We are all familiar with the red line on plans, showing property boundaries. In reality, the red line on the plan is about a metre wide on the ground! The Land Registry website includes the rather alarming statement that a boundary is “an exact line having no thickness or width and is rarely identified with any precision either on the ground or in conveyances or transfers and is not shown on OS mapping”.
How on earth, therefore, can one rely upon the stroke of even the finest red pen? And it gets worse! “The legal boundary may run within the physical boundary structure but it might just as easily run along one side of the structure….Identifying the boundary on the ground may become very difficult.” And worse! The Land Registry message is essentially that what the registered title shows is only as good as the information provided on registration (plus what they already have), with a set of complicated rules for resolving discrepancies.
It is common practice these days, to discard title deeds on the assumption that all of the necessary title information required for dealings with property is held by the Land Registry. If only! For the Property Litigation lawyer asked to advise where the boundary lies, what is needed most is the site history.
The conclusion? Hang on to deeds, they may prove decisive. And if the position of the boundary is critical (e.g. for marking out building plots), best let your lawyer have a look before you start work on site. There have been instances when a house built across a boundary line, even by less than a metre, has had to be demolished.