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Property boundaries FAQs

How can I find out more about property boundaries?

If you are trying to determine who owns an area of land or where a legal property boundary is, then please contact Land Registry in the first instance.

Our remit is to survey and map the physical features on the ground at the time of survey, not to define a legal boundary.

A legal boundary is an invisible legal line that denotes the extent of land ownership and this is decided by Land Registry. In most instances this invisible legal line runs along a physical feature, like a hedge or a wall. However. this is not always the case and sometimes there is no physical feature on the ground or the feature has been moved – such as a wall being rebuilt in a different location.

Land Registry uses our base maps to create the title plan within your Title Deeds. They mark a red line or red box on the map to denote the extent of the legal boundary. If the red line does not coincide with a physical feature on an Ordnance Survey map, Land Registry may add their own lines to help denote the legal boundary. Therefore, should you have an questions about legal boundaries or about who is responsible for a wall, fence or hedge, please contact Land Registry.

I am involved in a property boundary dispute. What should I do?

Unfortunately we cannot advise you on boundary disputes. Boundary disputes can be complex and you may wish to take legal advice.

You can also contact the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) online boundary dispute helpline.

Land Registry also provide guidance on

How do I find out if my property is registered?

Land Registry keeps a computerised map based on our map. This map (the ‘index map’) provides an index of the land in the title for the vast majority of registrations and pending applications for first registration. To find out if land is registered, you should complete form SIM to apply for an official search of the index map. You can visit Land Registry’s website to view a copy of the details of a registered title.

What does Land Registry show on the Registered Title Plan?

Land Registry will show the extent of the land in a registered title by a red line/box on the title plan. Where a boundary of the land is not defined by a physical feature on the our map, Land Registry indicates it on the title plan by a dotted line.

What does the Red Box in my Title Deeds represent?

Land Registry uses our mapping to provide a representation of where a property’s legal boundaries are located, based on the ‘General Boundaries’ system of land registration.

What is the ‘General Boundaries’ system of land registration?

England and Wales operates a ‘General Boundaries’ system of land registration. A title plan with ‘General Boundaries’ shows the boundary of a property in relation to a given physical feature on the ground such as a wall or hedge as identified on our map.

The red edging on a Land Registry title plan is therefore not definitive as to the precise position of the boundaries. For this reason official copies of title plans carry the following warning:

'This title plan shows the general position of the boundaries: it does not show the exact line of the boundaries. Measurements scaled from this plan may not match measurements between the same points on the ground'.

What is the difference between a Physical Boundary and a Legal Boundary?

The word “boundary” has no special meaning in law but in land ownership it is understood in two ways:

The Physical Boundary:

A registered title almost never shows ownership of individual boundary structures such as walls, fences and hedges. There may, however, be some relevant information on the register or in Land Registry’s files. For example, Land Registry may have kept a copy of a deed that refers to a boundary declaration or agreement, or to the ownership or maintenance of boundaries. Please note that, deeds rarely deal with such matters. If ownership or maintenance is important to you, you may, for example, need to talk to neighbours and/or previous owners. We cannot provide information on either property extent or land ownership.

The Legal Boundary:

A legal boundary deals with the precise separation of ownership of land. It is an invisible line dividing one person’s land from another’s. It does not have thickness or width and usually, but not always, falls somewhere in or along a physical boundary feature such as a wall, fence or hedge. The exact positions of the legal boundaries are almost never shown on registered title plans and are not shown on our maps.

Who should I speak to if I have questions about land registration?

Land Registry publishes a number of public guides about land registration as well as answers to a range of frequently asked questions. If you need to contact Land Registry about a registered title, their website tells you which office to contact.

What is your role in determining legal boundaries?

We do not decide or record a property's legal boundary. We are the national mapping agency of Great Britain and is the government department responsible for the official, definitive surveying and topographic mapping of Great Britain. The features shown must fall within the specification for the survey scale and within the published accuracy tolerances. As our maps are topographic maps, and not legal, they only show the physical features on the ground at the time of survey and not legal boundaries.

My Title Plan mentions Ordnance Survey in the acknowledgment. What does this mean?

Land Registry create the Title Plan from our base mapping. Land Registry receives copies of our mapping and to their own copy they can add additional information to the map (such as a red line or box) or extra annotation to explain the extent of a legal property boundary. This additional information is not added to our mapping database, so if you have questions about what is shown on our Title Deeds, in particular the depiction of the red box, please contact Land Registry in the first instance.

Do your maps show legal boundaries?

No. Map purchased or sourced direct from us never show legal property boundaries, nor do they show ownership of physical features. So although we use a line on a map to show a feature (such as a hedge, fence, wall) we do not know who owns this feature. Although some legal boundaries may run along a physical features, we only show the existence of physical features on the ground at the time of survey, which are surveyed to our specification and published accuracy standards. Consequently, it is not possible to be sure of the position of a legal property boundary from our map. You will need to view your Land Registry Title Plan to determine where they have drawn the ‘red box’.

What feature does the line on the map represent?

Our maps use the same line symbol for a wall, fence, hedge, bank, ditch and stream. If there are several features in close proximity to each other, it may not be possible to represent each one individually at the scale the mapping is created. Therefore, it may not be obvious from the map which feature the line represents.

Even if a correct interpretation of the map can be made, the general boundaries rule means that the line on the map may not be the legal boundary. It is the position of the actual feature on the ground, not the position of the line on the map that is important in attempting to trace the position of the legal boundary. Accurate analysis of the map can usually only be achieved by taking the map onto the site and comparing it with the features on the ground. This can help decide what has been shown, what has been omitted for the sake of clarity or because the map scale does not allow multiple features in close proximity to be shown.

My neighbours and I have no dividing feature between our gardens. What do I own?

If no physical feature (such as a wall, fence) exists on the ground to separate two gardens, nothing will be shown on our mapping. However, in order for a legal boundary to be represented on a Title Plan, Land Registry will indicate extent of the property with a red line/box on the Title Plan. Where a boundary of the land is not defined by a physical feature on our map, Land Registry indicates it on the title plan by a dotted line. A red line on a Title Plan drawn by Land Registry does not mean that a dividing feature exists on the ground. Similarly, the absence of a dividing feature on our mapping does not mean that information is missing from our map or that the Title Plan supplied by Land Registry is incorrect.

My Title Plan is based on mapping that is out-of-date. Why?

Land Registry Title Plans only show the features that existed at the time the property was registered with them. Fencing, walls or hedges that have been removed or added later will not necessarily be shown on your Title Plan, since these are not updated and recreated every time we update the mapping.

We have a continuous mapping revision programme for the whole of Great Britain. Changes that have occurred on the ground since the property was registered may have been added to our mapping (new fences or walls). The result is that later map editions will differ from the mapping used by Land Registry for the Title Plan.

If my wall, tree-line or hedge is moved, will this affect the extent of my land ownership?

No. Such revisions will not affect legal land ownership and title deeds of a property and a registered title will not change unless authorised by Land Registry. Physical features on the ground change over time and, for this reason, we have a continuous mapping revision programme. In the event that there are changes to the physical features on the ground, this may involve our surveyors visiting your property so that the mapping can be updated and amended.

Does a Land Registry plan show my exact legal boundary?

The Title Plan will not establish precisely where or on which side of a mapped physical feature the legal boundary lies. A Title Plan with 'general boundaries' shows the boundary of a property in relation to a physical feature on the ground such as a wall or hedge as identified on our map. Your title plan will not therefore establish the precise position of your legal boundary. For this reason, official copies of Title Plans carry the following warning:

This Title Plan shows the general position of the boundaries: it does not show the exact line of the boundaries. Measurements scaled from this plan may not match measurements between the same points on the ground.

Can I measure my legal boundary precisely from the map?

No. You should not rely on the Title Plan to scale any measurements that might be stated in your Title Deeds. Paper maps (particularly copy maps included in deeds) can be subject to distortions and inaccuracies, as any copying processes (such as photocopying) can lead to the distortions in the map image.

Further information about Title Plans from Land Registry.

Our maps never show measurements. If you have a map on which measurements appear, these have been added by another third party organisation. You should contact this organisation if you have questions about the measurements shown.

On the ground, there is a fence and a wall next to each other and only one line is shown on the map. Why is this?

Where a fence, hedge or wall runs approximately parallel to another feature and so close that they cannot both be plotted correctly at the scale of survey, only one feature is shown. Please see page 111 of the OS MasterMap Topography Layer User guide.

The ‘red box’ in my title plan does not correctly show what I own, what do I do?

If you feel that the red box added by Land Registry does not correctly show you legal ownership, we recommend that you contact Land Registry to establish if they can assist.

Your mapping of my property is incorrect. Can I arrange for a surveyor to come out and amend the map?

We welcome all customer feedback about the content and accuracy of our maps. We understand that sometimes there may be a delay between changes taking place on the ground and the time when we are able to capture them. We have a continuous map revision programme, and issues with the content or accuracy of our mapping that fall within our specification, will normally be investigated at the next revision of the mapping for the area.

Should you feel that these changes or amendments may affect your Title Plan, you need to contact Land Registry at the earliest opportunity.

I feel that a feature is incorrectly shown on your mapping. Can you tell me why it is represented this way?

We do not keep records or surveyors’ notes. The map is the only record kept. We are unable to comment on the detail of specific features shown on the mapping or provide reasons for why or how a feature is shown on the map.

I require an expert witness to comment on the boundary map. Do you offer this service?

We are unable to become involved in boundary disputes. If you need an expert to prepare evidence, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors offers a dispute resolution service that includes:

  • arbitration;
  • expert determination;
  • mediation;
  • adjudication; and
  • expert witness.

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