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Boundary disputes – What are they and how can you resolve them?

By Kerryn Penn, Planner | Jul 26, 2022

For most people, purchasing their own home will be their biggest investment. Whether it’s your first time or not, you undoubtedly want the experience to be positive with no unexpected issues. To avoid any surprises, it is important that you undertake comprehensive due diligence. This includes checking the Record of Title and associated survey plan to ensure everything is true and correct, especially the sites' boundaries as to avoid any potential boundary disputes between neighbours.

Boundary encroachments are typically overlooked by many who are looking to purchase a property, as it is commonly assumed that all boundary features (fences or hedges etc.) are in the correct place. However, mistakes can happen due to various reasons including but not limited to: - replacement of boundary features, re-development of sites, technical survey issues and change of ownership etc. These encroachments can be as small as having your shared boundary out by 20 mm due to a fence being replaced. Or it could be as extreme as your neighbour unknowingly using or having developed 50-100 m2 of your property. In the latter instance, this can have significant financial consequences, especially when you look to capitalize on your investment by subdividing.

Once a boundary encroachment is identified, whether it’s significant or not, it’s recommended that a boundary survey is undertaken by an experienced cadastral surveyor to confirm the extent of any encroachment. This will provide you with clarification of the situation, thus allowing you to decide on the next steps with confidence.

At this point, it is recommended that you engage a land expert such as a planner who will be able to provide you with a solution. It may be as simple as going to your neighbour with the encroachment evidence and asking them if they are open to moving any boundary fences to allow you to enjoy the full extent of your property. Alternatively, you may wish to sell them the portion of your property they currently occupy at current market prices (a land valuation may be required). If they agree, a formal transfer of land ownership will be required, including a sales and purchase agreement. Part of this process involves applying for a boundary adjustment by way of a subdivision to Council. A planner can act as your agent and liaise with a surveyor (who will provide the required scheme plan) write and lodge a subdivision application and liaise directly with Council staff to get you an approved consent. After or during the resolution of your boundary encroachment, you may want to explore the full potential of your property through subdivision and or development with your hired planning consultant.

Overall, it’s important to be aware of potential boundary encroachments before you purchase a property as can have significant financial implications. However, if you find a neighbour encroaching on your property, engaging a land development expert such as a planner can result in a tailored solution best fitted for you.

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