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Buachaill, Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10974
Experience:  Barrister 17 years experience
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My parents own a small holding. It used to be part of a larger

Customer Question

My parents own a small holding. It used to be part of a larger farm but when my grandmother died nearly 15 years ago her part of the farm was sold off after her death in 1999. The people who bought it kept it as an investment, not living on or farming it. Rarely even visiting it. My parents Bungalow & land & the shared drive are all tied up tight legally in the deeds. However there is a small strip of land that my gran gave my parents when they had their bungalow built in 1957. It was given as a frontage to their property for the purpose of parking as the bungalow was built on greenbelt land as a farmworkers dwelling & could not be built at that time facing the highway or with access from the highway. My gran fenced off the rest of her land leaving them that strip. My parents have had sole, undisputed use of that piece of land for nearly 60 years & have been the only people in all that time to tend, maintain, mow grass etc. The person who bought the rest of the farm did so under the full understanding his purchase did not include that piece of land & he left my parents in peace to carry on using it in the belief it was theirs. He died about 3 years later. His estranged wife & 2 sons now own the property. In 2004 whilst tying up his estate they approached us by way of a personal (not solicitor) letter to say they thought they owned the strip of land & were happy we used it for parking during my parents residence at their Bungalow but requested rent. We refused & explained we own it & have sole use of it. It was never mentioned again so we believed there was no problem. Now another 10 years later they have finally shown some interest in using the farm & have begun clearing some of the overgrown land & the now derelict buildings. This brought about a recorded delivery letter from them to my parents (again not a solicitor letter). It gave my parents 12 days to move their cars & stop using the land. I had a conversation with the mother of the boys & explained we were instructing a solicitor to deal with this matter & he would be visiting my parents at their home in a few days as they are in their 80's & both registered disabled & both in ill health, so appointments are held by visits to their home. The day before the solicitor was due to visit & only about 6 days after we received the letter telling us to move our cars in 12 days the 2 brothers turned up with workmen large machinery & JCB's with fork lifts on the front & proceeded to rip up fences, attach chains to cars to drag them off the land, lifted & threw cars with the forklift. Dropped massive tree trunks all around the area to try & block our access. Manhandled & pushed my dad. Trapped me to a car with a fork lift. Taunted & insulted us. My elderly father ended up on the floor many times, I was bear hugged & held in the air so I couldn't get to help him. It was a prolonged attack on us & my parents property lasting about 40 minutes or more until the police arrived. I ended up with a bruised leg, my dad's arm was bruised & bleeding & he ended up collapsed & unable to get up. They are now scared to death, stressed & both become very ill because of this all, They won't leave the house even for medical appointments & are actually planning to sell their beloved home of 60 years out of fear of reprisals. The police tell us now that they cannot charge them with damaging our property as they had the belief that they owned the land & any damage to our vehicles was only as a consequence of them moving our property off their land. Any personal assault was only because we were in the way of them in their efforts to move our property & they had the right to physically restrain us for our own safety. They do not have to remove the obstructions to our access they left on that day, move back our damaged cars, compensate us for any damage & the police tell us they have advised them not to do anything like this again until the ownership of the land is decided by the courts but can not assure us that they can stop them if do try it again. We have now discovered that the strip of land is shown on Land registry as theirs. Not as a defined boundary, but just as it was estimated back in the 1950's when my nan bought it. Naively as my parents had never previously had reason to doubt or defend their ownership of it they had never really thought to check it. Their solicitor has told the police that we have no right to adverse possession as a 'squatter' can only be recognised as such if they occupy a property not a piece of land. Usage of land does not give us any 'squatters' rights even after nearly 60 years!!! And that as we claim we were given the land by my nan that is not adverse possession, even though the Land registry accept 'mistakenly believing land adjoining yours & using it as such' is adverse possession. They are now threatening to come back & move our cars again. My parents are frightened. Where they live is totally rural & they are very alone & vulnerable there.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Buachaill replied 3 years ago.

Buachaill :

1. There are two issues here which need to be dealt with. Firstly, there is the issue of ownership of the land. Here you have a right to ownership of the law by means of the doctrine of estoppel by convention. This basically postulates that if all parties, such as your selves and your grandmother and these people who are her successors in title, act on the basis of assumed facts about ownership, they will not then be allowed to resile or go back on the facts as agreed by everybody. This means that you will obtain title to this strip of land by virtue of the doctrine of estoppel by convention. These successors in title will not be allowed to claim ownership of the land after 60 years as all parties up until this date have acted on the basis that your parents owned this strip of land.

Buachaill :

2. Secondly, there is the issue of the current situation whereby your parents have been ejected and forcibly removed from the land. Here you need to go to your local County Court with the aid of a solicitor and get an injunction preventing and restraining the other parties from forcing you off the land until a determination has been made by the court about the ownership and correcting the Land Registry ownership as it currently stands. So you need to hire a solicitor and barrister and claim damages for the wrongful behaviour of your neighbour and the men they employed to chuck you off the land forcibly. As part of these injunction proceedings you need to claim relief by estoppel by convention and seek the rectification of the Land Registry title so that ownership now vests in your parents.

Buachaill :

3. Ultimately, your parents need to go to court to get ownership of this strip. So the sooner you see a solicitor and get proceedings in being, the better.