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?
Having just read the land registry’s advice on Adverse Posession I’m astounded that any solicitor has entertained their case when you read this (relating to how to fill in the form for making a claim:
“it must contain confirmation by the squatter that to the best of their knowledge the estate is not, and has not been during the period of adverse possession, subject to a trust (other than one where the interest of each of the beneficiaries is an interest in possession)
note that if, at any point during the period of adverse possession, the registered proprietor at the time (i) was dead and their estate was being administered, (ii) was bankrupt and their property was being administered by the trustee in bankruptcy or (iii) (being a company) was being wound up, the applicant must confirm (not necessarily in the statement of truth or statutory declaration, but in writing) that they wish to proceed with the application despite the fact that there is a view, as explained in the previous section, that in these circumstances a trust arises which prevents an application from being made ”
This isn’t even a point that’s up for debate. This is a rule that the land registry have in place thatabsolutelt does not change regardless of how much maintenance you may or may not have done. The land has been administered as part of an estate within the last 10 years (you said your grandad died 8 years ago?), therefore they have zero grounds for a claim even if they could produce evidence that they had personally named, attended to and trimmed every blade of grass and leaf on the place.
They are raising Cheeky Fuckerness to a whole new level! Given what NoParticularPattern has researched about adverse possession, I don't see how they can possibly win. Let them waste their money. Would you be able to get costs against them?
We definitely need to have that festival, that'll really piss them off.
Brilliant news about the new job, I'm really pleased for you.
You should crowd fund the action MN would see them off 😁
So they’ve moved from “keeping it in order for a couple of months” to ten years? Seriously? I can’t see that they’ve got a leg to stand on. I hope if it goes to court the bullied neighbours will testify against them. As has already been said, they take cheeky fuckery to a stratospheric level.
They will have no proof though will they? Have you photos previously to the fencing? I am packed for a family camping weekend if you are near the Scottish Borders op? We can land for a night at least!!
I'm glad you've got a new job OP
I think their case sounds like total bollocks but I can totally see it's an effort and expense that's the last thing anyone wants, especially over a piece of land you may not derive much use from.
No doubt that is what the CF's are counting on.
Chocolateisfab it doesn't appear they have any proof! They're are just using when they bought their property as proof of how long they've been adjacent to the woodland and thus have maintained it. Sadly, not the Scottish border! Much, much further south!
Yes, completely agree with you NoParticularPattern and that was our understanding too from the start of all this! Which is why I am so surprised that they have a solicitor willing to roll this all out?
This is madness! They can’t possibly win!!
FANTASTIC job and bump news, congratulations
Op please be on stand by to create us a new thread to keep the info going as I don't want to lose the updates on your story (silently cheering you on!)
I would consider going public. Local newspaper may be interested!
@Twittlebee don’t worry too much about their solicitor’s letter. They have paid and engaged a solicitor and told them what to write! Obviously a solicitor won’t write something completely wrong to you, but they will cleverly put their clients case forward. They have been paid by their client to do so. Engage your own solicitor and write a stinker back. I think you’ll find it will go away . . .
Solicitors letter is meaningless. Like most are. Threaten them with a claim of harrassment and use reasonable force if needes OP. Pitch up on the land if you have to.
Ah yes that might explain the odd phrasing Honeypickle . Their letter is very much expressing how all this is CF's desire/ suggestion. I wasn't sure if that's how they would word letters usually though.
Oh jeez, yeah this is filling up. I'll make a new thread tomorrow if need be.
They have written such a load of bullshit I would reply yourselves just with the facts...
I wouldn't assume you'll get an easy win, sadly. The CFs are digging in. Since they've reportedly already gone for intimidation, I'd expect them to lie through their teeth to steal your land as well.
I read a story a couple of decades back about someone who stole land from neighbours, farms, even the highways agency. Producing loads of fake documents for it. It was a long and hard legal battle to stop the land thief.
I'm amused that they've offered to buy your land for a nominal sum "as a token of goodwill." Snort. How very magnanimous of them (not!). The fact that they've offered to buy it at all suggests to me that they know they are trying their luck with the adverse possession rubbish.
Please please don't let them buy it! At least not unless you really want to sell and they are prepared to pay you what the land is actually worth.
I don't see how this could turn into a long expensive battle? Surely no court in the land would give them the time of day.
Personally I'd represent myself. They can't prove adverse possession and surely they need to. Otherwise anyone could take over their neighbours garden and say they've been looking after it for ten years?
Wow, what has your solicitor said?
Congrats on the baby and new job
A nominal cost as it's "just" woodland?! Woodland can be so expensive! Many thousand! Woods4sale.co.uk shows just how expensive it can be!
If I was you I'd start using the land, get friends, family, MNetters to camp there.
These folk are bullies and think they can get their own way, for all you know they drew up the letter themselves. Your solicitor will surely rebuke their malarkey.
A nominal cost as it's "just" woodland?!
Indeed. If it’s just woodland then why are you so desperate to get your thieving little paws on it?
Wondering now if maybe they have plans to extend their current house as they really have cleared a lot more on the side closer to their house. But then again, I suppose that would be the side they would use more.
"Proving Exclusive Possession
The person claiming adverse possession must first of all be able to prove they had exclusive possession of the property or land for the minimum required timeframe as stated earlier"
"If for example the area was fenced of and only accessible to the claimant this would prove exclusive possession. No other person should have access."
"It must be proven that the land is not used or accessed by others. If land is used by other people then exclusive possession would not apply and a claim for adverse possession cannot be made"
(the above from a solicitors website)
They've obviously read up on the law but they are trying to push the time frame back.
Do you have any photos of a day out there, no matter how little detail, that shows you "using" the land.?
Clearly you can give a list of events/dates when you went for a walk/visited the woodland - how can they prove you weren't there?
I’m really cross on your behalf TwittleBee
They are acting really entitled and grabby!!!
How worrying that this situation has arisen in the first place and you’ve got to spend money on legal advice to fight your corner. You’d think having the deeds etc would be enough to send the cf neighbours packing!!
Great news on your job and bump front
May we have a new thread pls?
Could you check the planning department website (the one that CF would have to apply to in order to extend their property) to see if they have submitted an application to extend their house or add a concrete structure to the land (like a stone/brick shed for example) that would be over the permitted size that they could build without planning permission? Just in case they are planning on extending and are going about things in a strange order.
I guess they’re just hoping you give up like the neighbors
I'm furious for you - stress as well as the cfery. We had to prove adverse possession and it was not a breeze despite the land being fenced for 13 years and it not being on anyone else's title deeds (it was unclaimed) so hope their solicitor is just taking their money and following instructions rAther then thinking they have s good case. Good luck!
What I don’t understand with adverse possession is how you’re allowed to fence off land in the first place.
So you fence it off, so no one else can go on the land and then you can claim possession because no one else has been on the land!
OP, do you have any insurance on the woodland, or is it covered by your household insurance by any chance? Because it may be that you are insured for legal costs.
Do you have any photographs from the past 10 years of your family members at the woodland?
The legal clauses quoted above by a pp would seem to put paid to any claim.
Basically if a solicitor has been instructed by them it doesn’t necessarily mean the solicitor thinks they have a good case, just that the CFs have engaged them to fight a weak case.
I haven't read all the thread OP, apologies, but could the other neighbour who they have taken land off, confirm whether the CF have been using the land for more than 10 years.
This is absolutely unbelievably awful (but I totally believe it!!) OP, I can’t think WHAT they are thinking, what an asshole!!! Can’t believe he has intimidated the others into giving up!!
Congrats on pg and job! Bet the job is a relief!
The other neighbours have said they wouldn't be prepared to stand up in court or give any kind of evidence now.
I suppose I could understand maybe if this was some sort of Village Green or public green space application as we haven't stopped others using the land. We didn't really have an issue if others wanted to pass by or walk their dogs there. What we do have an issue with is CF hoarding it all to himself!
I haven't taken legal cover so no insurance to cover the costs. Pretty sure sister and dad haven't done the same.
Just read the full thread op and oh my what a set of cf neighbours you have! If you have contents insurance you may have legal cover on that. Definitely worth a try
IF they were able to secure the woodland from you and 5he neighbours, do you know how much land they would have in total - including their house and garden?
Am just wondering if theyre planning ahead and hoping to sell the whole lot to a developer for new housing? One neighbour of mine made a tidy sum by selling a small field to a developer for four dwellings, and another neighbour sold a plot of overgrown land behind their garden for a small close of bungalows. It’s amazing what can be slotted into a not huge plot of land, and planning permission for these developments is often given to due long-term targets that authorities need to meet for new housing.
Just a thought, but they could be seeing pound signs as they seem so determined (and have already cleared some trees).
Good luck with keeping going and stopping the CFs.
Ask for advice on the Garden Law website. They have some knowledgeable people and lots of advice on adverse posession. Unless they can prove that they have adversely occupied the land, the claim will fail, they have the burden of proof.
I’d be tempted to go knock down the fence and put my own up. Lock them out
On the insurance issue, if you are allowing people to walk on the land and use the site, it would definitely be worth getting insurance. All it takes is someone to hurt themselves, and you could be faced with a law suit. Or get the gate lock cut off, put your own on, and block access to everyone.
They also can't appropriate the land to build an extension or even turn it into a garden. That requires planning permission.
Frustrating about the neighbours, but I can totally understand their position if they've been physically intimidated and (probably) threatened by the CF neighbours.
What has the solicitor advised? Presumably, even taking their statement of 10 years' maintenance at face value, they still have no claim on the land since its less than 12 years and no attempt to find or contact you or your sister has been made?
Congratulations on the job front OP.
Ask anyone you know who has been on the land for any photos they may have.
Start a file with all the times you can remember visiting.
And yes to asking MN campers to utilise the space!
The information at this link seems to explain the situation quite clearly and to suggest that the neighbour is going to find it pretty hard to get anywhere with their claim. And that is ignoring the point made by a PP about the intervening time the land was part of a deceased's estate:
In the meantime, are you looking to get onto the land for camping/walking etc? In your situation, I would definitely want to find out how I could access my land - surely the fence is a trespass and could be taken down legally by you as the owner, at least before the neighbours actually put in their claim? You wouldn't want to do anything though until you have had advice on your legal position.
Am so cross on your behalf. This takes entitled CF to a new level.
Urgh. I hate people like this. We have some around here that just bully and intimidate and eventually get their way.
You may have your own house insurance that covers the woodland, or your sister/dad
Personally I'd be suing them for trespassing and vandalism!!
Outside of the ownership issues, they are also going to have somehow demonstrate that the land is lawfully residential garden under planning legislation. You can't just use land as garden without the necessary planning permission or certificate of lawfulness.
I can't believe they are still trying this! If it helps to reassure you, I knew a guy who was a pub landlord and had been maintaining a big wearhouse next to his pub for about 15 years, he had recipts and everything showing he had been maintaining it (and i think using it to store beer). The owner was a holding company based outside the UK. The pub landlord tried to get adverse posession and everything was going really well, so well that he had even lined up a buyer for the place after he took ownership.... then land regestry or the courts (I cant remember who) finally tracked down the ultimate owner through the series of companies he had set up to manage his various golbal holdings. He promptly showed up in London and basically just said no its mine you can't have it and the application was denied. So it's very difficult to actually get adverse posession enacted.
I suggest you take the fence down now after the solicitor's letter. What can they do? Once the solicitor starts to get actual facts from yourself and sees your paperwork they will have to back off. They can't win. You need to take immediate action to reclaim your property. Lock them out ASAP. Hire some burly builders this week end. I bet if you explain they will be happy to assist without having your eyes out £££!!.
I've read all Op posts but have only read a few replies so this has probably been said but:
When (and I think it is a matter of when not if) you get your land back I think you'll need some kind of security/surveillance.
No idea how easy that will be out there, but if they're as bad as they seem they may take a "if we can't have it no one will" attitude and either dump stuff or in some other way try to ruin the area. Maybe one of the friendly neighbours will let you install CCTV on their property?So you pay but they also get the benefit of the extra security?
I'd also ask your family to see if their phone records a timeline of where they have been. That should be lots of evidence of regular access and usage by your family since the wood was inherited. I feel very sorry for you nice neighbour, what sort of bullying had gone on there.
This will be an on going problem, it may be worth setting up a property developer who you know, ask them to buy it and let them help you sort it.....
Or can you sell us all few hours inches each, round the boarder with the CF ...
I've been lurking on this thread for a long time but didn't have anything much to add. However, I think that I good and cheap way to progress the matter would be for you to write to their solicitor to state that the land was maintained by your grandfather until his death and that you and your family have continued to use it since inheriting it. Send him a copy of your grandfather's death certificate and grant of probate - they cost about £10 each I think and point out that the woodland was subject to a trust 8 years ago whilst your grandfather's estate was wound up. Any solicitor dealing with an adverse possession case should be aware of the law in this area and should advise their client to back down.
Random thought but have you checked when the Google maps satellite view was left updated and what is on there? If they've only been clearing recently it might provide you with some evidence you can screenshot.
I'm disappointed, Mumsnetters. So much for being a nest of vipers...
The majority here are supporting the legal route (why should OP have to prove she has used her land?) - if somebody attempted to claim your property, most of you would meekly walk away and give your solicitor a call? Am I missing something here? OP clearly owns the land.
OP, I know you've had other stuff going on but this should have been nipped in the bud on the day you noticed the fencing. Since then, the neighbours have been trying to push for a title transfer on the quiet, and successfully intimidated the other neighbour into backing down. And now they are offering you a pittance for the land as "a token of goodwill", implying they are doing you a favour and have more say over the land than you do. Unfortunately, the lack of any meaningful challenge these past few months has given them momentum.
But... it's your land! I wouldn't be farting about with solicitors and letters, being all nicey-nicey and politely asking people to not claim my property. I'd be banging on the neighbours' door and stating they have an hour to start removing the fence or it'll be turned into firewood. No debate, no compromise, no being fobbed off... just "Get
the fuck orf my land!"
These people are clearly hoping that you will just give up without a fight, but (and sorry if this seems harsh) part of the reason they are being CFs is because you are allowing them to get away with it. Do now, what you should have done back in January...
Congrats on your job @Twittlebee and absolutely gobsmacked at the update.
This thread is stressing me out! Why should you have to pay lawyers and be out of pocket to prove what you own, when you have the proper documentation!!!!
These people are chancer CF's of the highest order. Do not let them win OP.
Can you not say YOU have been maintaining it for the last 10 years and there was no evidence of them anywhere near it til the fence went up?
Malpa has a point OP. It sounds like the CF'ers are relying on you meekly backing down.
Tear down their fences - have you the muscle/friends to do it ?
Tear down their fences - have you the muscle/friends to do it ?
Can feel a MN day out building!
Agree with malpa I'd have flattened the fence on day one.
Which is what my SIL did when a local farmer put a shed on a field she and dh own. She drove the quad bike into it and flattened it. Farmer was trying to do the same and claim the field as his own.
OP doesn't need to prove she's been maintaining the woodland for the last ten years because she owns it. You don't have to maintain your land if you don't want to.
Proof of use/maintenance comes for someone trying to claim possession. And the CFs just saying they've been doing it isn't enough. I doubt even having any friends back them up is enough. They would need photos, they'd need receipts for stuff bought such as fencing and evidence from workmen, delivery men that it was for the woodland and this would need to date back at least ten years. They haven't a hope.
Even if they are on OP's land, tearing down the neighbour's fences could constitute criminal damage. Given the neighbours have clearly instructed lawyers, they're probably well aware of this - it doesn't seem like a particularly good idea.
ive followed this from the start and was all for the legal route but these people aren't going to roll over and say 'ahh you got us, that's fine we will play nice'.
Take the fence down. It's your land so the only way they can prove the fence ever existed or belonged to them is receipts that will show it is new.
Plead ignorance 'what fence?' whilst burning the fecker in the background and toasting marshmallows over it.
I would be asking friends of friends localish to that area if they know of erm a certain kind of person that would be happy to remove a few panels at the very least.
Apologies if you have done this, have you rang the land registry for advice? There may be an entry you could put on the register to prevent this, also update your address for service as they will send you notice if adverse possession is applied for. It is my understanding that if you object it will go no further. They have in house lawyers who deal with these cases.
@ciastexzka’s suggestion is a good one check out google maps could you maybe even contact google or find a way to access old ones
What is your next move twittlebee
Could you sell the land to your husband or sister for a nominal rate? Would this count to restart the 10 year legal thing?
10/04/2019 22:46 marfisa
I don't see how this could turn into a long expensive battle? Surely no court in the land would give them the time of day.
If only that was the case. Years ago I worked in a solicitor’s office; there was a case where someone had annexed part of their neighbour’s loft space and made it their own. When the neighbour finally found out and went to court to get his own space back, he lost. Unbelievably. Hopefully this won’t happen to the Op- (and tbh the neighbour’s solicitor was a bit shit).
Can we have a diagram? I need to picture this woodland in my head
as I'm totally over invested
Your woodland could actually be very desirable
profitable for rental from forest school companies or outdoor ranger type parties.
I’ve been following and then I lost the thread. I’m raging for you OP. A woodland is my dream. To have some nasty bully steal it is unthinkable. Really hope this sorts out. It’s not fair.
@FellaGoneRogue OP has posted a diagram earlier in the thread.
Its not merely woodland if it adds value to their house though is it !
I'm with the pp who would just go and remove the fence. Hire a quad bike and trailer and get all the fencing out of there.
What are they going to do exactly? They do not own the land. They have nothing to prove that the fencing is theirs and has been there a long time. Take some hefty mates, and don't back down - if they see you and call the police simply tell the police it's your land (take copies of the deeds with you). Then put your own fencing up, And install security cameras.
Does the local area have it's own Facebook group?
If so, you could put out an appeal for other locals who you have allowed to use the wood to come forward. They may be willing to give evidence to support you, and it would shame the fuckers who are doing this.
Once you've removed the fencing, get in their and spend a week doing some maintenance, coppicing, building wildlife habitats etc. Take lots of photos, post a blog about it online...
That's the kind of evidence you'll need for the future with greedy neighbours like this.
What disgusting pieces of shit your neighbours are to intimidate and bully your other neighbours like that! Wish you could get the police on to them! Urrgh - cant stand bullies!!
Fab fab news about your job - congratulations!!
I would just write back (yourself) to their solicitors and state that the land YOU own is not for sale and that they must remove the fences within the next seven days, failing which you will have them removed and will store them for a fee. Tell them adverse possession is not applicable in this case for the reasons pp have stated (Trust etc).
Say you will firmly challenge any application to the Land Registry. You can ring them yourself and make them aware of the situation. Tell their solicitors that your address for service is........
No need to incur further costs at this stage and you can just get ad hoc legal advice which need not bankrupt you.
I can understand why you do not want the stress op but do move matters on. They will be furious at this response because you have not rolled over.
Fwiw, I think involving other neighbours has limited value because as you have seen, they have disappointed you but that is their decision to make. You are separate and your rights are important here. Good luck.
If they have offered to purchase it, isn't this fatal to the claim of adverse possession? It acknowledges they do not own it.
OP I'm glad you have a new job.
Your solicitor really needs to be taking a hard line. And I'd be inclined to remove the fencing they have left on your land and returning it to them. They are proper CFs!
Hereward quite possibly but not if the correspondence is marked "Without Prejudice". I'd be surprised if their solicitor has dropped the ball on that one but worth double checking OP.
New thread - 1st post answers a few things I hope
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