The plague of many formerly happy neighbourly relationships is the boundary dispute.   Often costly and time consuming, they can be some of the most contested claims moving through the courts.

The High Court has recently decided the case of Charlton & Anor v Forrest & Ors [2024] EWHC 1014 (Ch) which provided a useful reminder of the role of expert evidence in such disputes.  The Claimants alleged that the Defendants had trespassed by cutting down trees that they claimed were in joint ownership, and the Court was asked to determine where the boundary between the parties' properties lay. The conveyance severing the land (which would usually be the starting point when considering where a boundary lies) was long lost. As a result, it was necessary to look at the evidence of any topographical features marking the boundary between the properties which existed at the time of the conveyance when the land was divided into the two parcels. Both parties employed expert building surveyors to prepare reports covering those features, which also reached conclusions as to the location of the boundary.  

The Court ultimately found in favour of the Defendant and the claim in trespass fell away. In giving its decision, the Court made it very clear that, whilst the expert evidence was useful to the extent that it identified and collated potentially relevant evidence, the conclusions reached by the surveyors were not admissible expert opinion.  A cogent reminder that the question of where a boundary lies is a question of fact which is for the Court, and the Court alone, to determine.