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The Four Golden Rules of Property Disputes

Disputes affecting property, whether commercial, residential or agricultural, can be stressful, costly and, very often, unnecessarily acrimonious. By following these four golden rules from the outset, our litigation team has found that the majority of property disputes are capable of being resolved more swiftly and cost effectively with far less stress to our clients.

Our litigation team are specialists in all property disputes with Paul Dunlop, Principal, and Ben Jones, Associate Solicitor, having extensive knowledge and experience.

1. CHECK YOUR DOCUMENTATION

As soon as a property dispute arises it is good practice to check what deeds you hold. If you don’t hold any documents, check if your mortgage lender or solicitor has access to them. Original deeds are valuable in property disputes and we recommend you keep them even if your property is registered at the Land Registry. In the majority of cases, historic documents are the starting point when establishing each party’s legal position. By reviewing such documents, you can gain a greater understanding of what rights actually exist in relation to the properties involved, rather than starting from what you think the position ought to be.

2. GET ADVICE

Whether or not you have any historic documents, it is vital that you seek professional advice before doing anything. If you don’t, any correspondence you enter into, or actions you take, could harm your position. Some parties take significant steps (such as blocking up an offending access way) before taking professional advice and, in doing so, create a more serious situation than existed at the outset. We are able to review the matter, advise you on the legal position, your options and the consequences.

3. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE COSTS

However simple and “clear cut” a matter may seem, costs can still be considerable, especially if the matter runs to trial. The initial investigation work may involve meeting with you, taking your instructions, reviewing documents, obtaining missing or additional documents from third parties, establishing the “other side’s” position and then advising you. If a matter cannot be resolved quickly you may incur costs instructing an expert surveyor or other professional, paying court fees, mediation fees and barrister’s fees. 

The variables which affect costs are virtually endless and, even in a very strong claim, costs can still be considerable due to the obstinance of another party. We will make sure that we understand your desired outcome and provide practical, as well as legal, advice to help you reach that position as quickly and as cost effectively as possible.

4. MAINTAIN RELATIONS

Even if you have a strong legal position, it is good practice to try to settle the dispute early on. The reason is not just to avoid costs or stress to the parties. Very often with property disputes the parties are neighbours, family or business partners. As such, a dispute can
sour relations and the proximity of the parties can heighten tensions. Trying to compromise can avoid unnecessary stress. Also, if the dispute proceeds to court, trying to settle can help mitigate costs. Remember, litigation is an uncertain process and the outcome
cannot be guaranteed. When negotiating a settlement, the parties have a wider range of outcomes available and know the consequences.

Finally, be nice! Property disputes are factually and legally sensitive and it is all too easy for tensions to run high from an early stage. By dealing with each other reasonably, the parties can avoid the dispute becoming unnecessarily acrimonious. By keeping dealings amicable, parties can conserve costs, save relations and avoid the feeling of their property having been blighted by the dispute.

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