Legal Q&A: Can we stake a claim for a piece of 'no man's land'?

At the end of our garden is a section of land that has been fenced off, but there is a gate into our garden. The other three sides are neighbours’ gardens. We would like to landscape it and include it in our garden. Where do we stand legally?
Question: In December 2013, we bought a four-bedroom house with a garden. At the end of the garden is a piece of land, about 11 metres by nine metres. It has been fenced off, but there is a gate into our garden. The other three sides are neighbours’ gardens. This extra patch, which does not appear on our deeds, is overgrown, but we have put down anti-weed fabric without any complaints. We would like to landscape it and include it in our garden. Where do we stand legally? I have heard that after seven years of use, the land can become ours, but when would be the starting date for that?

Answer: When you first viewed the house, did you realise that the land was not part of the property you were buying? Your solicitor should have shown you a plan of the property and asked you to confirm that the plan actually represented the boundaries of the property you were purchasing. At that stage, if ownership of the land was in question, your solicitor could have raised enquiries about it and could have required the seller to provide a statutory declaration confirming how the land had been used by the seller, how long it had been fenced off, how long the seller had treated it as part of the garden of the property, and whether anyone had challenged the seller using the land in such a way. A search of the index map should now be carried out to establish whether the land is registered at the Land Registry and the registered proprietor. To claim ‘adverse’ possession of the land, 10 years is the relevant period of time if it is registered and 12 years if it is not. Seek legal advice to ensure you can satisfy the requirements.



What's your problem?
If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually but we will try to feature them here. Fiona is legal director in the real estate group of Foot Anstey LLP in Exeter (fionamcnulty@footanstey.com)
 
These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.

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