Britain is known as a nation of gardeners, but unfortunately we also seem to be a nation of nosy neighbors to some enthusiastic green-fingered public. Whether you’re pruning a neighbor’s trees or picking someone’s fruit in your street’s bushes, neighbors can report you for it.
It’s a relaxing pastime for many and has been a comfort to millions during the pandemic lockdown, but a single misstep in the garden and with your neighbors could land you in trouble with the law. Even when you have the best of intentions, violating someone else’s boundaries, pruning overhanging branches and planting have clear rules.
The neighbor’s yard can cause a lot of arguments, especially when plants start shading your property or even leaning into your lawn. To avoid litigation and potential police action, we’ve compiled some of the most common violations that get people into trouble.
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If a window has received natural light for 20 years or more, neighbors cannot block it with a new tree under the Rights of Light Act. This rule also applies to fences and new garden structures such as garden houses or sheds.
If you put something up that might block the light from your neighbor’s windows, they might rightly object. That being said, you have the right to plant whatever you want, anywhere you want, within your property lines, as long as it’s not an invasive species.
However, it is wise to consult your neighbor before making any drastic changes to your yard that could affect them. Ultimately, you are liable for any damage caused by plants in your garden, be it trees or hedges.
Perhaps the most broken law in gardening between neighbors is gathering someone else’s fruit. You cannot pluck and store fruit from others’ overhanging branches, even if they are leaning into your garden. This is effectively stealing, as the fruit belongs to the owner of the plant.
Also, you can’t keep any fruit that falls in your garden as it still belongs to your neighbor. By law, you must either leave it alone or return it to your neighbor.
You can cut off overhanging branches from the neighboring garden on your property as long as you like Do not enter to do it. You can also climb the tree as long as you don’t have to enter your neighbor’s yard or property.
You also do not have to inform your neighbor in advance about cutting down branches and you do not need to obtain a permit. However, once you have cut back or pruned branches, they should be returned to the tree owner as it is still effectively their property.
You cannot prune back further than the border to prevent regrowth. You are also liable for damage to the tree if it dies as a result of your cutting, for example.
If a tree base is on the boundary of two lots, it belongs to both parties. One owner must not do any work on the tree without the other’s permission as this is considered trespassing.
When it comes to climbing plants, the plant belongs to the soil on which it grows, not the property on which it grows. However, you can remove it from the walls of your property as long as you don’t kill it or remove its roots from your neighbor’s yard.