€70,000 spent on legal fees over an 8.5 by 2m strip of land

Learning how to navigate your way around mapping errors
€70,000 spent on legal fees over an 8.5 by 2m strip of land

Maps were converted to electronic form in the 2005-2010 digital mapping project. It t is possible to rectify any errors that were made. File Picture.  

Recently it was reported that a man spent over €70,000 on legal fees, having lost a court battle over an 8.5 by 2m strip of land.

The man alleged that there was a mapping error when the maps were digitised in 2005 by the Property Registration Authority.

In 2005, the Land Registry announced that all existing paper-based maps would be converted into electronic form over a five-year period in the digital mapping project, which was finalised in 2010.

Where the Land Registry has made an error in respect of the mapping, it is possible to rectify this.

The Property Registration Authority may correct an error that they have made in respect of a map.

Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI) is the national mapping agency of Ireland.

The Property Registration Authority’s website gives guidance in respect of this, and states that OSI maps never indicate legal property boundaries, and they do not show ownership of physical features. 

The Land Registry, when they are mapping, represent the extent of the registered lands by reference to Ordinance Survey Ireland’s topographic map data.

Where a boundary of land is not defined by a physical feature on an OSI map, the Land Registry digitalised it from an electronic or paper map lodged by the applicant for registration purposes.

Given the above, it is of absolute necessity, if you are buying a property, or if property or lands are being transferred to you by a relative, that you instruct an engineer to review the maps, and the maps should be compared to the physical boundaries on the land.

If there is an error on a map in respect of lands that you own, your options are as follows:

- You should investigate this with the Land Registry, and try to ascertain whether it was due to an error made by the Land Registry when mapping. 

In order to do this, you and your solicitor and engineer would need to review the original deeds or instrument when the land was registered and mapped, and you may need to request the instrument from the Land Registry.

If the Land Registry accepts that there was an error made by them, they will arrange for it to be rectified, and they will serve notices on the parties who may be affected by this.

- If it is not due to an error of the Land Registry, but the adjoining landowners agree, and accept that there is an error which should be rectified, you should approach them and ask will they sign a Deed of Rectification, which can be lodged in the Land Registry. 

In this respect, it is advisable you should instruct a solicitor, and the person who is agreeing to the rectification should also obtain legal advice.

- If you believe there is an error, but the Land Registry or the adjoining landowners will not accept this, you may have to consider bringing court proceedings.

If you have been using the land that you are looking to have rectified for a number of years, and you have been using this exclusively for your own use, without objection from the adjoining landowner for in excess of twelve years, you may have a case under a doctrine known as adverse possession or squatter’s rights, and you should seek a solicitor’s advice.

The solicitor will explain the steps that you can take here, including making an application to the Land Registry, and if there is an objection, then you would have to bring court proceedings, which are likely to be brought in the circuit court, depending on the value of the lands.

If you notice an error on a map, it is advisable that you should contract a solicitor for legal advice, and it is always worthwhile trying to speak with your neighbouring landowner to see whether they will agree to rectify the error.

It is also very important that you always instruct an engineer or somebody qualified to read maps, if you are purchasing property.

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