Those who do not make use of their land take a risk that title to it will be acquired by others in the exercise of so called squatters’ rights. Exactly that happened in one case in which property owners objected in vain to their neighbour incorporating a slice of what they claimed was their land into his garden.

The case concerned a banana-shaped strip of land, measuring two metres at its widest, between the car park of the owners’ animal feed store and their neighbour’s property. Due to a missing conveyance, the exact boundary line between the two properties could not be determined, but it was apparent that at least part of the strip fell within the owners’ registered title. A dispute arose after the neighbour redesigned his garden so as to include the disputed strip.

After the neighbour applied to be registered as the strip’s rightful owner, the matter was referred to the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) for resolution. In ruling in the neighbour’s favour, it found that he had enjoyed exclusive possession and control of the strip for more than 10 years in the reasonable belief that it belonged to him. By operation of the Land Registration Act 2002, he was thus entitled to be recognised as its owner.

The FTT noted that, before the owners had acquired their property, the neighbour had put in place a chain link fence to prevent his dogs from straying. That had later been replaced by another fence and both structures had the effect of excluding the owners and their predecessors from gaining access to the strip. He had been in adverse possession of the strip since the first fence was erected in 2001.

For help on this or other related property dispute or litigation matter, please speak to Sundeep Bilkhu on 0121 698 2200.

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