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Boundary Disputes and French Property

Disputes over property boundaries are not uncommon in France, but you can oblige your neighbour settle the boundary.

If you neighbour ignores the limits of their property, or you are unclear on the limits of your own, then it is possible to engage a legal process in which the boundary limits are determined by a court of law.

Such a process is called bornage judiciaire (or bornage forcé), and becomes necessary most frequently where your neighbour is unwilling to enter into a voluntary joint process to settle the boundary.

This may be either because they are unwilling to share the costs involved, because they fear the outcome of the review, or simply out of sheer obstinacy or inertia!

In this respect it is important to note that the boundaries as recorded on the French land registry, the cadastre, are not definitive.

The cadastre merely gives an approximate indication of the boundaries, and it is unusual for the deeds themselves to specify features or measurements that define the precise limits of the property.

So if you are buying French property, and you are unclear about the boundaries it may be best at the outset that you engage a land surveyor (géomètre), to verify the boundaries, although there is no guarantee your neighbour will cooperate or share the costs!

In the event that you later need to invoke the force of law then you will also need to consult a local huissier, a quasi public official who may be best described as a bailiff. It would be their responsibility to formally request a hearing in the court and to also serve papers on your neighbour.

In the case of a bornage forcé the court will normally appoint their own géomètre in order that an independent assessment of the boundaries can be carried out.

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This article was featured in our Newsletter dated 03/09/2014

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