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New Protocol to Help Resolve Boundary Disputes more quickly and efficiently

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Boundary disputes between neighbours are surprisingly common. Long-running spats between neighbours can become quite acrimonious over time and be hard to resolve without taking the matter to court.

In an attempt to simplify the dispute resolution process for boundary disputes, a number of experts have come together to prepare a new set of procedures on how to deal with such disputes. The Protocol for Disputes between neighbours about the Location of their Boundary (the Protocol) was introduced in September 2017 and has been endorsed by organisations such as the Property Litigation Association and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

While it does not amount to a formal court rule, the Protocol applies to both commercial and residential properties in England and Wales and sets out best practice for resolving boundary disputes.

The Protocol is free to use and a welcome alternative means of ensuring the more efficient resolution of boundary disputes. It is particularly helpful in setting out deadlines for dispute resolution action, which reduce delay, minimise costs and ensure a swifter resolution of the issues.

Swift resolution of boundary disputes could help to save relationships between neighbours.

What does the Protocol provide?

The Protocol is similar in its aims to the more strict, court protocols that bind the courts. It aims to:

  • ensure the parties exchange information about their claims and arguments;
  • narrow the issues between the parties and promote settlement;
  • ascertain if alternatives can be used to settle the dispute rather than full blown litigation in court; and
  • minimise the costs.

Parties must request official copies of documents relating to their property from the Land Registry to find out if they contain notes on the boundary. If these documents do not clarify the issues, the parties have four weeks to gather evidence and show this evidence to the other party.

Failing that, the Protocol sets out the rules for the appointment of an expert surveyor by the parties. It makes clear that an expert should, where possible, be appointed jointly by the parties and will owe the same duties to both parties. The costs are shared between the parties.

The parties then meet and if a resolution is still not possible, they have eight weeks to agree on whether the dispute could be resolved through alternative dispute resolution procedures (ADR) such as arbitration, expert determination or mediation – whichever is most appropriate.

Ultimately, if no settlement is reached, the matter will be referred to court. Or a Land Registry application will be made to take the dispute to the First-tier tribunal (Property Chamber) (Land Registration).

The Protocol also deals with what action should be taken should agreement be reached – including applying to the Land Registry to ensure their land titles are marked up to reflect the agreement.

What if the parties ignore the terms of the Protocol?

Parties should be aware that if they do not comply with the Protocol and do not consider ADR, they might be penalised in costs by the court later – even if they ultimately win the case at trial.

However, it is important to note that the courts are not bound by this Protocol. In this way it differs from protocols set out in the Civil Procedure Rules (such as the Debt Recovery Protocol we discussed in our blog “New debt recovery rules from October).

Disputing parties’ compliance (or non-compliance) with the Protocol will simply be one of the factors taken into consideration by the court when deciding on how to deal with the costs of a dispute.

How to avoid disputes with neighbours

For tips on how to avoid costly disputes with your neighbours, click here: How to Avoid the Fallout of Boundary Disputes this Summer.


For more information on boundary disputes, contact Chris Burke on 0161 684 6941 or make an enquiry


Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

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