Melissa Kite

Real life | 26 January 2017

No one has disputed it in 70 years, so why can’t she do the sensible thing and just ignore it

Real life | 26 January 2017
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The problem holding up my house move turns out to be a wiggle. Have you ever had a wiggle? It sounds jolly enough but, believe me, you don’t want to go there. If you have a wiggle in your garden, you had better be prepared for the worst.

I had no idea about this wiggle, because when I bought the flat I only had my lawyer scrutinise the Land Registry documents to a normal degree, which is to say I asked him if everything was broadly all right, and when he confirmed that it was I told him to proceed.

I have lived in the flat quite happily since 2002 and I have never had any trouble at all with the boundary lines.

I fix the garden fencing one side, the neighbour takes care of the other. The fence to the right, which is my neighbours’, does rather bend and groan under the strain of the creeping ivy and it needs redoing, in truth. But as it’s still standing and perfectly functional I really can’t be bothered to make a song and dance about it. Halfway down, where I keep a barbecue, the fence line sort of juts slightly into his garden. It wiggles. Then it goes straight again.

The wiggle gives me an extra few square feet of garden. I have never noticed the wiggle very much or thought that deeply about it. As the wiggle favours me, it has never occurred to me to scrutinise the Land Registry documents to verify the wiggle’s official status. What could possibly be gained by this?

During the time I have lived in the flat, two owners have owned the next-door property and neither of them has ever questioned the wiggle either, despite the fact that the wiggle deprives them of a few square feet of garden.

They seemed, and still do seem, oblivious to the wiggle. But not so the purchaser of my flat. She has instructed her lawyers, apparently, to subject every detail of this transaction to the sort of conveyancing rigour you would expect during a multibillion pound property deal involving a mansion block on Knightsbridge. As such she is asking me some pretty searching questions about the wiggle. Am I aware, her lawyers ask my lawyers, that the wiggle in the fence line is not reflected in the drawings of the property at the Land Registry? That’s right. There is no wiggle where the coloured marker pen depicts the boundary. Just a straight line. Pause for horrified gasps.

What’s more, her lawyers intone severely, with ill-disguised contempt for our slapdash disregard for wiggles, I must resolve this matter ‘by close of play Friday’ or their client is pulling out.

Crikey! I had better get a wiggle on sorting out this wiggle.

When I rang my solicitor he was tearing his hair out. He warned me the wiggle was threatening to put my legal bills through the roof. It would take months to convince the Land Registry to change the official drawings. But aside from that, why did they want to bring the wiggle to anyone’s attention anyway?

So far as he can tell, no one has disputed the wiggle in at least 70 years. The most likely explanation for it is that whoever did the drawing simply made a mistake with their marker pen.

Either that, or a neighbour did the fencing wrong and gave me a wiggle when they didn’t mean to give me a wiggle.

In any case, nothing was to be gained from pointing out the wiggle. Did the purchasers understand this?

I am afraid I have reached the view that the purchasers don’t understand anything. They have been demanding I produce every slip of paper ever issued to me by British Gas engineers when they’ve serviced my boiler.

When I try to explain that I’ve chucked them all in the bin because the service history is held on the computer, and that British Gas will happily confirm that the boiler has been serviced every year and is in full working order, they say that is no good. They want the slips of paper.

Yes, I say, but the slips of paper are long gone. Can we not be reasonable about this?

No, they say, we want the slips of paper. Then the next day they demand that I allow a structural engineer entry to conduct a third survey, this time on the back kitchen wall, where the purchaser intends to fit a bifold door.

But the boiler is on that wall, I protest. If the purchaser is knocking out the boiler to fit a bifold door, why do they want 13 slips of paper showing the boiler service history?

They don’t answer. But I suspect I know why. Because the legal process wants what it wants.