What is the 7 year boundary rule in the UK?

sarah ryan
Sarah RyanAccount Manager @ Lawhive & Non-Practising Solicitor
Updated on 25th October 2023

Boundary disputes between neighbours are not uncommon, but they can turn bitter quickly.

If you are in dispute with a neighbour over where your property ends and yours begins, you might have seen references the 7 year boundary rule thrown around.


It is important to understand this rule before moving forward with any kind of legal action in relation to boundary or land disputes, as your initial interpretation of it may not be correct or relevant to your case.

What is the 7 year boundary rule?

The "7 year boundary rule" implies that a person who does not legally own a piece of land can become the legal owner if they have openly used it without challenge by the owner for 7 years.

But this isn’t strictly true. The law on adverse possession is much more complex than that.

In fact, how long you must adversely possess land before claiming the title depends on a number of factors such as whether the claim relates whether or not the land is registered with the land registry and when possession began.

In reality, with all things considered, it’s more likely a person will need to have used a piece of land for either 10 or 12 years before they can claim the title.

Exceptions to the 7 year boundary rule

The 7 year boundary rule doesn’t apply to every case.

For example, if a piece of land is registered with the Land Registry, it can be harder to claim the title using this rule.

Furthermore, if the land is meant for everyone to use (public right of way) this rule can’t be applied either.

It’s also important to note that if the legal owner has already taken legal action to stop you from using their land, then it’s unlikely you could win a boundary dispute using this rule.

When can the 7 year boundary rule be used

To use the 7 year boundary rule to claim eventual ownership of a piece of land, a person must have used it openly and visibly for at least 7 years without challenge from the real owner.

A claimant must also be able to provide evidence of the above. And even then it is not guaranteed they will be successful in their claim.

Here are a few examples where it might apply:

  • Someone may notice unused land and decide to occupy it intentionally to become the owner;

  • It comes to light that part of a property owner’s land is on a neighbours side if a fence or dividing wall is discovered to be in the wrong place. In this situation, the neighbour may be able to gain ownership of the land on their side of the fence.

7 year rule and boundary disputes

As you can see, the law around the 7 year rule, boundary disputes, and adverse possession is complex.

If you and a neighbour are in dispute over a boundary, it’s always worth first having a conversation with them to see if you can reach agreement.

But if you do think you have a claim for adverse possession, then it’s important to seek legal advice from a solicitor in the first instance to truly understand your position in the eyes of the law.

At Lawhive, our team of expert solicitors are on hand to help you solve your neighbour dispute quickly and affordably.

We connect you to experienced lawyers fast, at an affordable and fixed fee. So why wait? Take action now and tell us about your case through our online form.

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