My advice to buyers

Get a professional surveyor, engineer or architect to check the boundaries on the map against what is physically on the ground. Check where the water and access to the property come from. A map is given to the buyer’s solicitor with the contract and this should be given to the surveyor going the boundary check. Errors in ownership boundaries are very common and often only come to light when the property is being sold. Often the sellers are not aware that their boundary maps are wrong until the buyers surveyor has been out to check. It is very important that this is done before a contract is signed. 


Property Boundary Maps

The Property Registration Authority (PRAI) is the responsible authority for registering property  titles in Ireland. However, the maps used by the PRAI to indicate the locations of the registered  titles  are based on a non-conclusive boundary system. This places an onus on purchasers to carry out all the necessary due diligence to establish the position in relation to boundaries. The PRAI  uses  a red line to indicate freehold titles and green line to indicate leasehold titles on maps. The base map used is the most recently published Ordnance Survey (OSi) maps. The OSI map indicates physical features only, including physical boundaries such as walls, hedges, fences, and streams, etc. The PRAI red and green lines may or  may not coincide with the OSI lines but the PRAI lines do not define the legal boundary irrespective of whether or not they coincide with the OSi boundaries.


Differences between descriptions of property in deeds or deed maps and the actual locations of physical boundaries on the ground are likely to be problematic if a boundary dispute arises in the future and may be the actual case of a boundary dispute. In some such cases, claims of adverse possession may result in the loss of part of the property.

Purchasers need to be well informed about all issues, including boundaries, before signing Contracts. The Geomatics Surveying Professional Group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland has a guidance document called ” Property and Land Boundaries, A  Property and Land Boundaries, A checklist for Purchasers. ” This checklist contains 16 recommended questions a purchaser should ask pre-contract.


It is recommended by The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland to inspect the physical features of boundaries and question whether the boundary has undergone substantial repair or realignment and if such change has implications in relation to ownership. If a boundary is not represented by a physical feature, this may require additional questioning. Property boundary disputes may not be confined to the boundary,  but can often relate to easements and wayleaves that transverse the property. Disputes also arise in relation to service access points located on boundaries. It is advisable that purchasers examine access junctions manholes watermains valves, electricity installation and other fittings servicing the property. Properties located in urban areas should examine overhanging walls, roofs, balconies from an adjoining property which could encroach on their property. It is prudent to engage a suitable qualified surveyor to conduct a thorough inspection of the report and provide a detailed report before contracts are signed.

Read about this recent High Court case relating to a boundary dispute in Donegal.

Shona Madden Law specialises in property matters.
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