What to Do When Faced with a Property Dispute
What to Do When Faced with a Property Dispute
Jonathan Dinsdale, Senior Associate Solicitor, Blandy & Blandy
Dealing with a property dispute requires a systematic and strategic approach in order to give the best chance of resolving the conflict and protecting your interests. Below is a step-by-step approach to assist you in navigating what can be a very stressful and protracted process, if the parties are unable to resolve the conflict by agreement.
It is imperative to take time to thoroughly understand the nature and details of the dispute. Information in relation to party walls, boundaries, covenants, and easements can often be detailed in any relevant agreement, contract, or deeds. It is therefore essential to obtain as much information as possible at the outset in order to clarify the legal issues involved. Title documents in relation to your property can be easily obtained online for a nominal fee on the Land Registry website and it is advisable that such documents are acquired as soon as possible. The dispute may emanate from an agreement, covenant, or easement that was entered in to by the former owners and it is therefore recommended to reach out to the previous owners of the property if possible in order to obtain any key witness evidence or documents which could assist.
It is important to review all property related documents such as deeds, leases, contracts, or agreements. This will often allow you to establish ownership, see general boundaries and obligations. It may be necessary to obtain expert evidence from a boundary surveyor, chartered surveyor or building surveyor, in relation to any issues that remain unclear. Plans filed at the Land Registry only show general boundaries which can often be up to 0.5m on the ground however, an expert boundary surveyor is able to determine the boundary to the nearest centimetre using sophisticated equipment which allows the ordinance survey map to be overlayed with Land Registry filed plans. The surveyor will also take into account historic boundary markers which can also assist in delineating a boundary.
3. Communication with the other party
It is useful to open lines of communication with the other party involved in the dispute as soon as possible. Legal advice should be sought before doing so, in order that you can clearly express your concerns without prejudicing your position. This also gives an opportunity for your neighbour to provide their perspective in relation to the dispute and this can often lead to a resolution without the need to incur significant legal costs.
4. Seek legal advice
Should communication with the other party fail to resolve the issues, then it is advisable to obtain legal advice from a solicitor in relation to your property rights. There are strict timescales for taking action in relation to property claims to avoid being time barred or allowing a neighbour to obtain adverse possession of a part of your property. It is vital that you act in accordance with such timescales. Your legal advisor will be able to review the documentation and advise you in relation to such issues in order to protect your position in relation to the dispute.
5. Document everything
It is essential to keep thorough records of all communications, transactions and events relating to your property dispute. This goes for conversations you are involved in with the other property owner and any actions taken by you and them. This ensures that should legal proceedings be necessary, your legal advisor has as much evidence as possible in order to plead your case.
6. Consider alternate dispute resolution (ADR)
It is prudent, prior to legal proceedings being issued, that the parties try and settle their differences by way of ADR. Mediation is a form of ADR which can provide a more efficient and cost-effective way to settle property disputes out of court. A professional mediator can be jointly agreed and appointed, and a date is set for the parties and their legal advisors to meet with the mediator. This is often on site which allows the parties and the mediator to ‘walk the ground’ which can give a better perspective of the issues at stake. Mediation often encourages the parties to narrow the issues between them and come to an amicable settlement without resorting to expensive litigation.
7. Issuing proceedings
If the parties to unable to agree on the issues in dispute and ADR has failed, then it may be necessary for proceedings to be issued seeking damages and/or a declaration in relation to the respective parties property rights. The parties are expected to only use litigation as a last resort and adhere to the relevant pre-action protocol before taking such steps. Legal advice should always be sought beforehand in relation to the costs and risks of taking this course of action.
It is important to remember that every property dispute is unique, which requires a tailored approach to suit the specific circumstances of your situation. Seeking legal guidance from a solicitor is highly recommended in order to navigate the complexities of property disputes effectively.
For further information or legal advice, please get in touch. Blandy & Blandy’s Wokingham office is located at 5 Market place, opposite the Town Hall. Visit www.blandy.co.uk or call 0118 951 6888.