Please Help. Legal & Moral Advice sought.

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    Please Help. Legal & Moral Advice sought.

    Hello There,
    I would really truly appreciate any advice either professionally, personally or even morally.
    Myself & my partner are currently in the process of purchasing our first home which happens to be the house next door to my parents.
    We genuinely thought all would go so smoothly.....
    Just a few days ago we were asked to check the boundaries by our solicitor. Immediately we spotted what we thought to be a mistake.
    However, it has now come to light that next doors conservatory (which has stood for 15-20 years) is on my parents land.
    As you can possibly imagine, this is a surprise to not only myself & my partner but especially to my parents & probably to the neighbours also.
    When my parents purchased their property 25 years ago, they were informed by their solicitor that their garden was not shared but there was a paving area that was the neighbours.
    When this neighbour passed away and the new owners purchased the property, they built a conservatory.
    The conservatory sits half in my parents garden & whilst this wasn't ideal, they accepted it believing it was the neighbours right to do so & they had also gained planning permission.
    Fast forward 20 years, and this week we all learn that that section of land did/does belong to my parents and the land registry confirms this.
    From what I've looked at online, it seems our neighbour could either ask my parents to change the boundaries or apply for adverse possession. From what I also gather, the neighbour would probably gain possession because of the time that has passed unchallenged even though they were unaware they had any right to challenge all this time.
    The property has been on the market for over a year & know we are paying top end for it. We thought it was worth that because it's next door, ticks boxes for parking etc & we know the area.
    I am now starting to feel that by paying top price for the property we agreed before knowing this, I am paying in part for something my parents originally owned & it feels morally wrong.
    I really don't think the vendors would be willing to reduce at all, even in light of this new situation.
    I can understand that there has been a mistake made by many parties including my parents, the neighbours & possibly even solicitors.

    My parents would avoid confrontation at every cost. What is the easiest/best way for this to proceed without feeling we've been given the short straw if that makes sense?
    My parents would certainly say that whilst it has been accepted, if they had been aware of the fact they owned the land they would have objected. Obviously none of us want to have legal costs/battles.
    My other concern is we haven't had the survey and if we do have to pull out what does it mean for future buyers and/or my parents?
    All feedback would be welcomed.
    Many thanks

    Sometimes attempting to sail against the wind with the elements against you, and with an almost certain outcome is best avoided.

    The law regarding adverse possession of registered land is linked below. If the land was unregistered go to the index and click on adverse possession of unregistered land.

    It is almost certain the neighbours after such a long period have gained adverse possession, unless the owner of the land on which the conservatory is built (your parents) gave permission. From what you have said this is not the case. The outcome may depend upon your parents neighbours. They could pay for the land or they can apply for adverse possession. Or, if you purchase it, your parents could give you permission for the conservatory to remain in situ. The difficulty is after you have bought the property, if you sell before your parents, the change would need to be reflected at the land registry.

    Perhaps you are overthinking this. If you like the property, and want to live next to your parents then what is the issue? If your issue is that you do not think the property is worth the price, then don't buy it.
    It may be your solicitor advises sorting out the boundary issue before you buy it. But whether you want to do that and whether it's necessary in the short term would depend upon the relationship you have with your parents and only you can answer that.

    There is no moral conundrum. Nothing has changed except your knowledge. If you don't buy the property it's probably correct to assume someone else will.

    Incidentally, the boundary drawings at the land registry are only a rough guide and cannot be used as an indication of where the boundary actually lies. It is possible the conservatory is on their own land.

    In other words, sometimes we have to accept things for what they are, not with hindsight what we would like them to be.


      Something comes across as a bit odd here. First, your parents were told that the land in question was not included in what they were buying. Secondly, the neighbour built on the land. Whilst people do take liberties and encroach, building half a conservatory on someone's land is taking a big risk. It suggests that the neighbours believed the land was theirs. So, if a solicitor has said the land was not included and the neighbours believed they owned the land when they built the conservatory, the position has to be worth checking. It is all to easy to misinterpret a plan. Were you going by the Land Registry plan or some other plan?


        Is there realy a big problem here?

        Buy the property and then you can sort things out, and regularise the boundary if you want to, amicably with your parents.
        No legal disputes, no (or fewer) legal fees.

        Your issue with this seems to be the selling price.
        But if you don't buy at that price than someone else will.

        I understand that you are miffed that you see it as paying for something that should/may have originally belonged to your parents, albeit that when they bought their property they didn't think it was included so didn't think they were buying it anyway. (And their purchase at that time may have been cheaper because of that?)


          Thank you so much for your kind & quick replies.
          I can understand all points made.
          No doubt if we don't buy at that price than someone else will and it is so very true:
          Sometimes attempting to sail against the wind with the elements against you, and with an almost certain outcome is best avoided. sometimes we have to accept things for what they are.

          The vendors just want my parents to sign to say it is not their land & the land registry has made a mistake. My parents don't want to get involved in disputes but neither do they want to sign something to say they are aware of something they weren't aware of. Do my parents just do nothing & is that ok? By signing the vendor could then say they are not selling to us.

          If we do back out, would future buyers have to be told of the situation?
          'IF' this should affect any future sale, or the vendors decide to file for adverse possession, in doing so they would have costs to meet. I've also read that it could take 2 years if a counter notice is submitted?
          If we end up purchasing the property we would then have the fees to change the boundaries.
          This is why I questioned the sellers reluctance to reduce.

          If this house wasn't next to my parents, it would seriously raise a red flag to me as what would it mean for me as a buyer with no connection to the next door property? Would/Should this be an issue for other buyers in your opinion?

          If the property does acquire adverse possession, then I also read that a possessory title can affect the asking price.
          One of the most common things I do read is you must try to resolve amicably.
          If the sellers won't reduce, my parents won't sign then would another fair alternative to suggest that if the building is ever demolished that land remains with the title owner?
          What is considered a reasonable solution?


            If you really want the property go ahead at the agreed price. I'd be tempted to call their bluff. If they don't sell it you it will take them some time and money to sort it out. Of course they want your parents to sign, that makes a cheap and easy fix for them. Don't forget you will be buying the problem and it will be unsaleable until you have sorted it out. You never know what the future holds, you may want to sell in a hurry, your parents could die tomorrow etc. I'd offer £20k less and see what happens.


              The vendors just want my parents to sign to say it is not their land & the land registry has made a mistake. My parents don't want to get involved in disputes but neither do they want to sign something to say they are aware of something they weren't aware of. Do my parents just do nothing & is that ok? By signing the vendor could then say they are not selling to us.

              This is new information. When asking for advice it really is best to give all the facts.

              You need to address the question of why the solicitor believes the details held by the land registry re the boundary does not reflect the current boundary?

              Certainly there is no reason for your parents to sign any document and any sale by the vendors cannot be dependent upon involving a 3rd party.

              You seem to be conflating the two issues. 1. The boundary as it affects your parents. 2. Your legal position should you purchase the property. Only point 2 is of concern to you.

              Your conveyancer/solicitor should be advising you as they are best placed by having sight of the land registry documents.


                The vendors just want my parents to sign to say it is not their land & the land registry has made a mistake.

                Well that seems to suggest that the neighbours acknowledge that half of the conservatory is built on land not included in ther registration. Is that the case? However, as I said above, you really do need to check that there is a problem. If your parents were told by a solicitor before they bought that they would not own the land in dispute there has to be a good chance that they do not. Either you check yourself very carefully or, slightly better, get someone else to have a look. Better still is to have a surveyor or other property professional check. At some point the neighbours are likely to get someone to check and you do not really want to find out that there never was a problem.

                If there is in fact a problem and you buy, the problem is easily resolved by your parents transferring to you the land in question, Since they never thought they owned it that will presumably not be a problem. The only thing for you to decide is whether to ask for a discount. In that respect bear in mind that the neighbours have been in possession for 15-20 years and probably have a right to the land, though at the moment they have no marketable title to it. If the neighbours are sensible they will bear in mind that if they do not sell to you they will have to sort the problem out. That will involve your parents whether they like it or not and the probability is that the land will go to the neighbours. The neighbours also know that you must be keen to buy to live next door to your parents. It will be a case of bluff-calling and counter-bluff-calling.


                  The way I read it, there are 3 properties we are interested in.

                  the house you are buying, the neighbour, and your parents ?

                  the Only thing you need to worry about is the boundaries that are shared with the house you are buying.

                  last year I bought a very old house, and it's land registry plan was very poor.
                  the solicitor got hold of the plans of the 3 houses it had boundaries with.
                  We ended up with our Surveyor standing in the back garden working out what it all meant.
                  the problem was that the boundaries shown varied on all 3 plans.
                  the conclusion was that if we imagined that each neighbour wanted to dispute our boundary, they would only be able to dispute the boundary They had with us. And in each case that bit of their plan was more or less correct.

                  so I ask : Why are you bothered about the parents boundary with the parents. Does it impact the boundary you will share with either of them ?


                    Why on earth would you want to live next door to your parents? Sounds an absolute nightmare.

                    The point I can see a problem is when your parents house needs to be sold, any siblings of yours may put pressure on you to give this land back, on the basis it results in a higher selling price.


                      Hello Again,
                      Thank you so much to each and every one of you that have taken your time to reply. It is very much appreciated.
                      I have some more information that has just come to light. I've spent the last few days/night trying to find out what I can to understand what has happened.
                      Just to clarify, there are only 2 houses. My parents and the neighbours next door which is an end of terrace.
                      If you can imagine standing in a garden with 2 kitchen buildings with a gap in the centre both with back doors. All the land contained is registered to my parents.
                      When the neighbouring property comes out of their back kitchen door they are directly stood on our land. It was a concrete block at the time. To access their own garden, they had to step on our land, walk a couple of meters before turning & then being able to reach their own garden.
                      When my parents moved into their house they were informed it was not a shared garden and they still have these details to state so.
                      At the time there was an elderly lady living next door. Even if my parents had been fully aware as to the boundaries no sane person could have said excuse me you can't stand on this land. If they had have done so, the lady would have not been able to reach her own garden and in effect would have had a back door she could not exit and would have been sealed in, apart from her front door. As we live in the country with coal, log deliveries etc this would have been impossible for her/anyone.
                      When the neighbours who live there now moved in, again there is no way my parents could have said stop don't come out of your back door.
                      How would they reach their garden?
                      Anyway, they built a conservatory. No permission was granted nor denied from my parents & it has never been questioned until this day.
                      After spending time looking at this online, I'm beginning to think this must have been an easement/right of way. In fact I'm convinced it was/is. Whilst there is now a conservatory, they still have to step on this land before reaching their own at the other side.
                      I'm pretty confident from old photos and it is also still evident to see today that a right of way has been created at some point by necessity?
                      Over the years my parents have had problems with their drain and were informed that they might have to dig under next doors conservatory which would be very expensive.
                      I'm also aware that a right of way should be of benefit to the person using it and to the landowner. This obviously has not been the case.
                      I can't help but think it was the responsibility of the neighbour doing the building to check. Surely the onus would not lie with my parents.
                      As the potential buyer of this property I would like to protect my own interests and that of my parents. This is why I feel so confused on what to do.
                      We are awaiting our survey report but he already flagged issues with us and said he believed it was worth at least £10,000 less than what they are asking.
                      We really like the property but the survey alone makes us think it is overpriced. We know if we purchased it would make the boundary issue almost disappear as we could possibly resolve with my parents. However it feels like I would be paying for someone else's mistakes?
                      Sorry to rant


                        The possible scenario you describe sounds plausible. However, I never came across a scenario like it in 30 years of conveyancing. Odd things do though happen in the country where property boundaries are not aways as organised as they are in towns. It is possible that the two properties were once part of a farm belonging to the same farmer. If that is the case, the properties would not have been built with a view to being sold and may have been laid out unconventionally without anyone worrying where one garden began and another ended.

                        Since it would be unusual (certainly in a town) for a property owner to need a right of way to get to his own back garden, I think that it would be quite natural for the neighbours to assume that they owned the land which gave them access to their back garden. It seems that your parents believed the neighbours were building on their own land as they would surely have objected if they thought the neighbours were encroaching significantly. So it is beginning to look like there was indeed a mistake, but that the mistake was made both your parents and the neighbours. Since the mistake looks like it was innocent there is no guilty party and not really any moral issue involved.

                        Whatever the position, if it is indeed the case that part of the conservatory is built on land which, according to the Land Registry plan, belongs to your parents, given all the circumstances I cannot see any court denying the neighbours the land. Since the neighbours effectively own the whole conservatory your parents do not in practice have any interest for you to defend. It would be reasonable to ask for a reduction to cover the expense of making good the title to the property, but otherwise I cannot see that any further reduction can be justified. There is though no harm asking on the basis that if you do not ask you not get. As I suggested above, if the neighbours are sensible they will realise that you are the ideal purchaser. If they sell to anyone else they are going to have to pay to get the mess sorted.


                          However, it has now come to light that next doors conservatory (which has stood for 15-20 years) is on my parents land.
                          it was also stated that your parents bought their property 25 years ago, so that it is registered.
                          Schedule 6 of the Land Registration Act 2002 will be the legislation that decides whether the neighbours have been in adverse possession of the property.

                          Part of the land now covered by a conservatory was built over the right of way that was the legal interest purchased along with the legal estate in the property.
                          What has come to light now is that there is a dispute about the amount of land that can legally be transferred by the vendor of the neighbouring house, Specifically the land that was originally granted as a right of way.

                          Has it been made clear to the Vendors that there is a legal dispute about the land in their title.

                          Once that is confirmed there will be an obligation that any future prospective purchaser will have to be informed about the dispute.

                          That is why a buyer such as the child of the neighbouring house owner has an opportunity that no other prospective buyer will have.

                          That is why negotiations regarding a lower purchase price will need to be started as soon as the written confirmation of a dispute has been provided to the Vendors by your parents' solicitor.

                          The cost of a having a single letter sent by your parents' solicitor would need to be covered by you, but that ought to give you a stronger negotiating position to reduce the amount of money needed to complete the purchase of the Vendor's property, which will be the subject of a legal dispute.


                            Thanks again guys for all your time and help. I think our decision has been made for us. We were awaiting our surveyors report which the vendors were aware of. They've been in touch today to say they have received another offer for the full asking price and want our decision by 9am. Really liked the house, but feel something or someone is telling us its not a good idea.
                            I can feel relief already!
                            Best Regards to you all


                              I'm not buying it re another offer at full price, unless the asking price already very low


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