The Importance of Knowing your Boundaries
Voluntary registration of title in the Land Register is currently a hot topic in Scottish land law. If you wish to ensure that the extent of your property is correctly plotted on to the Land Register title map and avoid any potential disputes with neighbours, it is important that all landowners, large and small, know the boundaries of their properties and, where possible, have them adequately marked on the ground.
Robin Dunlop of our Land & Rural Business Team highlights some recent examples he has come across which show the importance of having clear boundary features:
Hills and Moorland
Whilst “bagging” a Munro in Perthshire it became clear at the summit that four separate estates had hill boundaries which came together on the hillside. While the fencing on the march fences was beyond repair and not of stockproof condition, the lines of the original iron fence posts were still visible, many years after they were originally put in the ground. Solid boundary markers such as these ensure that, in the event of any queries as to the location of the Estate boundaries, they can be accurately plotted on the ground and translated on to the ordnance survey map using GPS mapping tools. We have dealt with several Estate titles with similar high hill boundaries where no such ground markers exist; all we have to work with are old Estate plans or references in deeds to matters such as Parish boundaries. This can make the accurate mapping of the title for registration purposes very difficult. Where possible therefore, where no boundary feature currently exists, you may wish to consider agreeing the location of the boundaries on the ground with your neighbours and erecting marker posts or similar to avoid any future disputes.
If your land is bounded by a natural water feature such as a river or burn, it is worth checking if your neighbour on the other side of the water also has the same feature as their boundary and, if so, whether or not your boundaries actually meet. Whilst completing a recent voluntary registration title review, it became clear that there was a gap in title – one title was bounded by the bank of a burn, whilst the neighbouring title was bounded by the fence running alongside the burn, leaving a gap along the bank of the burn which fell between both titles. Whilst the “missing” land area might be small, the implications could be great, especially if there is a possibility of development on the burn, for example the construction of a hydro electric scheme.
Is the whole title equal to the sum of the parts?
We have come across several situations recently where it has become clear that land purchased in different parcels over time does not come together to add up to the whole area which our clients think that they own and occupy. One example related to a garage site that was purchased as an additional area of ground. On the face of the old deed plans, the boundaries of the additional area of ground appeared to be correct but after mapping those plans on to the current ordnance survey plan for registration purposes it became clear that part of the garage building was actually located outwith the boundary of the ground purchased in the early 1980s on which the garage was to be built. A disposition for the remaining footprint of the garage is currently being obtained to resolve this problem.
Marking Your Territory
Finally, you should also consider how to mark a boundary where a fence or wall is not appropriate, for example where your boundary crosses a road. The most commonly seen version of this is a brick / monoblock line, or hump, at the entrance into a housing development or, for example a steading conversion. In a recent case affecting one of our clients, one of the proprietors of a steading development was parking cars beyond their plot and blocking a lesser used access. In order to highlight the boundary, the access road had new gravel laid and coping stones added along the edge of the road to clearly identify the boundary. The successful result of this was that the boundary was clearly defined and the unauthorised parking over the boundary stopped.
If you have any queries regarding boundaries, title plans or registration of title, please contact Robin Dunlop in our specialist Land and Rural Business team on 0131 225 8705 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively contact any member of the Land & Rural Business Team.