For centuries neighbours and land owners have encountered boundary disputes and the law regarding land registration has, over the years, been put in place to ensure that rights are upheld and disagreements can be settled, in court if necessary, and so that records of ownership and boundaries can be established and maintained.
However, neighbour disputes regarding boundaries are often not about large areas of land which one neighbour believes is rightfully theirs, but are instead caused by insidious encroachment, rights of way, and rights to light etc.
Over the years, as homeowners cultivate their gardens and attempt to maintain a private space as their own, dispute resolution solicitors have seen more and more disputes regarding rights to light and the problems caused by extensions, high fences, and large hedges, such as the fast and proliferate Leylandii.
Where a property owner has enjoyed a certain level of light, if a neighbour or developer builds, or attempts to build, a new property or erect a hedge or fence which will reduce that level of light, the property owner’s rights are protected under adverse possession rules, common law, and the Prescription Act 1832.
When planning a new build, extension, fence, or hedge, dispute resolution solicitors are unlikely to be able to advise whether the planned structure would infringe rights to light, and planners should seek the advice of building professionals, such as chartered surveyor accredited to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
However, if a building has been erected and light into a room has been cut by around 50%, it is likely that the adversely affected homeowner will have a case in common law and they should seek the advice of a lawyer experienced in this field.
Although established greenhouses come under “rights to light” legislation, if a building or hedge reduces light into a garden the homeowner’s only redress through the courts would be under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, where homeowners who have planted hedging such as Leylandii, which can quickly grow to around 60ft tall (20m) and 15ft (5m) wide, can be ordered to pay a fine of up to £1,000.
Gardeners affected by Leylandii growth have the right to trim the trees back to the boundary line, but they must give all trimmings back to the owner of the trees, and the height of trees cannot be trimmed or reduced without the owner’s permission.
Dispute resolution solicitors will generally advise that neighbours initially make attempts to resolve the problem themselves or with the help of the local council, but the advice of a lawyer can help if a neighbour becomes stubborn or the disagreement becomes threatening in its nature. In many cases, when a dispute resolution solicitor advises the tree owners of their responsibility to keep the hedge trimmed, the neighbour will relent.
For clarity and resolution in any neighbour or boundary dispute, George Ide’s solicitors can help. We are an independent law firm operating throughout West Sussex, Hampshire, and the south of England, and we have helped clients experiencing neighbour disputes in Midhurst, Havant, Portsmouth, and Southampton as well as in our local areas of Chichester.
Please call our team today for more information about how our dispute resolution solicitors could help you.