Keep up to date with the latest offers and information on Garden Law with Let's Go Gardening on Facebook

Garden Law

Please note: The following information is to be used as guidance only and is by no means exhaustive. Any problems are to be dealt with according to the law upheld by your local council. We advise that you seek professional legal help in any matter that cannot be resolved amicably. Let's Go Gardening will endeavour to update this information according to new legislation however we cannot be held responsible for actions taken based on the information given below. This page is meant as a short guide to garden law and may differ from your local council.
Find your local council website
Guide to Garden Boundaries
If you live in a regular house in a normal street it is highly likely that the boundaries of your garden are shared with one or more of your neighbours.
Unless they are dealt with carefully small problems relating to hedges, fences and walls can cause a breakdown in relations between neighbours, leaving tranquil garden havens feeling like a battlefield.
Knowing your rights and responsibilities can help to prevent a problem from turning into a disruptive and expensive legal issue, and maintain the peace and tranquillity that you have created.

Fences and walls
Upkeep of fences is not generally a shared cost. If the supporting posts or brick piers are on your ground then the upkeep is yours.
If you are in any doubt check the deeds of your house. A T-shaped mark on the boundary line shows that the fence is owned by the person within whose property the mark appears. A double T-shaped mark means that responsibility for the boundary is shared.
Unless it is stated on the deeds there is no legal onus on owners to keep their boundaries in good repair. For this reason, neighbours must often rely on persuasion and negotiation with a reluctant neighbour, no matter how hard this might be, as negotiation is always preferable to legal costs.

If friendly negotiation fails, it may be worth offering to go halves and, if you still have no luck, the chances are that it will be quicker and cheaper to pay for the work yourself.
When responsibility is shared you cannot force neighbours to do the repairs. Even if you decide to go ahead, swallow your pride, and do the repairs yourself, it is still best to consult with your neighbours and check that they do not have any objections.
If you do not have an obvious neighbour, HM Land Registry can tell you who owns the boundary of registered land.
In some cases, deeds may state that a boundary must be kept in a good state of repair but this is not the norm. As there is no law that regulates the condition of boundaries, owners are rarely under any obligation to keep up repairs.
If you have the unfortunate circumstance where a neighbour refuses to repair a fence, it may be worth pointing out that if the fence or hedge falls over and causes damage to a neighbour's property your neighbour will be liable to pay for any damage.

Generally a hedge that separates two gardens will grow along the boundary of both properties and so it is the responsibility of both neighbours to keep it trimmed.
However, if a hedge belongs to one neighbour and is growing into next door's garden the next door neighbour is entitled to invite the owner to come round and give it a trim.
If a hedge is encroaching on a neighbour's garden, the neighbour is entitled to trim the hedge themselves, but must return the trimmings to the owner, unless otherwise agreed.
If a neighbour refuses to allow access to their garden it is possible to apply for access under the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992 and apply for a court order which will give access for the given work.

Moving boundaries

Over long periods of time boundaries can move and end up not following the line marked on the deeds. The reason for such changes is rarely recorded and as a result can cause fierce disputes at a later date, especially if the owner has lost the right to move the boundary line back to where it was originally.
Adverse possession, also known as ‘squatters rights', exists in England, Ireland and Wales and this means that if a boundary has been moved and that land has been in a neighbour's possession for more than 12 years it becomes theirs. This is only if the land has been used without the owner's permission.
HM Land Registry can help with boundary investigations. If land is registered then the deeds can be changed to include extra land.

Problems with Trees

When you buy a new home and garden it is unlikely that you will think to check if any of the existing trees on the property are protected by a tree preservation order (TPO).
These orders are made by the tree officers of local council environment departments to protect trees and make it illegal to prune, fell, uproot or lop any part off the protected tree.
Even if you cut one of these with out realising that it has a TPO, failure to comply with a protection order can lead to a fine of up to £20,000 for each tree, or twice the value of the tree's timber, whichever is the greater.
If your garden is situated in a conservation area your trees may also be protected by special orders. The law requires that you give the local authority six week's notice before felling or pruning any tree so that the council has time to decide if it would like to give the tree a preservation order or not.
Once a tree is given a TPO it remains binding no matter who owns the land. Even if all you want to do is remove a dead branch from a protected tree you must still get permission from the local council.
If your local council refuses you can make an appeal to the Department of the Environment within 28 days of your local authority refusing.
Your liability:
Whether a tree in your garden has a TPO or not, if it is on your property it is your responsibility.
Whether you planted the tree or not, if you are the owners and it causes damage to someone's house or garden then you will be responsible for putting it right.
To be on the safe side it's best to make sure that your insurance policy covers you for any potential damage that the trees might cause and will pay for the cost of putting any damage right. This should include damage caused to drains out side of our property, damage to a neighbour's foundations and any lifting of paving.
If one of your trees grows into an electricity cable and disturbs the power supply lines, the electricity company has the right to prune or fell the tree and send you the bill. This is also the case if one of your trees is obstructing a public footpath or dangerously overhanging a public highway.
Roots and overhanging branches
It is best to make regular checks for diseased or damaged branches, or root damage to drains or foundations, before any problems arise.
Your neighbour has the right to cut off any overhanging trees or branches but must return whatever they chop off to the tree's owner, including any fruit.
They are also entitled to remove any invading roots from their garden. If the invading roots are very deep then the neighbour may be entitled to get the work done professionally and claim for it on the tree owner's household contents insurance policy.
Tree owners are not responsible for fallen leaves and any damage that leaves might cause to neighbouring drains, lawns or pathways.

Problems with neighbours
In today's built up inner city areas where lots of people are crammed in to small spaces neighbours can be a problem in a number of ways. Problems with neighbours garden
Noise and other people's problem pets can disrupt a peaceful evening in the garden but even in the countryside, where gardens tend to be a little more spacious, there can be problems with bonfires or excessively weedy neighbouring gardens.
If you know your rights you can deal with your neighbours in the best possible way.
Noisy neighbours
The tearing noise of loud garden machinery and power tools or the thumping music of regular garden parties or BBQs can shatter the peace of neighbouring gardens.
Since the Noise Act was passed in 1996, it is much easier for neighbours to take firm action over anti-social noise. If tolerance and negotiation has broken down the Local Environmental Health Officers should be able to help, particularly if the disturbing noises are between 11pm and 7pm.
If the noise exceeds a set level EHOs can warn your neighbour and if that warning is not heeded to your noisy neighbour could receive and immediate fine of £100.
Keep a record of persistent noise in a log book or diary and see if you can get your other neighbours to do the same. The EHO has the power to specify what neighbours must do to cut down noise and if they refuse to comply their noisy equipment may be confiscated and they could be fined up to £1,000.
Bonfires and incinerators
Each local council has its own guidelines to burning rubbish in the garden, check with yours to see if you have the right.
If your local council allows the practice of burning rubbish then follow these guidelines...
You have the right to burn garden rubbish but you must watch the fire while it is alight and make sure that it is kept under control.
If a neighbour regularly has fires or burns material other than normal garden rubbish and this is a nuisance to you, then ask your local environmental officer to restrict their actions.
It is more neighbourly and more environmental friendly to use a shredder and to break up garden cuttings and then either compost them, mulch them or take them to the local tip.
Check with your local council to find out if there are any by-laws that forbid the lighting of bonfires at certain times.
Weeds and pests
Weeds invading from a nearby neglected garden can be a real source of annoyance but, however fed up you become, it is always best to deal with neighbours as amicably as possible. If the owner is busy or simply not interested in the garden a few words of encouragement might help.
If the problem persists and is disturbing the enjoyment and maintenance of your garden it might amount to a nuisance. In this case you may be able to get an order served by the Department of the Environment on to the owners to prevent the weeds or pests from spreading.
A householder can be ordered to prevent the spread of certain damaging weeds under the Weeds Act of 1959. This covers weeds such as spear thistle, creeping or filed thistle, curled or broad leaved dock and ragwort. Failing to control these weeds can incur a fine.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act makes it an offence to plant, or cause to grow wild, Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed.
If you are having no luck with your neighbour then prevention could be the answer. Stop creeping perennial weeds from getting into your garden by sinking a barrier 15cm (6in) along the boundary of your property.
Piles of rubbish can be equally as annoying and if you think that these may be encouraging a health hazard, such as a risk of rats, then your Environmental Health Officer may be able to arrange for the removal of the rubbish.
Serious pests such as Colorado beetle or Red Core disease in strawberry plants should be reported immediately to DEFRA.
These pests wreak havoc over gardens with devastating consequences for plants and drastic measures must be taken to control an epidemic.
It's illegal to knowingly disturb an active birds' nest, and many common birds, including blackbirds, song thrushes, robins and hedge sparrows may use garden hedges. Disturbance could cause them to abandon their nests. If you have to trim hedges during the main nesting season – usually March to August – check for nesting birds. Watch the hedge for a couple of days: any nest site should be obvious from the frequent comings and goings.

Delay trimming until the nestlings have flown. Cutting in autumn and winter shouldn't be a problem.
See: Bird Identifier
Ponds and water
If you have a water feature of any size in your garden you are both legally and morally responsible for seeing that your land is safe for all those who are likely to use it. Keep water covered if you have young children or if any visiting friends are bringing their children along.
If you have a pond on your land or store water in any way and this water escapes onto a neighbour's land you will have to compensate your neighbour for the damage.
During hot spells it is worth checking for hosepipe bans. If there is a water shortage you may find that your local water board has placed bans on the use of hosepipes and sprinkler systems and these are generally backed up with fines.
Planning restrictions vary from region to region and, particularly if you live in a conservation area, the laws may vary widely.
Before going ahead with any plans to build garden structures, including walls, garages, summer houses, gazebos, it is best to call your local authority planning office to check if you need permission or not.
If you build without permission and break the rules you could be forced to take down the structure and waste all the time and money that you have spent.
Structures such as a greenhouse or a small shed are classed as ‘permitted development' and do not need permission, and changes a patio or porch also tend to be unrestricted. To be on the safe side check your deeds, which may show that there are some special restrictions.
Conservatories are a different matter as they count as an extension and need permission, which depends on how close the structure is to the garden's boundary.
A wall or fence that is built or changed to over 2m (6ft 6in) high must also have planning permission.
Boundaries can be built up to 2m if they are at the back of the garden or if the boundary is at the side, but if the boundary fronts a highway of any kind it must not exceed 1m.
Planning permission is required for any structure in the front garden with the exception of a porch in some cases. Even before erecting a large ornament in your front garden or decorative trellis work, it is best to check with your local planning office first.
If a porch is within 2m of the front boundary it will need planning permission. If the porch is over 3m in height it will also require planning permission and if it is more than 3m sq in floor area, it will need planning permission too.
In the rear garden, any structure that is less than 3m in height with a flat roof or 4m if it has a ridge roof, and takes up less that half the area of the garden and is 5m away from the house does not require planning.
It is best to call in a planning officer for any other planned garden structure.
Your right to light
Most people like to make the most of a bright day, whether it's lounging around in the sun or getting on with the garden, but this can be spoilt if neighbours have allowed their trees or a fence to block out your light.
If the light in your garden has been blocked by a neighbour's trees, you are unable to force them to do anything as there are no laws covering this.
However if those trees are blocking light from a window in your house or even for a green house you can acquire the right to light with the help of your local council.
If you have enjoyed a certain level of light for 20 uninterrupted years the laws states that it is reasonable for your to expect the same level of light and you can take action.
It is also worth checking your deeds to see if they contain a covenant stating that your neighbour must not block your light.
Such covenants may also prevent you from build a fence or planting trees along certain boundary.
For more info about garden laws visit:

Find your local council website

Webmasters!  Get your site listed on our links & resources page, click here


Let's Go Gardening - Garden Law

A - Z Sitemap Contact Us Send us your pictures

Garden Law - Let's Go Gardening

Links & Resources Advertising Join us on Facebook
Cookies & Disclaimer Link Exchange Gardening Shop UK

web counter

Let's Go Gardening - Garden Law

Let's Go Gardening and are trading names of Shaw Media. Registered in England and Wales. Company No. 07492950