We often receive complaints regarding overgrown, unkempt and untidy gardens. The garden or land can become unsightly or attract other environmental crimes, such as fly-tipping.
Your rights when it comes to neighbours’ gardens are governed by a number of laws. Unfortunately however, the simple fact that your next door neighbour’s garden is unkempt and a bit overgrown is insufficient to enable you to take action unless it’s contravening the law.
Taking action yourself
There are strict laws on what you can and cannot do when it comes to taking action yourself. For example, you cannot trespass onto the gardens of neighbours to remove any rubbish or foliage yourself.
If a neighbour’s hedge, brambles or tree are causing problems on your side of the boundary, you are entitled to prune or remove anything that comes over onto your side of the boundary although by law, you should offer any clippings back to your neighbours.
However, when it comes to trees, some trees have a tree preservation order placed upon them and you can be fined if you remove anything other than dead wood.
Remember, it is the responsibility of individual owners to ensure that they do not leave land under their control to deteriorate to the point where the only option is enforcement action.
The Council has powers to deal with untidy gardens or land in certain circumstances:
- If the material in an untidy garden is putrescible (that is stuff that can rot such as discarded foodstuffs, faeces, nappies, dead animals) and is causing a nuisance to neighbours or attracting rats or mice,
- If there is harbourage for vermin such as rats or mice.
Inert materials which are just unsightly are unlikely to be causing a statutory nuisance.
The Council also has powers to help maintain the standard of the local environment.
Land or buildings in an unsightly condition that may be "detrimental to the amenity of the neighbourhood" can be dealt with under powers available under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
The Council can serve a Section 215 notice on the owner or occupier when the poor condition and the appearance of the property or land are detrimental to the surrounding area or neighbourhood. The section 215 notice requires proper maintenance of the property or land in question, and it specifies what steps are required to remedy the problem within a specific time period. An appeal may be lodged against the section 215 notice to the magistrates court. The non-compliance with a section 215 notice is an offence.