Neighbours’ boundary disputes could be settled out of court to save those involved thousandsA bill to end 'daft and unnecessary' court battles over inches of land will be debated by ministers todayTory MP Charlie Elphicke will try to end legal fights which have seen one set of warring neighbours pay 400,000 for a 60cm wide strip of land
02:45 GMT, 30 November 2012
Neighbours could be forced to settle their boundary disputes outside the court-room, saving themselves six-figure fees in the process.
A bill to end the ‘daft and unnecessary’ court battles over just inches of land will be considered by ministers today.
Tory MP Charlie Elphicke will try to end the costly legal fights which have seen one set of warring neighbours fork out up to 400,000 for a 60cm wide strip of land.
Row: Neighbours could be forced to settle their boundary disputes outside the court-room (file picture)
Impartial surveyors, rather than judges, would be given the power to sort out the wrangles under the Dover & Deal MP’s Bill.
Each party would pay for their own legal costs, although the surveyor would have discretion to award costs.
Mr Elphicke said his proposal would provide a ‘fast, cheap and effective’ process.
Most of the disputes involve trivial amounts of land and are usually started by one neighbour encroaching on another’s with their fence or a hedge.
The row escalates when the vegetation is cut down or the fences are torn down.
Families can often end up in court and the costs can soar so quickly that both parties dig in to try to recover their fees – making mediation less likely.
Inches: Neighbours have often spent thousands on legal bills trying to settle disputes over tiny bits of land between homes (file picture)
One boundary disputed in Hertfordshire was started by planners who used a thick pen to mark out boundaries on a small-scale plan. The area was just 60cm wide yet the legal costs ran to 400,000.
In Cheltenham, two neighbours warred over a six metre square patch of land for two years. The court costs ended up soaring to 160,000.
One boundary dispute over a driveway turned nasty when a farmer was accused of firing a shot at his neighbour who had chased a runaway horse that had strayed on to his property.
It turned out the shot had actually been fired from a booby trap, rather than a gun, but not before police helicopters and armed officers descended on to the property.
Mr Elphicke’s Bill – which would apply to England and Wales – is based on the Party Wall Act, where any disputes are settled through surveyors rather than judges.
Mr Elphicke urged the government to ‘stop sitting on the fence’ and back his bill, adding: ‘We’ve seen cases where 100,000 or more is spent arguing over a two- foot strip of land.
'This is barmy and reform is urgently needed to stamp out boundary disputes.
'This is why I have tabled a bill that will do just that. I hope the Government will consider the bill and allow it to go forward.’
It is understand that the Department for Justice could allow the Bill to go forward.
Although it may not become law, there are hopes that ministers will use it to amend existing rules.