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Hogan Lovells partner and mother lose neighbour dispute

12 May 2010

Graham Huntley, a partner at City firm Hogan Lovells, and his mother are facing a large legal bill after losing a boundary dispute with their neighbours in Claygate, Surrey.

The Huntleys took their case to the Court of Appeal in a dispute over a strip of land in front of their garages that was only 35cm wide.

They argued that if their neighbour, Simon Armes, put up a fence on what he claimed was the dividing line, it would make it difficult for them to move and open the doors of their car.

Delivering judgment in the Court of Appeal in Huntley and Huntley v Armes [2010] EWCA Civ 396, Lord Justice Rimer said the Huntleys argued that the boundary was on a straight line, the “red line” on the map used for the trial, while Armes argued the boundary fell on the slightly kinked “green line”.

Rimer LJ went on: “At present the parties’ adjoining driveways are unfenced, and until 2005, when the dispute erupted, there was a neighbourly element of give and take on both sides which made the precise demarcation of the boundary unnecessary.

“To the extent that the opening of car doors involved a crossing of it, the parties were able to live with such moments of transient trespass.

“But Mr Armes now intends to erect a fence along this front section of the boundary, although he has not done so yet.

“If he is entitled to erect it on the green line, the Huntleys’ assessment is that it will materially impair their motoring manoeuvres, although it also appears that their difficulties in this respect may have been aggravated by their construction a few years ago of a new porch for No 38.

“If, however, they are right that the red line rather than the green line marks the boundary, they will have an extra 35 centimetres or so in the material part of the driveway.

“Although at the rear of the properties the divergence between the competing boundaries becomes ever wider, it is only the problems at the front that have led to this litigation.”

Lord Justice Rimer said he disagreed with the judge at first instance that the green line was the boundary identified in the 1935 conveyance of No 39 Simmil Road, the house belonging to Armes.

However, he said it was clear that the owners of No 39 were in exclusive possession of the disputed triangle from 1935 onwards, so that by about 1950 at the latest they had extinguished the title of the Huntleys’ predecessors to the disputed land by adverse possession.

“While I would respectfully disagree with the judge that the green line marks the original legal boundary between Nos 38 and 39, the judge was entitled to find – and ought to have found, had he addressed himself to the point – that, by the time the matter came before him, the consequence of the prior adverse possession was that the green line marked the present boundary between the properties.

“In my judgment, therefore, although for reasons not identical to those adopted by the judge, he came to the correct decision as to the line of the boundary.”

Rimer LJ dismissed the appeal. Lord Justices Patten and Rix agreed.

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Marriage & Civil partnership