Disputes over boundaries are very common and can cause expense and misery for those involved. Our message to people involved in such disputes is mediate early on and nip the problem in the bud, as the following story from the Daily Mail illustrates:
A couple’s rural Cotswolds idyll has been shattered by a bitter row with their neighbour over who owns a tiny patio outside the front of their house.
When Andrew Roland and his wife Skipper bought their 150-year-old holiday cottage in the picturesque market town of Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, in 2016, they believed that the 7ft x12ft paved area belonged to them.
But three years on – and £8,000 later – they are locked in battle and heading to court with their Tory councillor neighbour who has insisted on placing his table and chairs on the disputed territory, claiming the small patch of land actually belongs to him.
The extraordinary row escalated shortly after they bought the four bedroom property when the neighbour Mark Annett started putting out garden furniture and pot plants on the patio.
The Rowlands claim they politely asked Mr Annett, 66, an estate agent – who bizarrely handled the sale of the property – to remove them.
But he refused and told them that he owned the paved area.
The Rowlands discovered that there was a problem shortly after purchasing the traditional Cotswold stone cottage as a holiday let property in the picturesque town for £300,000.
Recognising a potential issue, they checked land registry documents which they say prove that they own two thirds of the paved area – with Mr Annett owning a third, an area of 2.5ft by 4ft.
Skipper insisted when Mr Annett sold them the house he made no mention of owning the patio.
‘All anyone has to do is apply common sense and it is obvious that the area outside our window is part of our property.’
Skipper said attempts at reaching an amicable agreement with their neighbour who owns Mark Annett & Company estate agents next door and whose office window overlooks the disputed patio area.
Mr Annett, a former leader of Cotswold District Council who is standing in Thursday’s local elections as a Tory councillor, also owns a holiday flat above his business.
He uses the patio area as an outside space for his paying guests and has installed the metal table and chairs, which he has refused to move.
He has insisted that a low stone wall at the far right hand side of the disputed area is the edge of his boundary giving him rights to the whole patio area.
The Rolands insist property deeds at the Land Registry show he is entitled to a small slither of the area that is no bigger than four feet at its widest point.
They say over the past two years letters from their neighbour’s solicitors became increasingly threatening and warned them they were trespassing by putting two stone planters on the patio.
They repeatedly pointed out they were simply following the boundary as set down in Land Registry documents but Mr Annett claimed they had been drawn up incorrectly.
He also claimed that he had use of the patio as the previous owner had been granted this right and he was claiming squatters rights or in legal terms ‘adverse possession.
The Rolands tracked down the previous owner of their cottage who insisted the patio she had always maintained ownership.
Skipper, a former financial accountant, said: ‘It is just insane that it has come to this over a small patio area.
‘But this is a matter of principle and we will not be bullied into giving it up.
‘We are reasonable people and have tried to be as amicable as possible.’
She went on: ‘With all the evidence on our side we thought the matter would just be dropped.
‘But Mr Annett has just escalated it and is now taking us to court. We are a new business and cannot afford the sort of legal fees that his solicitor has sent us if we lose in court.
‘We know we are in the right. This has just been like a black cloud hanging over us for two years. We feel like we are being bullied. It really is a David and Goliath situation that we find ourselves in.
‘But there is the principle at stake and we have come so far we do not want to give up.’
Unfortunately, principles can be expensive – compromise is the cheaper option.