Deacon, an associate in the property litigation team at the law firm Wright Hassall, and Winnie Mbieli, a solicitor at RHW solicitors.

Could he move the fence without asking?

Winnie Mbieli replies: Do not under any circumstances move the fence without your neighbour’s consent or a court order. 

At best, this will inflame the situation and at worst it could constitute criminal damage.

What if the fence is the reader’s responsibility to maintain?

Hollie Deacon replies: You may be hard-pushed to find a solicitor in the land who would advise a person to dismantle the fence and re-position it to where they consider the correct boundary to be, and not expect a reaction. 

If you were insistent on doing so, we would advise that you should be aware of the financial risk of being on the opposite end of injunction proceedings.

This could leave the reader on the receiving end of an expensive costs order, and no doubt legal action would follow to deal with the correct demarcation of the boundary. This does not come cheap.

What if the fence was installed more than 10 years ago?

Winnie Mbieli replies: Given that the fence was in place before either you or your neighbour moved into your property, it may be necessary to speak with the previous owner to establish how long the fence has been in place.

If it has been in place for more than 10 years, there is a distinct possibility that, regardless of the ‘correct’ boundary position, your neighbour could claim ownership of the land in dispute, using a mechanism known as adverse possession.

Could their neighbour really have squatters’ rights?

Hollie Deacon replies: Without becoming too technical as to all of the exact requirements to claim adverse possession, it is absolutely necessary as a start for a ‘squatter’ to have been in possession for more than 10 years. 

If they haven’t lived in the property for that amount of time, they will need evidence from predecessors to assert their claim for adverse possession. 

Where adverse possession becomes relevant to a boundary dispute is that, once the correct boundary is established, it is sometimes found that one neighbour has acquired some of the other neighbours’ land along the boundary line during the time it has been in the incorrect position. 

Try diplomacy before confrontation: Your neighbour's may be convinced into changing their mind via friendly discussion and cake.

Try diplomacy before confrontation: Your neighbour’s may be convinced into changing their mind via friendly discussion and cake.

Provided that the neighbour can show they had ‘reasonable belief’ that they owned the land over that time, they may succeed in a claim for adverse possession. 

‘Reasonable belief’ is not straightforward and the fact that a neighbour may challenge the position of the boundary will not defeat a claim for adverse possession. 

Usually adverse possession is dealt with at the same time as the judge deciding on a boundary dispute and so it is unlikely that the timescales suggested above would come into play. 

Can he use the title plan as evidence? 

Hollie Deacon replies: The difficult thing with title plans is that they are notoriously inaccurate, and cannot be relied upon to show the true extent of your boundary. 

However, that is not to say the reader is incorrect. The best way to deal with this issue would be to instruct a boundary surveyor to carry out a site visit. 

They will then go back to their office, review historic ordnance survey maps and plans, and do a topographical survey before determining the true demarcation of the boundary.

You can instruct a surveyor jointly with your neighbour or separately. Once you have the report, you can present this to your neighbour and offer them to enter into a ‘determined boundary agreement.’

This can be registered at the Land Registry, will update the title plan and will remain on the register for the future.

Alternatively you can offer to attend a form of alternative dispute resolution with your neighbour. This usually happens instead of taking the matter to court, and is significantly cheaper and quicker.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors offers a boundary disputes mediation service where a third party RICS surveyor will act as a mediator during a one day meeting between the parties. 

The costs are significantly less than attending court and can be shared between parties. The aim is to end up with an outcome both parties are happy with at the end of that one day.

What if his neighbour refuses to comply?

Hollie Deacon replies: If your neighbour is not agreeable to a determined boundary agreement or ADR, you could instruct a solicitor to write to the neighbour and start the boundary dispute protocol. This is the pre-action stage of any litigation.

This will involve an initial letter to your neighbour setting out your position. The solicitor will seek an exchange of information to try and narrow the issue, before both parties instruct an independent surveyor to prepare a report with their view.

If the parties are still unable to agree at this stage, an application to the Court can be made for a determination.

The Court in these circumstances is tasked with the job of working out what the historic boundary line is at the earliest conveyance that can be found, as this will usually be the first time the land was divided.

They will seek evidence from boundary surveying experts to assist them with making this determination.

A previously mentioned, determining the boundary will often give rise to a claim in adverse possession, if the boundary has been moved from the original line for a set period of time. 

Any final words of advice?

Winnie Mbieli replies: Always remember in this situation that these people are your neighbours, and you have to live next door to them.

You need to try and resolve this as amicably as possible and taking legal action is always the last resort as it could be very stressful, time consuming and expensive.

That being said, your home is (for most people) your most valuable asset and it is important to protect it.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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Bluewater grows its entertainment offer (GB)

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Landsec has announced the opening of a third ‘UK first’ attraction at Bluewater, Kent as the destination expands its partnership with Hangloose Adventures. Skydive, a free-fall experience not found anywhere else in Europe, and the UK’s only outdoor skydive machine has opened at the centre. It follows on from Europe’s biggest purpose-built giant swing, standing at 46-metre tall, which opened at Bluewater earlier this month.  

 

The announcement builds on a successful first year for Hangloose’s initial attraction Skywire, the longest zip wire in England, which has welcomed 30,000 guests since launching at Bluewater last June. Landsec will continue to work with Hangloose to expand its offering, with up to five more experiences set to open at the centre by 2024: a bungee tower, giant slide, clip and climb, waterdrop boulding wall, and Via Ferrata, a route-marked climb using metal rails and rungs embedded in Bluewater’s cliff walls.

 

Mark Warne, Brand Account Director F&B and Leisure at Landsec commented: “Delivering new experiences which are unique to Bluewater is central to our overall offer for guests. Hangloose’s innovative concept raises the bar when it comes to leisure attractions and draws guests from across the UK to Kent. By partnering with Hangloose to grow their business and create shared value, we’ll be able to give guests even more exciting experiences every time they visit.”

 

Brian Phelps, MD of Hangloose Adventure, said: “Since the beginning, we’ve worked closely with Landsec to grow our leisure concept and drive performance, putting us in a unique position where we’re able to expand our offer after only a year. We’ve enjoyed great success at Bluewater so far and are already thinking about how we can provide even bigger and better experiences in the future.”

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Author with immaculate house offers ten tips for a clean home

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Is this the secret to NEVER having to clean? Houseproud author claims she saves hours by sticking to a ten-step mantra – including banning chairs in bedrooms, wiping as you cook and only ironing shirts and dresses

  • UK writer Natali Juste Simmonds says she’s cracked keeping a home clean, by sticking to a few simple ground rules – and making sure family members comply
  • She shared top ten tips for keeping a home spotless with her 20,000 followers
  • Among them are ditching a toilet brush in the bathroom, not having a chair in the bedroom and cleaning  the kitchen while you cook

A houseproud author has revealed her ten essential tips for keeping a house spotless – saying simple ground rules for family members and cleaning as you go means never wasting time on dull chores. 

Writer Natali Juste Simmonds, who was born in the UK but now lives in the Netherlands, penned her top ways to keep on top of cleaning on Twitter, saying she has time to focus on her writing because she follows her own advice about dodging ‘thankless’ cleaning tasks. 

The author of a series of paranormal romance novels told her 20,000 followers on Twitter: ‘I know so many people who spend hours cleaning up after their family every day, but I refuse to. 

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UK writer Natali Juste Simmonds says she's cracked keeping a home clean, by sticking to a few simple ground rules - and making sure family members comply

UK writer Natali Juste Simmonds says she’s cracked keeping a home clean, by sticking to a few simple ground rules – and making sure family members comply

‘It’s boring and thankless. I prefer to write. Yet my house is spotless. Here are 10 ways to keep on top of s*** so you don’t have to clean for hours.’ 

Sharing her ‘tough love’ mantra, she said that the key to keeping a home clean is making sure every family member is engaged, saying learning how to tidy is a lifeskill that everyone needs – and no-one should get away with not doing it. 

Natali wrote: ‘Train everyone in the house to do the following (cats are the exception). After a while these habits will become routine, but you MUST stick to them and make sure no one is let off the hook.’ 

Among the tips are filling a bag with things that are in the wrong place at the end of every day and placing them back where they belong. 

Tidy home, tidy mind: The Netherlands-based writer shared her top ten tips for keeping a home spotless with her 20,000 followers on Twitter - saying that making sure everyone in the house pulls their weight is key (Pictured: An office area in Simmonds' home)

Tidy home, tidy mind: The Netherlands-based writer shared her top ten tips for keeping a home spotless with her 20,000 followers on Twitter – saying that making sure everyone in the house pulls their weight is key (Pictured: An office area in Simmonds’ home)

The writer also claims having a toilet brush doesn’t help keep a loo clean and dousing it with bleach instead is a more reliable way to ensure it’s sparkling. 

And getting used to wiping down mirrors after using a sink also helps, she claims, writing: ‘Keep a dry cloth next to the bathroom sink. Every time someone uses the taps or brushes their teeth, wipe down the counter and mirror. Takes literally 2 seconds. No cleaning toothpaste stains off counters.’

Teaching kids to pull their weight around the house is key to success, and equality reigns supreme in the Simmonds house. 

Among her top tips are ditching a toilet brush in the bathroom - using just bleach instead; not having a chair in the bedroom - to prevent people leaving clothes on them - and cleaning the kitchen while you cook (Pictured: Simmonds' very tidy office)

Among her top tips are ditching a toilet brush in the bathroom – using just bleach instead; not having a chair in the bedroom – to prevent people leaving clothes on them – and cleaning the kitchen while you cook (Pictured: Simmonds’ very tidy office)

‘If one kid lays the table, the other clears. If one hangs out the washing, the other collects. I don’t say “I need help with dinner” I say “who will chop the veg and who will wash up?” Its called a presumed close. I have no option, why should others in my house?’

The author, who has written books including the Indigo Chronicles trilogy and the Blood Web series, admits that having a cleaner is still useful…because they can help keep on top of areas where grime quickly builds, including fridges and ovens – but she suggests ditching a takeaway a week to cover the cost. 

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DIA Group closes 25 Minipreco stores in Portugal

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DIA Group has closed 25 Minipreco stores in Portugal, resulting in the loss of approximately 159 jobs. The retailer said the closures are the result of ‘the effort to adapt, modernise and balance the operations of DIA Portugal, with the aim of better preparing the company for current and future challenges arising from the current economic situation in the country,’ according to media reports. In the last two years, the multinational company operating in Spain, Portugal, Brazil, and Argentina, accumulated losses of over €620m.

 

In Portugal, net sales reached €283.1m in the first half, 4.5% below the €296.3m generated in the same period last year, due to the reduction of stores and mobility restrictions. DIA Group confirmed its intention to continue to invest in Portugal. The company hopes to adjust its operation to the current reality in order to ensure the future success of the company.

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