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To gauge an understanding of how boundaries are perceived in Ireland by landowners

Author - Daragh O'Brien, Dr. Patrick Prendergast


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8.1 Validity of Results

Probability theory and random sampling help to avoid biases in survey results, but this was not used for this survey due to difficulties involved with targeting respondents. Convenience sampling was used instead to specifically target owners of Irish properties. These results apply to landowners rather than the general public.

The Land Registry state that they have 1.8 million registered properties and they also estimate that the Registry of Deeds contains another 15% of properties (270,000), which indicates a total of 2,070,000 properties in the State as compared to a total population of 4,450,000 determined by the 2006 census (CSO, 2006). There are no statistics available yet to break down these properties into urban and rural, so for the purposes of this research the total figure has been split in half for urban and rural areas. Figure 6

The validity of this research was checked using the statistical tool available at http://www.relevantinsights.com/research-tools. A confidence level of 90% and a margin error of ±10% were adopted for the survey. This means that if the survey is completed 100 times, the answer to any question can be expected to vary between the chosen margin of error in 90 out of 100 times. For both surveys the margin of error was larger than planned at ±13.0% and ±12.4% respectively due to the relatively small size of the sample, while the margin of error for both surveys combined was within the adopted tolerance at ±8.9%.

8.2 Respondents

Forty-five respondents completed the rural questionnaire, which included Irish property owners from Qatar, United Kingdom, Netherlands and the United States of America. Forty-one respondents completed the urban questionnaire and some respondents were from United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America. Figure 7

8.3 Registered Property

According to O’Sullivan (2007) there are 2.5 million parcels of land in Ireland are registered with the PRA. The other unregistered land is presumed to be with the Registry of Deeds, which is due to close in the coming years. The question sought landowners knowledge where their property was registered indicated a divergence of views. The survey indicated that 20% did not have any knowledge of where their property was registered and this applied to both urban and rural respondents. On balance, circa 80% knew that registration on some level was required and over 60% confirmed the Land Registry as the appropriate body to register their property.



Land Registry           67%
Registry of Deeds     13%
Don’t know               20%
Land Registry           61%
Registry of Deeds     18%
Don’t know               21%

8.4 Boundary Features

The features of a boundary are what distinguishes one property from another and are the source of much argument and ambiguity when it comes to a dispute. The difficulties with boundary features are that they are delineated on Ordnance Survey maps; however the actual line of the boundary is not determined or recorded on the maps. Results from the survey were what was generally to be expected with a high proportion of Walls (58%) recorded as boundaries in urban areas in keeping with high density due to the extensive planning and requirements of Local Authority planning conditions to have permanent type of boundary walls in residential development. Urban areas also showed a wide variety of fencing types, 20% where different types of material were used for railing, timber fencing etc. Again in complying with the local development plans in rural areas up to 80% of boundaries were natural, tree lined, hedgerows with timber stud railing in keeping with the natural environment of the countryside. Lines on OSi maps illustrate topographic features however does not define the type of feature. These maps may represent property boundaries or may not. However the PRA use OSi maps without any guarantee on their reliability (Prendergast et al, 2008).



Walls                               58% Other                               22%
Fence                               13%
Trees/Hedgerow                7%

Trees/Hedgerow            57%
Fence                             22%
Wall                               21%
Other                                0%


8.5 Understanding of Non-Conclusive Boundary System

The survey sought to establish if respondents/landowners knew that the Irish land registration system is non-conclusive and that their boundaries and area of their property are not guaranteed by the state. From the survey, over 58% of those surveyed were not aware of the non-conclusive boundary system used in Ireland, which is not a surprise as there is much confusion and misunderstanding on this issue with the public. This is a highly significant figure as uncertainty of the system among rural and urban landowners is very high.  



No                      60%
Yes                     33%
Unsure                 7%

No                   57%
Yes                    28%
Unsure              15%

8.6 Boundaries Checked Before Property Purchased

The survey indicated that greater care was given by urban dwellers (50%) in checking their boundaries prior to purchase of property than rural (40%) owners. A high level (40%) from both urban and rural did not check their boundaries at all, with between 10% – 20% being unsure of any check at all. The results here suggest property owners are very complacent and careless prior to purchase of property and there maybe many regrets at a later stage due to their lackadaisical attendance to this issue.



Yes                       50%
No                        40%
Unsure                  10%

Yes                   40%
 No                    40%
Unsure              20%


8.7 Who Best to Resolve Disputes?

Most people surveyed chose the professionals to sort out disputes with the Legal Profession the preferred group at over 32% to resolve issues on boundaries. Upwards of 40% would have selected Land Surveyors/Engineers to address the issue. With a relative high response rate for neighbours (19% & 17%), it would indicate that property owners have strong relationships with their neighbours and have high regard and respect for their ability to resolve disputes. This also indicates there is good community spirit amongst people in both rural and urban areas and perhaps a friendly chat can be the best way to resolve problems.



      Legal Profession        34%
      Land Surveyors         25%
      Neighbours/Family     17%
      Engineer                    15%
      Other                          9%

Legal Profession        32%
Land Surveyors          28%
Neighbours/Family     19% Engineer                     13%
    Other                        8%

8.8 Access to Information on Boundaries

Information for landowners on their boundaries is a crucial aspect of a property owner’s portfolio. These results indicate that the Land Registry is the most popular choice in relation to acquiring information on property boundaries. This is a very interesting statistic as the Land Registry themselves say they cannot help a property owner in acquiring information on their boundaries (see below in discussion). The results also seem to show confusion amongst landowners in relation to boundary information as a number of professional bodies are mentioned as to where landowners first look for guidance. Land Registry was popular with up to a third of respondents. Registry of Deeds was common to both urban (15%) and rural (12%) to access information. Legal profession and the OSi were recorded in urban areas while Local Authorities was selected by 19% of rural respondents as their choice. The results indicate that there is no distinct source for landowners to turn to for information on their boundaries.   



Land Registry            29%
Legal Profession        19%
Registry of Deeds      15%
OSi                            16%
Other                         21%

Land Registry           35%
Local Authority         19%
Land Surveyor           15%
Registry of Deeds      12%
  Other                      19%

8.9 Currently Disputed Boundaries

This question assessed if any landowners had a current dispute relating to their property. The survey indicated upwards to a third of landowners has boundary disputes, which seems to be a very high percentage and a general even split between urban and rural areas. This is an alarming result and the respondents are quite definite about the issues as the unsure percentage is very low a 3% in urban areas and 0% in rural areas.



Yes                     32%
No                      65%
Unsure                  3%

Yes                          38%
No                           62%
Unsure                       0%

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