How do I confirm a property boundary?
The best way to confirm the legal boundary of your property is to assess the deed records. These are held at the Registry of Deeds. Not every property in Ireland will have deed records because the system operates on a voluntary registration basis.
If your property does have deed records, they will describe the property and may also be accompanied by a deed map. Deed maps specifically concern themselves with the extent of the property. This means the map will indicate the precise location of your property boundary.
If there is more than one conveyance deed, the earliest deed is usually taken to be the most accurate source.
Of course, the deed records may show the property boundary on a map, but this will often be an invisible line running through a garden or piece of land. This can make it difficult to identify precisely where the boundary is with the naked eye.
To confuse matters, there is often a physical boundary between two properties, such as a hedge, fence, stream, or wall. This physical boundary may have been used for many years, yet it does not necessarily correlate to the legal boundary. Physical features that delineate a boundary can also move and disappear over time, further blurring the line between what is shown on the deed map, and what can actually be seen on the ground.
That is why the deed map must be carefully analyzed to determine the location of the legal boundary – as opposed to the visible (and potentially incorrect) physical boundary. This analysis is best conducted by a professional surveyor.
If you cannot find a deed map relating to your property, you may be tempted to turn to the Land Registry instead. The Land Registry records details of property ownership in Ireland. However, this does not always extend to precise boundaries between properties.
If there is a discrepancy between the legal boundary and the physical boundary of two properties, a boundary dispute may arise.
Boundary disputes often begin when someone wishes to take a particular course of action on a parcel of land, but their neighbor retorts, claiming the land as their own. For example, someone may wish to erect a fence, build a wall, plant or remove trees, lay pipes or build a driveway. This can lead to a dispute as to who actually owns the land. If the wall or fence has already been built, a neighbor may claim encroachment, whereby the new physical boundary is not in line with the legal boundary.
Disputes can also happen when someone feels aggrieved because their neighbor is using a piece of land that they believe rightfully belongs to them. This can happen when land is divided or shared between properties, whether by a voluntary agreement or otherwise. When a new owner assumes possession of one of the properties, it can cause confusion as to who actually owns what. This is particularly common with shared driveways.
Boundaries with divided ownership are another potential source of dispute. This can cause issues if one person wishes to carry out work at, on, or near the boundary, but their neighbor does not consent. A failure to obtain consent (or a works order) could lead to allegations of trespassing and noise nuisance.
On the other hand, the dispute might actually concern who has responsibility for the boundary – dictating who is responsible for its upkeep and the associated cost. There may be a burst pipe, for example, or overhanging trees that have strayed over the boundary line.