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.
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
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
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.
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
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
HM Land Registry can help
with boundary investigations. If land is registered then the deeds
can be changed to include extra land.
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
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.
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
| Roots and
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
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.
||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.
|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
|If you know your rights you can
deal with your neighbours in the best possible way.
| Bonfires and
council has its own guidelines to burning rubbish in the
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
Check with your local
council to find out if there are any by-laws that forbid the
lighting of bonfires at certain times.
||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
|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.
Identifier - Bird
||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
|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
||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
|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.
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
A wall or fence that is
built or changed to over 2m (6ft 6in) high must also have planning
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
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
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
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
For more info
about garden laws visit: www.gardenlaw.co.uk
your local council website