Boundary Disputes: How effective are the current resolution methods?

As published in Property Law Journal April 2015

Boundary disputes arise on all types of land; from development sites to edges of school playing fields, from industrial sites to suburban back gardens. The latter location is famously where boundary disputes are most hard fought, and it is fair to say that these disputes can be less about the land (which may have negligible financial value) and more about the hostility that can arise between neighbours.

Clearly, just because the land in question is small, it does not follow that there is a cheap and easy way to resolve the dispute. A high proportion of boundary disputes involve a complex web of legal difficulties, inconsistent evidence, personality clashes and so on. As such, reaching a compromise can become difficult and litigation disproportionately expensive. Only this year Lord Justice Bean described a neighbour dispute (which included inter alia an argument over a boundary) as “Dickensian litigation” and added that the case had taken “ten days of Court time – more than some murder trials, with a further three days at this Court; and about half a million pounds spent in costs.” Gilks v Hodgson [2015] EWCA Civ 5.

It was as a result of such concerns that government Ministers last year conducted a “Scoping Study” into the causes of, and methods currently used to resolve, boundary disputes. The results were published in January 2015, and are considered later in this article. Unfortunately responses to the questionnaire were few in number and arguably insufficient to conclude the matter emphatically.

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This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

Helena Davies


I specialise in real estate litigation, having over 14 years’ experience advising a broad range of clients on property disputes.