A precise measurement of land in a conveyance may be overridden by other factors.
Taylor v The Lamberts [18 January 2012] highlights that, even though a conveyance may contain a precise measurement of the area of land conveyed, the measurement may not prevail, where it conflicts with the plan or other parts of the description in the conveyance, or the conclusion to be drawn from an inspection of the land at the time of the transaction.
In 1974, the Lamberts’ predecessors were conveyed a property, described in the conveyance, broadly, as a house and saleshop with outbuildings, yard and garden known as Bridge Stores, which premises contain an area of 553.4 square yards and are for the purposes of identification only delineated on the plan coloured pink. The Lamberts owned Bridge Stores and Mr Taylor owned the adjoining property known as The Moorings. The case concerned a boundary dispute between the adjoining owners, the key to which was whether the specific reference to the 553.4 square yards should take precedence over conflicting factors. The area of land so measured was significantly smaller than the area, shown on the conveyance plan and, if taken to the obvious boundary feature, a wall, which existed on the ground at the time of the conveyance. Taylor argued that the measurement in the conveyance must prevail, the Lamberts contended for other factors prevailing.
The County Court decided in the Lamberts’ favour and Taylor appealed to the Court of Appeal. Taylor contended that the lower court illegitimately took account of extrinsic evidence in deciding that the boundary wall factor prevailed over the measured area in the “parcels clause” (which describes the property) of the conveyance and wrongly subordinating the measurement to the plan.
The Court stated that the correct interpretation of a parcels clause involves questions of fact and construction. The conveyance must be read in the light of surrounding circumstances at the relevant time and the document is likely to define the physical extent of the land by reference to points to be identified by inspection of the site. Extrinsic evidence cannot be admitted to contradict the conveyance and a plan, referred to as being for the purposes of identification only, does not prevail over the words of the parcels clause if there is a conflict between them.
The Court was satisfied that the lower court was correct in law in its interpretation of the effect of the conveyance. There was an inconsistency between the precise statement of the area of the land conveyed and the physical characteristics of the land supported by indications given by the plan. The measurement of 553.4 square yards indicated an area which did not extend as far as the wall, but it could not by itself justify the boundary claimed by Taylor. The reasonable layperson with the description and the plan in the conveyance would consider that what was to be conveyed was all of the land to the wall. Only in that way could the transaction include the whole of the garden and yard belonging to Bridge Stores. This was supported by the outline of the property shown on the plan.
Since there was an inconsistency within the conveyance between the measurement and other parts of the description, one had to yield and, in that situation, regard may be had to extrinsic evidence to resolve the conflict. Taylor sought to use extrinsic evidence about boundary features which pre-dated and no longer existed in 1974.
The Court was satisfied that the measurement had to give way. It was inadequate because it was inconsistent with the other words in the description, with the plan and with the reality on the ground at the time and it could not by itself identify the boundary claimed by Taylor. Taylor’s claimed boundary line had not been discernible at the time of the conveyance, since the features, by reference to which it was drawn, had disappeared before 1974 when a new wall was created. The Court, therefore, decided that the boundary contended for by the Lamberts was the correct one.