Boats moored on rivers have been at the centre of more than their fair share of disputes over the years. In a recent case, the High Court was asked to rule on whether ‘mooring roots’ used to moor barges on the riverbed of the Thames could give the owners of the boats possession of the riverbed.
The claim was based on the law of ‘adverse possession’, which can allow the legal title of land to pass to the user of the land if their use is permitted without hindrance by the owner of the legal title for more than 12 years.
The mooring roots have chains attached to them to secure the barges. The barge owners argued that the land occupied by the mooring roots had been controlled by them without let or hindrance for many years and thus they could claim legal title to it.
The Court did not accept the claim. It was significant that if a mooring root moved, the owner of the barge that used it would not move the barge but put down another mooring root. This implied that there was no actual possession of the land concerned.
However, the Court did make it clear that a similar claim might succeed were the facts different.
If you allow others to use land you own, it is sensible to check the legal position so that appropriate action can be taken if necessary.
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