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Neutral Lawyers Well Placed to Defuse Neighbours’ Disputes

Stone wallDisputes between neighbours blight the lives of all involved – but a good lawyer can provide the neutral voice needed to achieve peace. In one case, intractable discord between the owners of two rural homes had serious financial consequences when the sale of one of them at the full asking price fell through.

Couple A owned a country house and adjoining parkland. Couple B were freeholders of a nearby stable block and also owned a boundary wall, a meadow and a stretch of woodland. Following an earlier boundary dispute, the neighbours entered into a settlement agreement which purported to grant couple A pre-emptive rights to purchase the meadow and woodland if couple B decided to sell them.

Couple B wished to sell their property with a view to relocating to New Zealand and had received an offer at the asking price. However, when they got wind of the sale, couple A sought to register notices and a restriction to protect their claimed pre-emptive rights. Couple B’s intended purchaser withdrew as a result.

The matter was ultimately referred to the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) by the Chief Land Registrar. In ruling in couple B’s favour, the FTT described couple A’s intransigent approach as quite extraordinary and noted that they appeared determined to scupper any attempt by their neighbours to sell their property.

Couple A’s purported pre-emptive rights were not capable of being protected by a restriction on the register and were in any event so ambiguous, and lacking in any mechanism or process for enforcement, as to be void. The unilateral restriction and notices that couple A had sought to place on the register were all cancelled. The ruling opened the way for couple B to market their property as they wished.

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