Failure to Challenge Repaving Results in Loss of Title

Failing to take active steps to protect your land from use by another can produce unfortunate effects, as a couple from York discovered recently.

The couple own a bungalow which has a front driveway adjacent to that of the next-door bungalow – a common design. The two effectively blend into one before reaching the road. In 1986 their neighbour repaved her drive with new paving tiles and brick edging, and in so doing went across the boundary line between the two properties. She parked her car on the area and treated it as her own.

In due course, the question of ownership of that area of land came into dispute when the neighbour built a fence. The argument went all the way to the Court of Appeal, which ruled that she had acquired the legal title to the land by 'adverse possession' because her neighbours had taken no steps to assert their rights over it.

Normally, such cases involve land which someone has impounded in some way, so as to preserve exclusive occupation, but the Court found that the repaving was sufficient to demonstrate that the neighbour had taken physical control over the land in dispute.