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Neighbour stole our woodland?

(983 Posts)
TwittleBee Sun 27-Jan-19 07:00:13

Our DGrandad left me and my sister his woodland when he passed away a few years ago. It isn't anything that special (as in its not protected and hasn't any distinguished species) but does have a TPO on a couple of trees. It is a place that my sister and I visit occasionally and thought that perhaps we could use it as a place to "wild camp" with the kids this summer for a few weekends. Even had insipiration from what George Clark created in a piece of woodland in his series Amazing Spaces and thought maybe one day with enough money we could do the same.

Anyway, we went down there this weekend to have a look to see if we could maybe clear a patch for a good tent destination, Thought it be good to do this now before everything starts flourishing in the spring.

To our shock it's all been fenced off and there has been some very obvious clearing of trees and shrubs! We knocked on the nearest house to ask what's happened to our woodland and the couple that lived there informed us that they have now taken it as their own and have started keeping it in order for past couple months. They said that it now makes our land legally theirs?

Obviously we shall be seeking legal advice but in the meantime, can what they claim actually be correct?

Just seems so unfair? Surely that would mean I could just fence off any land and claim it as my own?

Happilyacceptingcookies Sun 27-Jan-19 07:05:08

Was the woodland actually in the deeds of the house? Do you have legal evidence from the will of a contract saying it was handed to you and your sister? If so I find it really bizarre that your neighbours have claimed it. I don't think they can have squatting rights there. What would stop any of us arbitrarily moving our fences around our neighbours gardens! When you have sought legal advice ask them if you are owes anything in damages from the neighbours if they cut trees down.

WoogleCone Sun 27-Jan-19 07:07:50

I'm pretty sure you have to maintaining it without fences etc for at least a couple of years before you can claim it as your own.

There's a patch of land behind DMs house and DSF has been keeping it neat for about three years now in the hope of claiming it legally. Another neighbour tried to do the same but fencing it off and was caught out and told to remove it.

Definitely seek legal advice!

DroningOn Sun 27-Jan-19 07:09:48

Speak to the solicitor who dealt with the, estate

SassyPants Sun 27-Jan-19 07:10:05

They're misinformed. Adverse possession has a whole host of requirements not the least of which is that they possess the land for ten years, then apply for a transfer which requires notice being given to the legal owner who then had two years to initiate proceedings for them to be removed from the land. Sticking up a fence and doing what they want with the property for a couple of months is not even nearly sufficient; it does, however, potentially have both civil and criminal implications for them.

They're in for a nasty shock if you can prove they've removed trees and shrubs. Get thee to a lawyer and ask about an action for trespass to land.

TinselTimes Sun 27-Jan-19 07:10:47

They’d need to be maintaining it and keeping everybody else out for much longer to be able to claim adverse possession - I think ten years or so?
Definitely take legal advice.

homeishere Sun 27-Jan-19 07:11:30

They can’t just steal your land. They sound deranged.

Having said that, I’d get the land assessed for its value (for example, could you get planning permission for a property etc on it?). Then make a decision to develop it or offer it at market value to your neighbours (first refusal) then widen it to the open market.

eurochick Sun 27-Jan-19 07:12:01

They are wrong. Get a lawyer involved ASAP.

Unhomme Sun 27-Jan-19 07:12:21

It sounds like they are seeking to claim adverse posession which effectively means they deny access to the land and claim as their own, but after a few months their claim is very flimsy. Definitely seek legal advice from a conveyancing expert in order to protect your rights.

DrWhoLovesMe Sun 27-Jan-19 07:17:27

Ooh CF neighbour to another level. Other op make sense, obviously you don’t “maintain” woodland as such, and wouldn’t have been there so much over winter months. They’re being ridiculous. I do hope you have deeds and all official paperwork op. I’ll be coming back to hear about you changing the locks on the gate, and them selling their house to escape the shame.

DrWhoLovesMe Sun 27-Jan-19 07:18:23

* other pp. sorry

Mylovelies Sun 27-Jan-19 07:18:27

Ok. We had this on part of a property. No such thing as 'squatter' s rights' anymore in UK. One can only first claim 'Possesory Title', which you have granted through the Land Registry and which you have to keep, unchallenged by other inteested parties, for 12 years, before you can claim 'Absolute' title, again, from the Land Registry.
Tidying or fencing off land could be a precursor to claiming Possesory title with the idea of demonstrating to the Land Registry that it's only been you using the site for x number of years.
Basucally, if you dont have title, Possesory or Absolute, it's not yours. Do you have the Deeds?
Google 'Land Registry UK'.

TwittleBee Sun 27-Jan-19 07:20:57

Should have said it is in green belt land so not exactly ideal for development. It is in a lovely location though for bit of wild camping / holiday woodland shack if we could ever get permission for that.

Yes we have the deeds to the land, clearly shows when it was given to us etc. Our family solicitor dealt with it so we will go back to him. Or should we seek a planning/property solicitor?

Minniemountain Sun 27-Jan-19 07:21:57

"No it isn't". Then find a property litigation solicitor to explain to them precisely what offences they have committed.

Land Registry Practice Guides 4 and 5 set out how to claim "squatters rights". It's not easy.

Mummyoflittledragon Sun 27-Jan-19 07:22:43

No it isn’t that easy otherwise I could just take my neighbours garden. Nice try though hmm. Good luck with getting your land back and trees reinstated. Have they cut down the trees with tpos?

DroningOn Sun 27-Jan-19 07:23:38

Family solicitor. I'd have thought a strongly worded letter from them might just do the trick.

TwittleBee Sun 27-Jan-19 07:25:30

Not sure because we couldn't really get onto out land due to the fence and we don't have the TPO to hand Mummyoflittledragon

Stevienickssleeves Sun 27-Jan-19 07:28:14

You need an arborist to give you a valuation for replacing the trees and shrubs they cleared as they owe you for this. Definitely engage a solicitor

WhirlwindHugs Sun 27-Jan-19 07:28:51

Go back over there are rip the fence up, it's your land, they had no right to put it there.

SlipperyLizard Sun 27-Jan-19 07:29:33

I’d start with my own strongly worded letter (the law of adverse possession is clear, telling them the law, that they have 1 week (or other short period) to remove their fences and return the land to its previous boundary or you will remove them yourself and dispose of them.

Don’t waste a few hundred quid without trying a DIY approach. If they ignore the letter, go in yourselves and remove their fences - the purpose of getting them to do it is simply to save you the effort!

FraxinusExcelsior Sun 27-Jan-19 07:30:23

PP is correct - they are trying to gain Possessory Title. If they had been doing this for 12 years without you noticing, you'd be in trouble.

However, all they have done is vandalism and left their possessions on your land.

Pull all the fences up and return them to them (pay someone to help if necessary) with a PA message saying that you believe they left some of their things on your land, and you are returning them.

AloneLonelyLoner Sun 27-Jan-19 07:30:31

I’m getting stressed for you reading this! Outrageous CFery. Get to your solicitor on Monday.

SlipperyLizard Sun 27-Jan-19 07:30:45

The relevant local council should have details of the TPO on its website (ours does at least).

Minniemountain Sun 27-Jan-19 07:30:54

If the firm who dealt with your DGF's estate has a property litigation solicitor ask them to do it. If not you want a property solicitor there rather than the probate solicitor.

You might want to scare them a bit in the meantime by pointing out that cutting a tree with a TPO is an offence, so you hope they haven't done that.

EssentialHummus Sun 27-Jan-19 07:32:01

Straight back to your lawyer. Please don’t diy it - the wrong wording and you could inadvertently acknowledge or grant them some right or licence. Fuckers.

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