Station Road, Sidcup

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Adverse Possession - Couple Win Legal Title to Disputed Garden Plots

Even if you do not hold legal title to a plot of land, you may well be entitled to have it transferred into your name if you have been in adverse possession of it for over 10 years and you have reasonably believed throughout that it belongs to you. That is precisely what happened in a guideline Upper Tribunal (UT) case.

The case concerned substantial parts of a couple's garden that they had treated as their own since they purchased their home in 1996. The relevant land fell within the boundaries of their neighbours' property, but the couple applied to transfer legal title to it to themselves under the Land Registration Act 2002.

Following a hearing, the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) found that they had been in adverse possession of the land for the required 10-year period. In dismissing their application, however, it rejected the man's evidence that, from the date on which they purchased the property, he had held a firm belief that the relevant land belonged to them. The FTT ruled that any such belief would, in any event, not have been reasonable.

Upholding the couple's challenge to that outcome, the UT noted the man's evidence that, at the time of the purchase, the relevant land was physically included in their garden by means of a post and rail fence. He further testified that the vendor had informed him that the fence's position was compliant with a boundary agreement he had reached with a previous owner of the neighbours' land.

The reasons given by the FTT for doubting his credibility were flimsy and insufficient to justify a finding that he was lying when he said that he believed he owned the relevant land. Such a conclusion was both irrational, being unsupported by evidence, and unfair. The UT substituted its own findings that he was telling the truth and that his belief that he owned all the land within the fence was reasonable. The ruling meant that the couple were entitled to be registered as legal proprietors of the relevant land.