Ownership of properties registered in the Land Registry can, often times, appear to reach out to the middle of the roadway abutting that property.
This can lead to the, quite understandable, query as to whether the registered owner of a property owns the land extending out to the middle of the public road which abuts it or, regardless of what the Land Registry's maps indicate, whether or not ownership is limited to the physical boundary of the property itself.
The answer to that question can be found in Section 85 of the Registration of Title Act, 1964 (amended by Section 62 of the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006 and Rule 8 (2) of the Land Registration Rules 2012) which determines that neither the description of a property in a register, or its identification by reference to a Registry map, is conclusive as to boundaries or extent.
In other words, the Land Registry's maps are intended as ‘General Index Maps’ only and serve to identify properties, not boundaries. While title shown on a property's folio is guaranteed by the State, this State Guarantee does not extend to the boundaries of that property.
This rule is known as the 'General Boundaries Rule'. While boundaries may, at times, appear to reach out to the middle of its abutting road, it is generally taken that a property Owner's title extends only as far as that property's own boundary, fence, gate, hedgerow etc. This is, of course, unless a property owner can provide evidence to the contrary.
In practice, what might be the effect of the General Boundaries Rule vis-à-vis liability, damage etc.? The position is somewhat moot where the local authority has taken the roads and services in charge. The taking in charge of roads does not confer any ownership or proprietary rights on the Local Authority, but it does impose statutory restrictions on anyone, to include the registered owner, interfering with public access.
The situation becomes potentially more problematic where the roadway in question is a private rural lane, not taken in charge. A property owner whose folio indicates ownership extending out to the middle of the abutting road might believe themselves entitled to hinder access or passage along that stretch of roadway he believes to be his. However, such an action would inevitably result in that owner's neighbours seeking injunctive relief for the interference they suffer regarding their right to use the roadway, a right of way which they would have acquired by virtue of long user. A right, indeed, similar to the one the property owner in question will likely have acquired over his neighbours' respective folios also. To this end, the logic behind the State Guarantee and General Boundaries Rule becomes clear in that the appearance of ownership beyond ones hedgerows should not be taken as conclusive evidence of title, and certainly should not be used to support the assertion that roads and paths used in common with others over a long period of time can be blocked, impeded or otherwise interfered with under the guise of ownership.
In summary, that the boundaries of a property, as per the Land Registry Map, extend out and encompass half of the adjoining roadway cannot, and should not, be taken as conclusive evidence of beneficial ownership. While evidence of the extent of a property's boundary may be provided, a property Owner should not rely solely on the Land Registry maps to in determining the extent of their ownership.
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