Good Neighbours Win Squatter’s Rights Battle

Neighbours warring over who owned a patch of grass verge outside their homes have run up legal bills of close to £250,000.

The case was finally decided in the Court of Appeal after first going before a judge in 2014.

The ruling serves as a warning to absent property owners who allow neighbours rights over their land.

In this case, Hilary and Edward Kirkby claimed the verge as theirs as they had tended the land as a garden for years.

They moved into their home near Wetherby, West Yorkshire, in 1999.

They agreed they did not own the land but explained they cleared overgrown bushes, brought in 12 tons of topsoil, laid a lawn and made two parking places on the plot.

In 2012, neighbour Marcus Heaney told the couple to stop using the land.

Mrs Kirkby applied to transfer the land into her name, claiming ‘adverse possession’ or ‘squatter’s rights’ as she had openly tended the land for more than 12 years.

The case was heard before the First Tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal both ruled in her favour before the dispute ended in the Court of Appeal.

The court again ruled in Mrs Kirkby’s favour, ending more than four years of legal action.

Mr Heaney’s barrister claimed that she was just a good neighbour and did not have enough evidence to show she had a right to the land.

"It would be a sad day for the law if the courts were to attach too much legal significance to acts which pass for nothing between good neighbours," he told the court.

"Adjoining owners would have to be constantly on the watch in case their rights were infringed."

Lord Justice Sales turned down the arguments to appeal, giving Mrs Kirkby ownership of the verge.

"It cannot properly be said that the appeal would raise an important point of principle or practise," the judge said. "Nor do I consider there is some other compelling reason for the Court of Appeal to hear this case."

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