Who owns this mystery strip of land?

Our property lawyer Fiona McNulty answers your questions
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© Merrily Harpur
Question: Eight years ago we bought a newly built property that had a foot-wide strip of land running along the border between our land and our neighbours', but falling on our side of the fence. At the time we were given a letter from the builder confirming the owner of the strip of land had no interest in it.

Can we assume the fence on this border is owned by us ? Do we own this random strip and are we responsible for it, as we are the only people who use it and it is the only means of access to the side of our house? Also, I once read that if you used and occupied land without objection for long enough, it becomes yours. Does this apply here?

Answer: It seems strange that the builder did not acquire the strip of land and transfer it to you with the plot when you purchased the property. If the letter provided by the builder does not give an indication of who owns the strip then a search can be done of the index map at the Land Registry to find out the title number. You can obtain an official copy of the register from the Land Registry, as this will show who is the registered owner.

If the land is within your boundaries you may have started to acquire a form of adverse possession. If the land is unregistered, you must have been in possession for a total of 12 years, provided that you never had the consent of the true owner to occupy it, and it has been fenced as part of your property. If the land is registered, the period is 10 years unless there is an objection.

What's your problem?

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

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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