Registration Error Plus Day-to-Day Use Hands Land to Neighbour
Sometimes, the reasons why a decision was taken are a lot less important than the decision itself, and a recent case fits that description perfectly.
It involved the owners of two adjacent properties. An area of land belonging to one of the properties was used by the owners of the next-door property for parking their car on a day-to-day basis. This had been going on since the 1950s – decades before either of the current owners had bought their property.
The title of the second of the two properties was first registered at the Land Registry in 1980. The plan erroneously included the land used by its occupants to park and it was not until 2008 that the mistake was noticed. The owners of the first property applied to have the documents at the Land Registry rectified to correct the error, but the neighbours then claimed that they should be registered as owners by virtue of adverse possession (‘squatters’ rights’), since they had used the land without opposition for 12 years.
The legal arguments were rather complex, not least because it is hard to see how squatters’ rights could be claimed over a property of which one is shown as the legal owner at the Land Registry. In the event, the court ruled that the land was owned by the users of the parking area and that the title deeds at the Land Registry should not be altered.
“Although the law on adverse possession has been changed recently to make such claims harder to substantiate, there is still a considerable risk attaching to allowing others to make use of your land without any impediment or legal agreement,” says Nick Fentiman. “Even if they had not been successful in obtaining title, it is likely that the court would have agreed that the users of the parking area had obtained an easement (the right to use the land, in this case established by use over a period of years) and could continue to use the land to park their car.”
If you allow others to use your land, we can advise you on how to make sure that your rights over it are preserved.