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Adverse Possession and Your Neighbour's Fence

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 7 Oct 2021 | comments*Discuss
 
Adverse Possession Land Fence Property

The most common way of establishing who owns land or for example a boundary fence is to look at the title deeds. Usually there will be a clear demarcation of who owns which part of the land and boundaries.

It is however sometimes possible for the original owners of land to lose their ownership due to another party's adverse possession of it.

What is 'adverse possession'?

Essentially adverse possession is where someone who is not the owner of land possesses (has sole use of) it.

For example:

Farmer A owns the Land X. Farmer B owns Land Y. Part of Land Y (owned by Farmer B) has been used solely by Farmer A for the last 20 years to park his caravan and he built a fence around it can only be accessed from his (Farmer A's land)

This land may be owned by Farmer B according to the title deeds, but Farmer A has had sole use and possession of it for a lengthy period. Ownership of the land has therefore transferred to Farmer A due to adverse possession.

When does adverse possession exist?

I have owned my property for over 25 years. There is an existing fence line put in when the plots were separated in the early 70s. The fence is concrete and wire. I've used and maintained the land and retaining wall to the right of these concrete posts for the past 25 years. Our neighbours now want to enforce the legal boundary and move it effectively further towards the right, claiming the land and wall we have been maintaining. Can they do this or have do I have rights under adverse possession?

The test for adverse possession (as confirmed by the House of Lords in J A Pye (oxford) Ltd v Graham) [2002]) is whether the trespasser has possessed the land for the requisite period.

The 'requisite period' is:

  1. If the land is unregistered - 12 years
  2. If the land is registered but the adverse possession period occurred before 13 October 2003 - 12 years
  3. If the land is registered but the adverse possession period did not occur before 13 October 2003 - 10 years
  4. Note:

    An application to the court for adverse possession is only recommended where the party taking possession does not have an entitlement to neighbouring land. If the party taking possession has rights to a neighbouring land (like Farmer A above), whilst they may have adverse possession, the application that should be made to the court is one to simply alter their and their neighbour's title plans to show the new boundary.

    Application under Options 1 or 2 above (unregistered land or registered land with adverse possession from pre-13 October 2003)

    To show adverse possession, you must prove:

    • That you have factual possession of the land
    • That you intended to possess the land
    • That possession is without the owner's consent
    • That all of the above have been true for at least 12 years prior to the application

    Factual possession is very dependent upon the circumstances of each individual case. However the court has offered the following guidance:

    • The possessor must have exclusive possession of the property
    • The possessor has been dealing with the land in question as an occupying owner might have been expected to deal with it and no one else has done so (eg cutting the grass / maintaining the boundary)
    • Erecting a fence around the land is a positive indicator of adverse possession

    I have a four foot border at the side of my property and have exclusively used this as a flower bed for 27 years. New neighbours have moved in and have claimed that the strip is part of their property. They are demanding that it is returned to them. What can I do?

    A claim can only be brought within 12 years of the right to claim existing*:

    Eg: Going back to our example above, the adverse possession by Farmer A commenced 20 years ago. The right to claim existed after possession for 12 years, so 8 years ago. Farmer A has 12 years from when the right to claim existed to actually make a claim, so now has just 4 years left.

    • 20 years ago - adverse possession commences 1996
    • 8 years ago - 12 year possession complete so right to claim arises 2008
    • 4 years away - 12 year limitation period in which a claim can be made expires 2020

    * There are slightly longer periods for government departments or spiritual organisations taking adverse possession, along with other specific but rare scenarios.

    Application under Options 3 (registered land with adverse possession completing after 13 October 2003)

    You must still prove the same criteria for adverse possession as above, but the relevant period for possession is shorter:

    • That you have factual possession of the land
    • That you intended to possess the land
    • That possession is without the owner's consent and
    • That all of the above have been true for at least 10 years prior to the application

    There are however a number of exceptions that prevent an application under the new regulations being made:

    1. The owner is or has been in enemy territory in the 12 months leading up the application (making it difficult to make an application for adverse possession against anyone in active military service)
    2. The owner is suffering from a mental illness which means that they are unable to make decisions about issues such as possession / maintenance of land
    3. At any point during the 10 years leading up to the application, the owner died and their state was passed on, the owner became bankrupt, or (if the owner is a company) the company was wound up

    The process of making either of the above applications can be tricky, and your claim will be rejected if the forms are not completed correctly and relevant supporting evidence not provided. It is therefore recommended that you contact a lawyer if you are considering a claim for adverse possession; this is an extremely complex area of property law with plenty of exceptions, loopholes and technicalities!

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    Hi can anybody help me with this problem through a dispute between me and my neighbour withA wall running down a border and he’s got big curve on it and some land on the other side belongs to me it’s been there over 20 years can I claim it back because I’m having a lot of trouble with the neighbour about it, Does anybody know the law what’s right or wrong and if I can claim it back . Let me know please
    Bus - 7-Oct-21 @ 6:44 PM
    We have lived in our home for 38 years, for over 30 years we have had a coverway which has been attached to my neighbours garage wall ( the garage wall is right on my boundary.) This coverway has been there through out two previous owners, the owner now has been in their 6years. He wants us to altered or even take it down. Would this garage wall be a shared wall, and have I got the right too keep this coverway because of how long it has been up for so long. We maintain it and have replaced the PVC sheets several times over the years. The neighbours now must of been aware of this when they purchased the property Have I got my rights to keep my coverway.
    Billy - 3-Oct-21 @ 6:03 AM
    My neighbour selling his house and he’s got part of my garden there is a wall between us and it’s been there for 25 years the wall is mine and the newneighbours been there only for years.And the lady who was there before him she knows all about it thePeace land can I claim it back it’s on my deeds please can somebody let me know.
    Fab - 2-Sep-21 @ 4:13 PM
    Hi I I lived in my bungalow for 15 years in the last four years we got a new neighbour but now selling up asked him that I’m taking my 14 inch wall down down my drive and put in a fence on my border but the well it’s bent and I like to put it straight it been up over 25 years and next door neighbour got a bit of my land . The old lady before him she know all about it and said when you need it do it so what is my right to get it back thank you.
    Fab - 2-Sep-21 @ 4:08 PM
    My neighbours dogs. Are destroying my fence by trying to attack my dog what can I do
    Jack - 22-Jul-21 @ 5:18 PM
    We have lived in our cul-de-sac for 40 years. The houses run down one side with a a strip of woodland the other side. It’s been looked after to some extent by residents but mainly left for wildlife with daffodils growing in the Spring. However the neighbour in the next road, which also backs on to land, has decided to move their fence 6ft on land which isn’t even in their road. Have complained to Council but they says no one owns the land so there is nothing we can do.
    Spud - 6-Jul-21 @ 1:01 PM
    Hi. Neighbour at back advised me today that she is splittingwith her husband.They bought about 6 years ago. They said we have some of theirgarden. The fence was erected 30 years ago. And we purchased property in good faith. Previous elderly owners told us to keep the strip. They did not want it. We maintained it. To our expense Took conifer trees down etc and we have matured plants there. When they purchased they even went half with us to erect a new fence in the same position. As we have maintained it for 28 years. And the above. Woukd we be successful in adverse claim I’ve been reading about. And what are their rights if any?
    Ree - 22-Jun-21 @ 4:34 PM
    Know exactly what your saying all of you! My underground neighbor is a obnoxious, cancer ridden and poisonous 63 year old thug!
    coopdeville78 - 18-Jun-21 @ 2:05 AM
    Hi, We moved into a detached bungalow 4 years, originally owned by a very old lady who had let the garden get into a terrible mess. One of the 1st jobs we did was to try and clear it up. On the left hand side was a fence running all the way up the side of garden in decent condition. Situated right in front of it were a couple of bits of old wooden fence and some rusty chicken wire which only ran half way up our garden and the wire was tight against the neighbours fence, probably 1 inch away but often touching her fence in places. Our garden is approximately 50 to 60 feet long and the rusty chicken wire ran about half way up before it dissappeared completely and was also in terrible condition so having 4 dogs I felt it was dangerous if anything and removed it. We recently fell out with a neighbour and she claimed that this chicken wire was her boundary fence and that we had no right to remove it and has now complained to the council, even though we removed it 4 years ago. Looking at the deeds, she has ownership of that side of the garden, but I presumed the wooden fence was her border, and like I said the rusty chicken wire was virtually touching it and only ran for about half way the length of the fence anyway and was in terrible condition. Please can someone advise the situation here. In all honesty it sounds very petty but our neighbour complains about everything, has already complained to the council about our dogs which went nowhere, complains if we have music on an afternoon at the weekend, complains about a bush which grows onto her garden, complained we had put a security camera up at the back of her house which in reality was a solar night light, etc.... She is quite a difficult person to deal with and quite confrontational to say the least, in fact she is very rude at times. Again does anyone have any advice. Thanks Guy
    Geoff - 2-Jun-21 @ 3:16 PM
    Hi my neighbor's of over 20 years have 2 fences that they builtnow rotton and i think a health hazard ive asked her repeatedly if she can repair fence or half in for a new one she point blank refuses but just the other day she erected another fence between her and the empty house on the other side of her. She isnt letting me put up a new fence and refuses to move all the trash thats laying in her garden and 2 sheds so that i can erect 2 new fences i dont know where i stand.. can anybody help me? I stay in scotland think its a different law. Regards scott
    Scott - 3-May-21 @ 1:14 PM
    Hi I have lived in my property for 20 years.There is a strip of land in front of my house that me and a couple of neighbourshave maintained over the years. I replaced the broken fence around 13 years ago and kept it maintained, the gate was always unlocked so to use as a communal area but like i said above ,maintained by us, just keeping it tidy. 2 years ago my new neighbour moved in. She asked about the land and i told her it was communal land and mowed by a neighbour(never mentioned i maintained the fence).She started mowing the land and it didn't bother us as it was communal.By this time the gate stayed open wide as itwas damaged. I still used the land ,drying tent out etc. fast forward 2 years later, i decided i was going to put a bird table in the area, but all of a sudden, the day after my neighbour put a new gate on and a sign saying' PRIVATEGARDEN Number 11'. She also put a padlock on stopping access. Nobody was informed before her actions. I checked her deeds online and found out the land doesn't belong to her ,her boundry line is the same as mine.So there's a few questions i need to ask.Does she have the right to lock the gate and deny access? Have i got a better chance of claiming the unregistered land than her?I also found out the previous owner made a note in the sale that she had use of the land with no problems...(not sole use)she was there for 10yrs.And finaly...do i have a right to claim my area inline of my house(extend my boundry ) by taking part of my fence down and putting a partition fence there and install another open gate on my side? I know its a long story but i need urgent help. I live in the UK,ENGLAND. Thanks
    Blades929 - 24-Apr-21 @ 9:52 AM
    Hi I have lived in my property for 20 years.There is a strip of land in front of my house that me and a couple of neighbourshave maintained over the years. I replaced the broken fence around 13 years ago and kept it maintained, the gate was always unlocked so to use as a communal area but like i said above ,maintained by us,just keeping it tidy. 2 years ago my new neighbour moved in. She asked about the land and i told her it was communal land and mowed by a neighbour(never mentioned i maintained the fence).She started mowing the land and it didn't bother us as it was communal.By this time the gate stayed open wide as was damaged.I still used the land ,drying tent out etc. fast forward 2 years later,i decided i was going to put a bird table in the area,but all of a sudden. The day after my neighbour put a new gate on and a sign saying' PRIVATEGARDEN Number 11'. She also put a padlock on ,stopping access. Nobody was informed before her actions. I checked her deeds online,and found out the land doesn't belong to her,her boundry line is the same as mine.So theres a few questions i need to ask.Does she have the right to lock the gate and deny access? Have i got a better chance of claiming the unregistered land than her?I also found out the previous owner made a note in the sale that she had use of the land with no problems...(not sole use)she was there for 10yrs.And finaly...do i have a right to claim my area inline of my house(extend my boundry) by taking part of my fence down and putting a partition fence there and install another open gate on my side? I know its a long story but i need urgent help.I live in the UK,ENGLAND. Thanks
    Blades929 - 24-Apr-21 @ 9:31 AM
    I have recently ( 12 mths ago ) replaced a falling down fence between myself and my neighbour. it is established that the fence was mine and i have not requested any payment or cost to replace from neighbor ( in fact i replaced fencing all the way round at my expense.) I have lived on the property for 14 years and fence line , even though damaged , has always been defined , meaning there has always been some form of fence however dilapidated between the properties. When fence was installed the installersfollowed the original line , in fact the used the majority of the same holes for new new posts that the old ones came out of. In the last week or so, we have had a run in with the neighbor after i complained about excessive noise . He has now since stated that the fence is on his property and he wants it moving. He seems to spend most of his time looking down the line of the fence to see where it is. To myself and the naked eye its bang on centre, of you measured things exactly it may be a couple of inches out , but which way is anyone guess, as i think its fine. Last year when it was installed and we got on he even complimented it and said it save him a job as he has plans to sort his own garden out ( it is overgrown and he hasnt phisically been in it for over 18mth). Any ideas???
    rox2020 - 14-Apr-21 @ 9:24 AM
    my experience is not about fences percent, but does have to do with violating ones persi al space (The Crawlspace and The Basement).Thus, it is my nextdoor neighbor's son eldest who declares his mother "wants it done)!"She wants me to kill people".I don't want to kill nobody."But I guess I'm going to have to kill her"! Two decades ago she (his mother) declared speaking, current news, weather was not enough.She decided she wanted to come inside of your life and see for herselfshe began banging into all adjoining walls from the top of the house to the basement. She was duly focused on entrance ways, living rooms, dining, kitchen and bedrooms, later it was the bathroom spy cameras andcreating a climate by threats to my mother and myself specifically *your not going to live in THAT HOUSE and not speak to me. Her son has began as she had done soliciting neighbirs to break into my house and take everything. His mother had been entertaining friends on the porch declaring, that what I needed to do was open the door, and key everybody come in and pick what they wanted!She particularly had a personal interests in a leather coat she remembered I had.She's declared that she watches people's clothes. Since she's six times bigger than I im not certain how thT would be of any value to her. Stalking, threatening, intimidating, harassing, slandering, creating a persecutorial climate among friends, neighbors or strangers to promote her own self aggrandizement and to hinder another's progress and normal right to peace inside of your home and preventing them from. Having an intimate relationship with others as though you were their prisoner and she is the angry, dissatisfied God preventing your threatening to control someone to break in everyday, exclaiming with angst,"when is she leaving" as you embark to go to work. And the purpose is to bring her your earned income."Give me money", was her comment which I ignored her as she feels she is going from generation to generation, as she did my mother by threat of harm to the point my mother stopped going to church because she used these criminal men to lean in my mothers face as she left home. At this day, she felt while I had spent a decade caring for my parents and I would be intimidated as she brought hundreds of men to look at me as though they would kill me because I called the police repeatedly.
    none - 22-Mar-21 @ 5:01 PM
    We purchased our bungalow just over 4 years ago and the fence at the back of the property was already in place. A new owner of the property at the back is now stating that the fence is in the wrong place and wants to move the fence back by 18" as his deeds state that we have some of his land. We bought the land with the fence already up, we have maintained the land, it is part of our garden, including a rockery along this fence with mature trees and bushes now in place.Does he have a right to claim back his land?
    lozza - 20-Mar-21 @ 1:21 PM
    Hi. My neighbour has lived in her house since 1983. We have been here since 1998. My neighbour extended her 2 bed house in 1983 and we extended our 3 bed house in 2015. There is a side strip of land that she removed a retaining wall from on her side. This was keeping back shale and stone (we are higher up than her). Over the past 18 months she has removed stones (large ones) and now the earth and shale is falling. Getting nearer our path. We have written to her to tell her not to do this as it is going to eventually undermine our path. She replied by saying it’s her land and she can do whatever she pleases. I have since investigated this as currently both gardens are 10 metres wide. On the title deed my garden is 11 metres wide and hers is 9 metres. Can I move my fence so my garden is the correct width (she has no fence). Also regarding the missing retaining wall it states in her deeds all walls and fences are to be repaired to their original form so can I make her put it back? If I’d have known my garden was wider my extension could have had an extra 21 square metres could I sue her for lying about the land in the first place? By going for damages as I’ve worked out the value of square metre of my house based on 2015 values and it equates to £25k!!!
    Yorkshire Lass - 11-Mar-21 @ 11:14 PM
    My neighbour put an extension next to his fence, our boundary, and now wants ro replace it which involves access to my garden, on my mature flower beds where space is tight. I he allowed access to my property please?
    Emb - 16-Feb-21 @ 8:52 AM
    I bought a house which used to be a village shop. It’s straight onto a wide footpath. I have photos before it was a shop and was cottages and they had a railing fence. Can I reinstate that fence as it used to be there, this would mean reducing the width of the footpath to what it used to be. Am I allowed to do this or who do I apply or see about it. Many thanks
    Craig’0 - 13-Feb-21 @ 6:21 PM
    There is an area at the end of our garden (separate) that is on our deeds as a public access right of way. The covenant in our deeds says that this must not be fenced off or blocked and is to be free for all public use. This area has been fenced off by our neighbor (prior to us moving in) and we would like to take the fence down. Can we take it down?
    01aldridget - 4-Feb-21 @ 2:06 PM
    My neighbour is erecting a fence down our side drive today and he’s marked out where he it ends to put it and it’s on my side. I wondered how I can stop this. Thanks.
    Gee - 19-Jan-21 @ 7:02 AM
    I have a dispute over a boundary position with my neighbours. My wife and i live in a local authority council house and our neighbours own their property. My neighbours are now claiming that the fence I erected on my side of the boundary, effectively on my garden belongs to them. I contacted my local council who have been out and measured the distance between the houses and have said that my fence is on my neighbours property and I am not allowed to touch it. When i erected the fence i followed the line of original concrete posts that were installed when the property was built over 50 years ago,whilst all the time placing my fence and posts on my side of the original line. I am at a loss as of what to do,as i haven't been informed where this new boundary line is so i am unable to movement fence. The boundary line I followed is the one that has always been there.
    He who is - 12-Jan-21 @ 1:33 PM
    Greetings my friend. It is with a sense of sadness that I respond to your sad tale. My neighbour Torontonomoni is perhaps the same neighbour of whom you suffer such smakings of disturbance. Because he is stealing my rats it is a good idea to smake a fire of your old femces woods. Them new panels you must set humane people traps. Then you can smake some moneys by selling your neighbour as hired help.
    Rev.Tchaychamomonomi - 25-Nov-20 @ 4:41 PM
    Please help, the neighbours are threatening legal action over my replacing the old fence panels. Old ones were rotten and falling apart, plus it is my fence. They are saying 22 foot is blocking out the sun, I have tried to reason with them that as the sun is quite a bit further from the ground than 22 foot that this really isn't an issue. Recently this escalated to threats of physical violence against me, thinking of just setting it on fire? Would this then be a smoke nuisance too ?
    DW - 20-Nov-20 @ 4:39 PM
    I was hoping you might be able to help. I have read your article online and was wondering if you could answer a question I have. In a case of adverse possession on a parcel of land, is the easement by prescription to access the land reduced to 10 years, or does it remain 20? I hope this makes sense.
    Clar - 12-Nov-20 @ 2:21 PM
    Hi i have lived in my property for over forty yearswhen we arrived there is an established lorol hedgeit is very high and gives us privacy from a lot of houses and their lights there is also a fence that was put up behind the lorol on the neighbours side been there for some 3o years sadly my neighbour diednew nresident wants to cut the hedge down to 6ft saying its their hedge surelya over fifty year old hedge becomes the boundary which is behind their fence on our side
    PAT - 18-Oct-20 @ 12:51 PM
    My neighbours have recently erected a fence along the boundary between our property’s. They have have put the fence posts in my property can I put slats onto the back of there fence.
    Ross679 - 15-Oct-20 @ 9:03 PM
    I have small piece of land at the back of my house .do i have more right to buy it .andif my neighbour bought it by trick .can I do any thing . Lalmasood
    Lal - 10-Oct-20 @ 4:54 PM
    I need advice re.land in the back of my house .is for sale .do I have more right to buy this land.and if my neighbour has bought it by trick then can i do any thing.
    Lal - 10-Oct-20 @ 4:50 PM
    We have lived in our house for 24 years and have always used the neighbors yard and weeded along small retaining wall to gain access to our under house access, all cable and phone wiring on right side of house.There is no other access, you cannot access from back yard.Neighbor has now built a wall next to retaining wall and we are unable to access side yard.What can I do?
    Wendy - 9-Oct-20 @ 10:08 AM
    Hi bought a house 4 years ago, sorted all the garden up to existing boundary wall which has been there since 1969, neighbour has now found out that the boundary wall was put in the wrong place, now wants to claim the land of which he has not maintained for the 30years he has lived there, is now taking us to court where do we stand on this, we are in Scotland
    Reanie - 26-Sep-20 @ 1:36 PM
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