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Neighbour Land Grab/Boundary Dispute

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  • Neighbour Land Grab/Boundary Dispute

    We live on a hill and overlook the neighbour at the bottom of the garden. A previous owner had built a retaining wall some 8 feet high about 5 feet from the boundary which holds our garden. The space left between the wall and the boundary had conifers in it so giving all parties privacy. The conifers were not kept in check and grew too high so the neighbour employed a company to cut them down. He did this when the house was empty for over 12 months between sales. He also attempted to cut down my neighbour's large sycamore tree but he stopped him as this tree helps to hold his garden in place. He then asked his neighbour to the right if she wanted him to cut down the 4 trees between our house and hers where there is a boundary overlap. She said yes and so all the conifers were cut down to stumps which are now dead.

    The result is that when sat in the garden we overlook both properties and one has accused us of looking into their windows. So, not wanting to fall out as new owners, I spoke with the neighbour who instigated the tree felling. He told me that the space between the properties had become overgrown and derelict so he decided to tidy it up. He built a wall using concrete gravel boards and slotted concrete posts which are concreted into the ground midway between the boundary and the retaining wall. He then planted shrubs and small trees in the area on his side of his new wall. To access this area from his side requires ladders as his garden wall is 6 feet high. I can walk straight on to it. From time to time he placed pots and ornaments on his wall and the land.

    When we bought the house, it had been empty for around 15 months. The seller's statement made no mention of a boundary dispute or change to it. So I told the neighbour that I would plant some new conifers all the way along and keep them neatly trimmed as a hedge directly in front of the retaining wall in the area between his concrete sectional wall and the retaining wall. He even agreed to help with the trimming. However, before I had got around to planting the conifers we noticed members of his family climbing the retaining wall and coming into our garden. The oldest lad was around 16/17 years old and looking over the retaining wall saw him gardening. He and the neighbour had drilled our retaining wall and fixed batons along it at several levels. They had planted tomatoes and were growing them up against the wall. I told them to stop immediately and said I wanted everything removed as the land was shown on the deeds as ours. The neighbour was not best pleased so I gave him 14 days to remove it all. He did not so I pulled up all the plants and removed all the batons and screws. I dug over the land and planted the conifers. Everything quietened down for about 6 months.

    Out of the blue the neighbour decided to build a raised deck in his back garden on top of his garage without planning permission. After a battle with the council, he was told to remove it as no planning permission would be given. His neighbour to the right was furious as he could now look straight into her bedroom at close quarters. Two other neighbours and us objected and he became quite anti but did remove the decking over a 6 month period. This started the dispute between us. Each time I was in the garden he would start on about how he had cleared the space and he should have objected to the retaining wall. As a result I copied him the deeds and plans and sent them to him explaining our position in a letter. I made it clear all the land beyond his rear wall did not belong to him and to remove his concrete wall and shrubs. He came round to see me to discuss it in a friendly way. He agreed the land was not his and that he would remove the wall. He did nothing.

    I began to dismantle the sectional wall to reduce it to a much lower height. I left the sections on top of his wall but inadvertently caught one of the pots on the wall and broke it. He was not immediately about so I waited till the next day to speak to him. However, his 'girlfriend' (his wife was killed in a road accident 18 months ago) came flying out the house and started shouting, accusing me of all sorts. She wanted to know why I had not gone round to discuss the removal of the sectional wall. Pointing out we had the conversation 18 months ago, and all was agreed, she launched into a tirade. The neighbour then appeared and naturally took her side. Throughout a 10 minute conversation it was obvious he was still angry about the planning permission. However, he did accept that the wall was going to come down but he refused to accept why I wanted to return the boundary to its rightful place. I said I was sorry for breaking the pot and would pay or get another. He then said he had photos of the land showing it overgrown and unused 34 years ago when he moved in (our house was built in 1985). In the end he said do what you want and left.

    The neighbours on my street who have been in their houses since they were built categorically state the land was not unused or unclaimed. They also state the retaining wall was built around 15-20 years ago. They say that the 2 previous owners of our house are highly unlikely to have even spoken with the neighbour let alone given permission to garden or build on it and that all the work was done when the house was empty for long periods. The concrete wall makes it difficult to get access to trim the conifer hedge and needs to come down. I have offered to cut the hedge to any height the neighbour wants to give him privacy. Originally he was in full agreement about the wall and the 'land grab' but now his girlfriend has intervened he appears to be changing tack. The boundary is quite clear between his street and ours and matches the plans exactly.

    So, having read all this, what advice would you recommend? Thanks.

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  • #2
    Basically your neighbour has been using what is part of your land for the last 15 years and now you want to reclaim it? The time scale is very important so if you could give approximate dates it would be helpful. For example what year were the conifers cut down and for how long was your neighbour using your piece of land and when?


    • #3
      We only moved into the house 2.5 years ago. The questionnaire that came with the sale makes no mention of any boundary disputes or changes.
      The time scales are difficult to determine and that is one reason why I came on here, According to the dispute neighbour he claims he has photos going back 34 years showing the area as derelict. However, talking to my neighbour who has lived here for 35 years, he says that is not correct. The first couple who moved in in 1985 were elderly and the site was as the builders left it so probably untidy. They had contractors erect a panel fence all round the garden (the post supports are still visible) which went right up to and along the neighbour's wall. They let the fence fall into disrepair along with the garden due to ill health and is likely when the photos were taken says my neighbour.

      In 2003 they sold the house and the garden was tidied up but the fence was not reinstated. At this time, the garden sloped towards the dispute neighbour's rear wall. The wall was only about 4 feet high at this time and he says he had it rebuilt to 6 feet to prevent landslip. His back garden was also flooding and he installed drainage and a culvert to direct water from an old stream that used to run at the rear of his property.

      Between 2003 and 2017 the new owners let the house to their son who was a builder. He wanted privacy and did not like the sloping garden so instead of terracing it, he paid 2,000 for a wall to be built around the back garden but inside the boundaries on the 3 sides. When he built the wall it was 6 feet approx from the dispute neighbour's wall at one end, tapering to 3 feet at the other due to the boundary line. He planted the conifers soon after the wall was built and best guess is around 2003. He then filled the wall to make a flat raised garden - best way to describe it is to say it looks like how they build swimming pools in Santorini. The neighbour installed his concrete sectional wall around this time or shortly after the conifers were planted 'to prevent landslip' in his words. This is not true as the small area of land was now level with the top of his wall and is why I suspect he simply wanted to acquire it, make a new boundary and cultivate it for his own use knowing the resident son would not bother going to that part of his garden.

      The son moved out and his parents took the house back. They were pub tenants for many years and spent long periods away from the house. Best guess at this time is the original conifers were cut down around 2013/14. The dispute neighbour then cultivated the land between the tree stumps and his wall. The owners did not give him permission to cut the trees or take the land - an admission made by the neighbour when we first moved in. Later, when the house was up for sale and just before we moved in, the neighbour took all the land up to the retaining wall. I guess he thought we would not know any different. However in conversations with him in early 2017 he admitted the land was not his and that because the previous owners did nothing with it, he decided to use it for himself.

      I made it clear there was nothing in the deeds to suggest a boundary change and as a keen gardener I would be taking the land back into my control. I told him I would plant conifers due to the privacy issues and he offered to trim them for me. I also said I would take down his sectional wall and he said 'be careful, its holding back the land'. This conversation took place in my garage when he cam to see me after I sent a copy of the deeds and the letter confirming my intentions. However, he revealed his wife had just been killed in a car incident where she was run down by a woman trying to stop a youth mugging her. It made local news and he was obviously very upset so I told him I would leave the garden for now and give him time to recover.

      So, a year on and today was our first direct contact. He has been very quiet since his run in with the council which has clearly rattled him. I am hoping to speak with another neighbour tomorrow, a retired RICS surveyor who has lived here from day one 1985 and has designed extensions for some neighbours. I will ask about the timeline in more detail as this appears to be crucial. I'll post up tomorrow with any corrections etc.


      • #4
        The retaining wall was built in 2002. The original conifers were cut down at the same time. The land between the retaining wall and the neighbour's boundary wall was left untouched by the owners who moved in 2003. Shortly after, the dispute neighbour wanted to cut down my neighbour's large sycamore tree and sent his wife round to arrange it. He refused telling them they were entitled to cut any overhanging branches. He employed a company to trim it back around 2004/5 The concrete sectional wall they built in the disputed area was erected at this time and they kept the ground cleared on their side of it.

        Much later, in 2016/17 they planted shrubs and bushes on their side of this wall and put up the battens on the retaining wall and cleared some of the ground between the retaining wall and the concrete wall to grow their tomatoes.

        I have spoken with the surveyor who has agreed to come and measure the plot with me to determine where the boundary is. He says that despite their alleged use of the land for some 17 years, no fence or other structure was erected to prevent anyone entering the area. In fact the only access for the neighbour is by use of a set of ladders to scale the 6 foot garden wall. I or anyone else can walk down to it freely.


        • #5
          Today a building surveyor measured the plans and the gardens, His conclusion is that the plans match exactly and the neighbour has no claim to the land in question.


          • #6
            The council have given the neighbour a court date for failing to comply with their order to remove the decking structure in its entirety.* He has become very angry and accusing them and the neighbours of picking on him.* So he has now appealed to the Secretary of State.* His reasons are that he should not have to go through enforcement action while he is grieving over his wife's 'murder' as he calls it.*
            In the meantime I have begun removing the concrete sectional wall and this has caused a row.* A woman suddenly appeared and accused me of not asking them permission first; of not discussing it beforehand and to stop.* Totally unreasonable reaction so can only guess she is the new woman in his life.*
            I expect he wont let this lie.**


            • #7
              Very interesting situation. I recently encountered a similar problem when I purchased a house in Goa. I applied to the state company that helped me deal with the Apnakhata documents and get an answer about the acquired land. It turned out that my neighbor used my land plot for a very long time and rented it out. After the trial, he paid me $1000 compensation and demolished all his buildings. I advise you to contact the organization that deals with land plots in your city, they'll help you solve this issue and understand who is right.
              Last edited by FergusonJes; 12th August 2020, 04:40:AM.


              • #8
                One of the easiest ways to find out whether the government cares about you is to check whether they answer your general queries related to government processes and schemes. These are simple queries like How to apply for X or Am I eligible for Y or How to check the status of Z etc. Just the plain simple queries.


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