“I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes, I saw the sign”
Rarely do we have the opportunity to quote 90s pop lyrics when commenting on evolving legal principles, but in this case, Ace of Base’s classic “I saw the sign” is fitting.
We previously wrote about the significance of signs, and a case that had leave to be appealed. Full details of the original article can be found here.
The issue before the Court of Appeal concerned a battle between a fish and chip shop and a conservative club over whether the chip shop customers could park in the club car park and whether a sign stating the car park was for “Club Patrons only” was sufficient to “interrupt” any rights being acquired.
As previously mentioned, a right to pass over someone else’s land can be acquired if the use is enjoyed for 20 years or more by virtue of the Prescription Act 1832. However, no rights can arise where the use has been “interrupted” by the owner of the land in question.
The Court of Appeal has now confirmed that signs which are clearly visible can be effective in stopping prescriptive rights from accruing.
“The erection and maintenance of an appropriate sign is a peaceful and inexpensive means of making clear that property is private and not to be used by others. I do not see why those who choose to ignore such signs should thereby be entitled to obtain legal rights over the land”.
If you are suffering from people persistently using your land, you don’t have to start proceedings or chain off the land to stop the rights accruing. You can just put up a sign.
So if you do see such a sign, be aware of the legal consequences that such a simple sign may have.
Comment from Amy Richardson: “Whilst it is great that the Court of Appeal have confirmed that you can prevent rights from being acquired by putting up a sign, the precise wording of the sign is crucial if you are to stop all rights from being acquired. The sign must cover off all uses which you are seeking to prevent.”