Fri | Jan 27, 2023

A matter of land | Boundary blues: Neighbour builds fence in wrong place

Published:Friday | June 10, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Timothy Thwaites

Good day, readers. Today, and for the next for few weeks, my colleague, Commissioned Land Surveyor Timothy Thwaites, will provide the advice and respond to your queries in the column. Today, he responds to a question from a reader.

QUESTION:If I am buying a lot and the neighbour's concrete fence is built three feet on their land, what problems can it cause and what should I do before I buy the land?


Dear A.F.

It is a good sign that you are doing your due diligence, asking relevant questions, and seeking the advice of professionals before getting into any dealings with a parcel of land. This may come with some costs at the front end, but should save you a great deal in the long run.

With respect to your neighbour's wall, and assuming the land you are interested in has a title with a survey diagram, the first thing you should do is to engage a commissioned land surveyor to visit the site and take measurements to confirm the location of the wall with respect to the location of the registered boundary.

The surveyor would likely then present you with a surveyor's identification report showing their findings.

Oftentimes suspicions about problems with a constructed boundary are not consistent with the results of a survey, and so, before we start thinking about solutions, it is important to be sure the issue really exists.

If the wall is actually found to be in error, then it would be useful to have the surveyor relocate, or replace, if necessary, the boundary markers at their correct locations along the boundary in question.




This way, you would know the proper location of the boundary and have the necessary information to construct your own dividing fence at the true location, or to engage the neighbour to come to an agreement on sharing the cost to erect the properly located fence.

By having the boundary demarcated, and possibly relocating the physical fence, the problem you are trying to avoid is any confusion about there being an encroachment on the neighbour's land by the current owner or occupant of the lot you are intending to buy.

This is very important if you intend to get a mortgage or seek financial assistance from a bank, building society or the National Housing Trust for the purchase.

As a part of the required documentation to process a loan, all of these institutions are likely to require you to provide an up-to-date surveyor's identification report, or they will engage a commissioned land surveyor themselves.

They do this to ensure that they are aware of all the current facts relating to the property and to assist them in deciding if they are willing to lend the requested funds.

Any such report will make statements about whether the physical boundaries of the property are in "general agreement" with their true locations.

A fence three feet out of place would not be considered to be within an acceptably tolerable distance.

And if the surveyor, at the time of doing the inspection for the report, observes evidence that the current owner or occupant is using any portion of the three feet left out by the neighbour's wall, it will likely be reported as an encroachment, which is likely to have the financial institution give unfavourable consideration to your application for the loan.

Beyond the process of purchasing, however, it is still desirable to know the correct location of your boundary so as to ensure that you do not inadvertently make any improvements to your property that may infringe on the true location of the boundary.

In all cases, it is better to seek the advice of your surveyor than to have to remove a storeroom or house addition because it crosses a line.

Keep sending your questions and comments and let's continue to explore A Matter of Land. Until next time, traverse well.

- Craig Francis is a commissioned land surveyor and managing director of Precision Surveying Services Ltd. He can be contacted for questions or queries at or Precision Surveying Services