Boundary presumptions: A quick guide
Boundaries and their maintenance are a common cause of debate between neighbours, particularly as title documents very rarely contain sufficient information as to precise locations. Fortunately, the law offers some helpful presumptions which can sometimes assist in determining a boundary’s position.
“Hedge and Ditch”
One of the more well-known presumptions , the “hedge and ditch” presumption (“H&D Presumption”) can assist in determining ownership and responsibility for maintenance where there is hedge and ditch in situ.
The H&D presumption suggests that a boundary is likely located on the side of the ditch opposite from the hedge. The logic for this is that the person who dug the ditch would have done so on the very edge of their land and, to avoid trespassing, should have deposited the soil behind them. The owner would then establish a hedge on the deposited soil.
Of course, the H&D Presumption only applies to artificial ditches and not naturally occurring ones.
“Ad Medium Filum”
The principle of ad medium filum can provide some clarity where two areas of land are separated by a roadway or water feature.
A roadway or track, and which is not publicly owned or privately owned by another, is presumed owned by each adjoining owner to its mid-point.
If the above can be shown, the conveyances to the relevant owners are deemed to have included half of the roadway even if not shown on the conveyance plans.
Where areas of land are separated by a natural non-tidal river or stream, it is presumed that the boundary follows the mid-point of the water. The adjoining parties therefore own and are responsible for half of the river bed.
If the shape of the watercourse, and therefore its mid-point, should change naturally over time, the boundary changes accordingly. However, where the change is artificial, or is sudden but permanent where artificial or natural, the boundary does not change.
Interestingly, and in spite of existing for rivers, no presumptions appear to exist for lakes.
Projections, such as eaves or foundations, can sometimes extend beyond boundaries. In such cases, they are presumed to be owned with the property they extend from, unless there is clear evidence to the contrary.
It is, however, important that particular rights for these projections (to overhang onto another’s land for example) are granted in favour of the property they protrude from.
For any queries regarding boundary issues or disputes, please contact a member of our property department.
Sam Read is a solicitor in the property department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Suffolk.