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Neighbours Ordered To Be Confrontational
The Proposed Bill
A Bill currently being promoted in Parliament would make it compulsory for neighbours to refer their boundary disputes to one, two or three surveyors, who would then make a decision as to the boundary, and could order one neighbour to pay the costs of the entire process.
The Member in charge of the Bill is The Earl of Lytton, otherwise known as John Lytton RICS, formerly of John Lytton & Co., Chartered Surveyors, and now a member of the team at Lawrence Foote & Partners, Chartered Surveyors and Project Managers. The Bill had its first reading in the House of Lords on 2 June.
Neighbours forced to incur costs
Although it is commendable that effort is being made to turn neighbours away from costly, lengthy, bitter and destructive litigation, the proposed scheme merely reinforces the contentious element of such disputes, and forces neighbours to incur the costs of hiring expensive experts – without first making any attempt to resolve the dispute consensually or amicably.
If this Bill were to be passed in its present form neighbours would be deprived of their opportunity to use mediation or other more friendly and collaborative forms of resolving their boundary disputes.
No mention of mediation
The proposed Bill condemns neighbours to a highly contested process, and makes no mention of mediation, negotiation, or round-table discussions as a recommended form of resolving such disputes. This does nothing for good neighbourly relations.
Condemned to misery
The Courts have repeatedly referred to the immeasurable misery and unfortunate consequences caused by failing to resolve boundary disputes in a collaborative way. But under the proposed Bill, instead of achieving a resolution by discussion and mutual agreement around a table, the decision will be imposed upon both neighbours by a surveyor.
A winner and a loser
There will be a winner and a loser: one neighbour will be delighted with the outcome, and the other will be a disgruntled ‘loser’ bitterly resenting the decision. But both must nevertheless continue to live next door to each other. The ill feeling between them will continue to blight their daily lives, and the future sale price of the property may additionally be affected.
The process for referring cases to surveyors as envisaged by the Bill is highly adversarial, as well as costly. The landowner must first serve notice upon his neighbour, together with a plan, setting out the exact line of the boundary claimed. The neighbour must then reply, setting out his objection. Upon receiving a reply, or if no response is made within 14 days, both neighbours must agree the appointment of a surveyor – or alternatively, each will appoint a surveyor of their own choice, and the two surveyors would then be obliged to select a third surveyor. The surveyors will then determine the precise location of the boundary and can make an award of costs against one or other of the neighbours in relation to all of the work and inspections carried out.
The Bill proposes costs sanctions against any neighbour who fails to comply with any provisions of the Bill, and further makes a number of contingency provisions in case the surveyors fail to act or to act properly.
This Bill, in its present form, must be opposed.
A link to the Bill is here:
The Property Boundaries (Resolution of Disputes) Bill 2015-2016
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