Neighbour stole our woodland?(983 Posts)
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?
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.
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!
Speak to the solicitor who dealt with the, estate
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'.
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?
"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.
No it isn’t that easy otherwise I could just take my neighbours garden. Nice try though . Good luck with getting your land back and trees reinstated. Have they cut down the trees with tpos?
Family solicitor. I'd have thought a strongly worded letter from them might just do the trick.
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
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
Go back over there are rip the fence up, it's your land, they had no right to put it there.
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!
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.
I’m getting stressed for you reading this! Outrageous CFery. Get to your solicitor on Monday.
The relevant local council should have details of the TPO on its website (ours does at least).
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.
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.
I think they win today's CF award! You need a solicitors letter, but you also need to inform them that they are paying for the costs of having the trees repaired.
I would also go over today and regain possession. Just remove the section of fence that you need to gain access.
Yes, I have heard this happened to someone, but not in a short period of time. It was left untouched for years by rightful owners.
I would speak to lawyer asap.
If you do go and make access, check with police for advice as the people may try to say criminal damage (although as sure the police won't get involved and say it's a civil issue)
they can’t just claim it as theirs after that short space of time. When you say DGF passed away a few years ago, how long is a few years? Just wondering how many years you have owned it compared to how long they will claim they have looked after it. When did you last visit it and see it was unclaimed by them?
We had this happen to us. Local crazy farmer decided to try and pinch a field we owned. Put a shed up on it and I think a fence. SIL went with the quad bike and demolished the fence and shed. Farmer went loopy. She then showed him the deeds proving it was ours and he shut up. No need for a solicitor.
Personally I wouldn't be nice about it and I wouldn't waste money on a solicitor and I would do something (ie, smash the fence down) today. I'd want them to get the message very quickly that you're not to be messed with.
Oh and the farmer did try going to the police and accusing sil of criminal damage who were totally uninterested.
Wow, just wow. Let us know what you decide to do.
Cool, you've got the Deeds? End of story. Letter from you or your solicitor, should be the end of it. Bless you tho', super stressy.
I think you can attack this 3 ways.
1)Trying to find out for free as much legal side as you can from internet, free advice centre etc.
2)Please speak to the council aswell. ASAP. It never does any harm to have them on your side, alongside any
3)lawyer advice, which let's be honest is always the most expensive option.
We need a timeline, OP. When did your grand-dad die?
And I'd go back ASAP and take some photos, for evidence.
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.
Presumably you responded with "Er, no, you can't do that" ? How did you respond to them.
The law as I know it is as others have stated: 10 years and no legal owner coming forward. One of my friends is hoping to claim land next to their house but they've been waiting since they moved in about 7 years ago. If someone comes forward to claim it they'll have to give it up (which would be annoying as theirs is the only house in the vicinity and the land is right next to their house).
These neighbours are complete CFs!
OP, you can camp out on your own land for 28 days in any year.
Can't you just go back and tell them you have the deeds etc? Didn't you tell them that?
“If someone comes forward to claim it they'll have to give it up (which would be annoying as theirs is the only house in the vicinity and the land is right next to their house). “
How is it annoying if someone ‘claims’ their own land? Why should they have to claim land that belongs to them?
This is crazy! Surely they can't think because they've put a fence around your land it's now theirs?!
Shop the cunts for cutting trees down.
And the CF award goes to.... Lawyer. Sue.
If they have touched the TPO then you/they can be fined up to 20k
Wowsers. To those that seem to know about this... can OP just remove the fence as it's on her land? Is is their fence? Or ok to remove as long as she gives it back to them?
Sounds like one for a solicitor!
Go back round today. Tell them to remove the fence today, 2 months of clearing a woodland does not give them possession. Tell them you have the deeds.
Explain that there are protected trees in there so you will be informing the authorities if they have been touched. You will also be getting a valuation of the trees and plants they have removed from your land which you expect to be reimbursed for. Bet the fence is gone by tonight. Get solicitor to send a letter so this is all on record
"How is it annoying if someone ‘claims’ their own land? Why should they have to claim land that belongs to them?"
Is this the first time that you have been to the land since you were left it "a few years ago", Op?
They are nuts. Let’s us know how you get on
Are you sure they weren't 'tending' to it when your DG was alive?
Your local council will have a tree officer. I would also report it to them so they don’t think it’s you who has chopped the tree down
Contact the Council first and explain the situation.
You don't want to reclaim the land THEN find that they have cut TPO trees and the council hold you - as the owners - responsible
The Tree Officer at the Council will have a copy of the TPO.
Agree what everyone else is saying. They can't just decide to claim it as their own!
Wow cfs! You have some excellent advice from Pps!
I’m not sure you even need to involve a solicitor at this point. Take the deeds with you. Show them to the couple and quote the relevant laws to them (particularly the bit about how long they need to cultivate it before having any chance whatsoever of taking ownership). Remove the fence & return it to them (although I’d be putting up my own fence sharpish). If they kick off, call the police.
And, although you shouldn’t have to, maybe keep a better eye on it in the future as this couple sound crazy.
When did your GF pass?
What did you say to them when they declared the land as there's?
You should be able to check which trees are subject to tpo's online on council website. For how lng has it not had attention? Is it accessible to public or have footpaths?
I would go with a strongly worded solicitors letter, telling them to GTFO!
Contact the Council first and explain the situation.
You don't want to reclaim the land THEN find that they have cut TPO trees and the council hold you - as the owners - responsible
You can be fined up to £20k for cutting down or damaging a tree with a TPO on it.....
That's very cheeky. Can you go back today with the deeds to show them you own the land?
How long it since they put the fence up?
Go back and take pictures.
Do you have any pictures of what it looked like before?
Does natural woodland need ‘tending to’?
Ok you can do things like coppice it and clear certain undergrowth, but supppse it is your wish to just leave it be?
Jesus, the balls of them! Raging just reading this!!!
It's a bit of a misconception that you just need to leave woodlands alone. Small woods especially do need to be maintained to keep them healthy. This often involves removing trees and can often look quite brutal! Fir example, if all the trees are similar age, it benefits the overall ecology to remove some and replant with young trees to keep a good mix of ages.
Also opening up small areas means that more sunlight reaches the woodland floor, enabling ground flora to flourish. Natural succession in these open areas will eventually lead to trees growing up and regenerating the woodland naturally.
Then there is coppicing, which provides useful wood for the owner and prolongs the life of the trees.
All of this work happens over winter when the trees are dormant.
Obviously removing trees with TPOs is another matter!
If you haven't already, you could join the Small Woods Association, a wealth of knowledge on managing small areas of woodland. They may also be able to advise on your current situation?
Hope they haven't done too much damage OP! And hope it isn't too much of a headache to reclaim your woods. I have some experience of adverse possession and all the advice you have had here so far is correct. They haven't got a leg to stand on.
What deadbudget says. No its not theres and they need to pay to replace trees. Remove fencing and put own up and talk to lawyner and report damage to local council.
Surveyor here. They need to be prove they have been using the land for 12 years to make a claim. Or walking through it as a shortcut etc for 20 to claim the right to continue to do that.
They are stealing. Why do these people not understand this. Tell them you will be taking legal action against them.
It takes 10 years for adverse possession ( I’m no expert, your solicitor will advise). This is outrageous and you need to claim back your land.
They are entitled CFs
How dare they? The cheek of some people! I hope you get sorted OP. 💐
Similar happened to my uncle a few years back. Long story short reported to council and got lawyers involved and he won. The neighbour was also ordered to pay his legal fees. It’s annoying but find a lawyer now- the threat of legal action might make them think twice. Massive pain but if you have the deeds it will be ruled in your favour if it goes to court.
Laminate some notices that say
«Notice of intent to remove fence on «your property address» and reinstate to original condition. «
And attach to fence.
Thoroughly document the fence
Write a letter that says that you will be removing the fence ASAP, because it is on your property , and billing them for it’s removal.
Ask them to cease and desist their actions on your land. And state your intention to instruct a solicitor to pursue them for damages to your woodland.
I'm skimmed the thread, but has anyone sent you to garden law yet? www.gardenlaw.co.uk/phpBB2/index.php
Although I would guess they will suggest 'self remedy'. Ie remove the fences. Get them to prove they have a right to be there, not vice versa.
Go and see a solicitor asap.
Depending on what they say go back to the CFs, say you have seen a solicitor, and whatever misapprehension they were under it is your land and they have no rights to be on it.
Go back lots and make your camping plans.
If they resist, follow through with solicitors letter / action.
Camping in the woods will be lovely. You do not want aggro from neighbours. They could get up to all disingenuous nonsense like calling the police about ‘people in the woods ‘ (in some areas illegal migrants make camps in woods), noise, calling the fire brigade about your campfire (‘fire in the woods ‘).
Give them the get out of ‘it was all a misunderstanding’ and go legal nuclear if they don’t take it.
If they have been accessing the land for years, while your DGD was alive do seek advice, legal advice, before doing snytnkngu.
The reason lawyers are expensive is because they and ultimately they alone in honest situations, have the means to protect what is yours. If they have been snnmng this for ages, like the CF friends of a PP, it will be in their interests to get a lawyer, as they stand to gain £Ks worth of land. So you talk to a lawyer before they do!
Do as said above. The other week a man who had lived in someone else's house for 20 years was given title to it which surprised me as I vaguely remembered the law on adverse possession had changed.
If it applies at all they need to have taken it over for a longer period than your "few years". First buy at the Land Registry your deeds to show ownership. Then you or ideally your solicitor should write to them telling them to remove their fence etc. I would also go down there next week with a new sign and erect it saying Private Property or something along those lines. If the new fences are quite useful and will keep other intruders out I suppose you could offer to buy them but you need to make it clear the neighbours are not allowed into the wood and you reserve the right to sue them for trespass, taking your trees down etc.
contact solicitor first thing tomorrow and then the council. Prior to your visit yesterday when was the last time you visited and when was the last time you did anything there eg tree work? Do you have a receipt for any tree work you did that proves you were maintaining it within the last 10 years. I think they are beyond cf!
Lawyer obviously for the land issue, then shop them to your local council tree officer for the damage to the TPO trees. If they have taken any of them down it’s an up to 20k fine PER TREE www.eden.gov.uk/planning-and-building/trees/protecting-trees/tree-preservation-orders/
You don’t want that fine!
Okay so time line
DG died about 8 years ago now
We visit that woodland regularly, like once every couple months just to walk about with the dogs and check on the land. We haven't ever seen anyone else on it as we had a private property sign on road access to it
But we didn't go and visit it since November as Xmas etc in the way so i think the fence has been up since then and tbat was what the neighbours said.
We did tell them we had the deeds to the land but they said that didn't mean anything as they now looked after it and had fenced it?
The only thing you can do here is get legal advice OP, but I don't think they can claim it just by chucking a fence around it.
Also, find out when they purchased the house (will be online, just search the address and will show when last purchased) if they haven't lived there for 12 years +, that is your proof they haven't been tending to it for that long
This happened to us too. It was a piece of land owned by my DF. He was ill with cancer for 3 years so didn't go over there in that time and it was a while before we got there after he died. The neighbours had 'added' it to their garden and were growing veg. had kids play equipment on it etc. Apparently, they have to have made an effort to find out who owned the land before doing it and then be on it for 12 years so we got our land back. They were definitely cheeky fuckers.
They are batshit. I don't know how you've resisted temptation to smash the fence down there and then! Maybe you should put a fence round their garden and tell them it's now yours and their deeds mean fuck all? See how they like it!
I think you should host a Mumsnet mass dog walk in your woodland!
I’m furious on your behalf. Rally some friends and get the fence down.
How long have those neighbours lived there?
(You can find out on Zoopla etc)
Are the stumps still there? If so, what diameter are these, how many are there and how tall is the general height of the trees? There may have been a breach of the Forestry Act 1967 (lack of felling licence).
Ask your solicitor whether they have a copy of the TPO. If they don't, search for your local council on Google with the word 'tpo map' and see if they have their tpo's available to download from their website. If not, contact your council and ask for a copy. Tell them that a pdf would be fine. You don't need a paper copy. Some will charge for paper copies but they would have to be particularly tight to charge for pdf's. Check what is protected on the Schedule and where it is on the plan. If its a woodland tpo, everything will be protected within the marked area, no matter its age.
If tpo trees felled, the landowner is responsible for replacement planting however you could reasonably go to the small claims court to abstract money from the neighbours. The council may wish to interview you and your neighbours under caution.
You could attempt to get an arboriculturist to value the missing trees as assets and then present this to the neighbour and threaten them with small claims court.
Once you have confirmed title to the site, carefully remove all of your neighbours items from site, perhaps to their boundary and tell them they have a week to collect otherwise it'll get removed from site.
Good luck with those CF's!
NicoAndTheNiners why stop at the garden? Wait until they have gone out and put a fence around the whole fucking house
Some other neighbours of ours claimed a bit of waste land between their house and ours and there was a definite formal process they had to go through via the Land Registry people. We had a letter from the land registry agency with diagrams, etc saying Mr X of X address wanted to claim the land and they were writing to all close neighbours to see if anyone objected/reckoned that the land was theirs, etc.
I suppose it would help if you got the fence-builders to confess when they built fence, too (you want a precise date). Ideally in an email or something you can try to hold up as objectively sent & dated.
Come to think of it, to fence off even a small woodland is a lot of fencing so whoever supplied the materials will have records of that delivery.
Get your skates on. Don't leave it.
And I believe that people trying to claim land have to have a genuine belief that nobody currently owns/uses the land. The fact you have a private property sign up means that they can't claim this!
You can’t just put up a fence and claim land, like planting a flag in the Wild West!
I’m angry for you too op. They think possession is 9 tenths of the law or whatever. From reading comments from knowledgeable posters it seems you will get it back. In fact you haven’t actually lost it. They have just trespassed on your land.
Get lots of pictures today. Pictures of the fence, trees etc. Can you climb over the fence at all?
Go back to your original solicitor ASAP. He will give advice on best steps to take.
Strike while the irons hot too, get round there this morning then update us. This is pure popcorn bizniss!
Raging for you. I’m sure you’ll get it sorted out.
They'er trying to gain adverse possession. The think they are being clever.
The first steps to gain adverse possession include fencing off and making a social claim to the land. That is what they are doing. But they have skipped the first step... looking for the deeds and a registered owner. If you have those then they are in the public domain and CFers have chosen to ignore them!
It takes 12 years, not 12 weeks, to claim adverse possession. They are just hoping you are thick as a brick and will go away!
As others have said, solicitor, claim for your legal fees, for reinstating the land, taking down the fence (even if you want one), report to the council for the TPO issue and don't stop laughing at them! Show no weakness. CFers like these have no shame and will tell all and sundry that you have robbed them etc. So, as I said, just keep on laughing at them, tell everyone you know how astounded you are that people can be so stupid!
Gosh it’s it’s a long time since I did land law, but the neighbours may be thinking of adverse possession. I think before the system of land registration was properly in force if you could prove you had used and maintained the land for over ten years you could claim it was yours. I think land registration made this a lot harder tho.
Obviously putting a fence for a couple of months means nothing in this context and if they have been removing timber from the wood without permission then you may have a claim against them.
Hold on so all we have to do is fence round a piece of land that we want and it's ours
Anyone else going to be waiting outside b&q for fence panels when it opens
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