Main image upload

September 2015

Question

I live in a semi-detached house. A pillar of about eight inches divides the two houses. My neighbour has put down paving and claimed the full width of the pillar down towards the footpath. There was never any permanent divide like a small wall or fence. I believe the width of the pillar should be divided between us. Any ideas thanks. 

Answer

This is a classic example of a minor boundary issue that has the potential to escalate to a serious boundary dispute which would be out of all proportion to the few inches of property in question.

You are advised to consider very carefully the implications of any action you might take.

The direct answer to your question is that if the pillar is on what is considered to be the boundary line and has been accepted as a marker dividing the two properties, then the boundary line is considered to run through the centre of the pillar, and the pillar would be considered to be a party boundary feature.

Your deed map is the definitive record of the extent of your property, but unfortunately many deed maps are not prepared to sufficient detail to ascertain the boundary to the precision required in this case. However, if your deed map indicates that the boundary in question is in line with the party wall of your semi-detached houses, and that the pillar is on this line, you can use it to support your case.

In the event of litigation to determine a boundary, the courts are likely to be influenced by what has been accepted for some time as the boundary or the ‘settled boundary’.

This is more likely if the deed map is not sufficiently detailed to be definitive.

Property owners should consult with their neighbour before they interfere with a wall or any physical feature that forms a party boundary, ie a structure built on the boundary line. It follows that they should consult before they interfere with the space on which such a boundary structure could be constructed. In your case, the width of the pillar defines this space. To cross the actual boundary line is clearly an infringement of the neighbour’s property rights.

Your options are to leave things as they are or alternatively discuss the situation with him/her and explain how the pillar is intended to define the boundary. Suggest solutions, including placing a low timber fence along the boundary line with minimal disturbance to the paving.

Patrick Shine is a chartered geomatics surveyor, a chartered civil engineer and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland.