The Court of Appeal has confirmed that simply putting up a clear sign stating land is private will prevent others from gaining legal rights, like a right to park or a right of way, over the land.
It can be a nuisance if a neighbour or even a third party uses a bit of your land to park, wheel their bins to the street or simply take a shortcut. Apart from the nuisance of it, those people could be gaining a permanent right to do those things if their use goes unchallenged, they do not force their way onto the land and they do not do it secretly over a period of 20 years.
Putting a fence up could solve the problem, but could be costly. Popping out to remonstrate whenever they do it might work (so making clear there is no permission), but occasional remonstration may not be enough to warn people off, so this could be a dangerous option.
Luckily, in Winterburn v Bennett, the Court of Appeal has provided a simple and relatively cost-effective solution; the presence of clearly-visible signs showing the land is private could be enough to confirm that the use of land by others is not allowed without permission.
Mr & Mrs Winterburn, who were arguing that their chip shop customers should be allowed to benefit from a right to park on a neighbouring members’ only club car park, said that they and their customers had ignored the signs which the club had put up for years. They said if the club had been really bothered about enforcing its rights over the land, it would have written to them or got a Court Order against them.
The Court of Appeal disagreed. Simple signs are enough to stop the acquisition of prescriptive rights like these and no further action is required.
Signs must be:
- Clear in their language
- Applicable to the uses which you are trying to stop
- In appropriate places: if there are several entrances onto the land, put a notice at each entrance
- Maintained: a vandalised sign could create problems for you if you leave it defaced or broken.
Here at Myerson we can advise in relation to any issues you may have relating to access rights, trespassers or protecting your land. Please do not hesitate to call a member of the Property or Property Litigation team at Myerson Solicitors on 0161 941 4000 or email us email@example.com and we will be delighted to help.