In one sense any dispute between adjoining landowners over land is a boundary dispute but the term is more usually applied where a strip only a foot or two wide is in dispute. Typically there will be some kind of long established boundary feature such as an earth bank, wall or fence and the dispute may be as to whether the boundary runs down the centre or on one side and, if so, on which side. In some cases there may be more than one boundary feature, for example there may be a wall and a fence running parallel.
Everyone has the right to have any civil dispute they have determined by a court, and the courts will not refuse to hear a cases even if the width of the land in dispute is quite narrow. However although the courts will not refuse to hear a case, the courts generally encourage parties to consider settling their differences through mediation if possible.
Boundary disputes unfortunately often lead to a souring in relations between neighbours unless this can be forestalled by mediation. The object of a mediation is not necessarily to reach agreement over the exact boundary according to the strict law but rather to reach a pragmatic compromise which both parties can live with.
Ideally before the mediation takes place a survey of the disputed area should be commissioned from a professional land surveyor. The surveyor would not normally be asked to give any opinion on where the boundary is, just to survey what he finds on the ground and produce a large scale map of the site so that, if agreement on a boundary is reached in mediation, the boundary can be drawn on the map which can then be incorporated into any formal written agreement recording the parties' compromise.
Mediation is not always successful. One party may refuse to mediate or, having agreed to mediate may be unwilling to compromise so that the mediation is ultimately unsuccessful. But in 9 cases of of 10, a mediated solution which both parties can live with is best, unless there is some particular reason why a small amount of land matters to you. The danger with going to court is that where only a small amount of land is involved it can be difficult to predict what the court will decide, and if you lose you normally have to pay the other side's costs.
So it is generally only worth going to court if the small piece of land is important - for example if it makes the difference between being granted or refused planning permission for back-land development - or if your opponent takes the law into their own hands by moving, erecting, or demolishing a fence or wall.
The above explanation of the law is only an overview and in order to be reasonably concise I have had to leave some details out - details which are likely to affect what the law would say about your own situation. So please do not rely on the above but Contact me for advice
This page was lasted updated in August 2016 Disclaimer