Cutting a Neighbour’s Hedge Without Permission – When is it Morally Right?

Written By James
Updated July 7, 2021 by James

Cutting a Neighbour’s Hedge Without Permission – When is it Morally Right?

If you live in close proximity to your neighbours, and especially if you share a fence or hedge, you might want to read this.

Have you ever had a dispute with your neighbours over branches or hedges that overhand your garden? Have you failed to reach an agreement with them? What happens next? Maybe you’ve wondered before about what your rights are as an equally important member of the community. Why should their needs hold more weight than yours?

If any of this sounds familiar, or if you’re just feeling productive and want to tidy up your side of the hedge, or if you’re merely curious, below is some information about what to do, what not to do, and how to go about sorting out issues. Hopefully you’ll find that your queries are answered.

It is absolutely ok to trim your neighbour’s hedges:

  • If there are branches or roots that over hang or creep into your property. If this is the case, then feel free to trim your side to your heart’s content. It will not affect your neighbour’s enjoyment of their hedge but will make your garden look neater. It might also be an idea to collect all the plant matter that you have amassed and return it to your neighbour as it is technically their property.
  • If you only trim up to the property boundary line and no further. By all means, neaten up your side of the hedge, but if you trim it back too far and it cross the property boundary, your neighbour might be unhappy and could take action against you.
  • If you have permission from them to do so. If you have discussed it and they have allowed you to cut the tops of their hedges, or even given you permission to come into their garden to trim their side, then you are completely in the clear.

It is absolutely not ok to trim your neighbour’s hedges:

  • If you have to trespass in order to do so. Coming onto someone else’s private property in order to cut a hedge is against the law and your neighbour might press charges against you. Be mindful of maintaining good relations with your neighbours.
  • If you make any cuts that would affect a bird or other animal’s nest, whether it is still being built or is already established. Disturbing local wildlife is not fair to the animals and is also a serious offense. If you see a nest of any kind, leave it be.
  • If you cut hedges or trees that are protected under a Tree Preservation Order, or if you live in a conservation area. Make sure you know about formalities like this to avoid any legal trouble in the future.

Your neighbours have a duty to keep their hedges and trees maintained so that they do not cause any damage or inconvenience to anyone else’s property. Hedges should be under 2 meters tall ideally, and if a taller hedge is blocking out your sunshine or causing you to be unable to enjoy your garden for other reasons, then speak to your neighbour about cutting it to a more reasonable height.

If they refuse to compromise, you can ask for a council complaint form which will bring council action to the dispute. You can also file a complaint form if your neighbour’s hedge consists of 2 or more evergreen trees or shrubs, or if their plants are causing damage to your home or garden. Do not let these issues go unchecked. Handling them swiftly and in the right manner will lead to both parties being in a better position.

It is always better to have a friendly chat with your neighbour about what is bothering you, and maybe even offer to trim their hedge yourself, then to start a war over it. You might find that approaching the situation in this way will make them more likely to comply and fix the issues you raise.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are not sure…

Don’t hesitate to ask someone, do some research online, or contact your local council for information. The odds are that there will be someone around who can give you the answers you’re looking for and help you to avoid a messy situation or dispute.

If you are renting your home, speaking to your landlord might be the best way to go about resolving the issue as they might be able to deal with it without further intervention from you. If you own your home, then talking to your neighbour informally and politely is the best starting point.

Do not get confrontational or accusatory, as this might cause your neighbour to get their back up. If the problem affects other neighbours as well as yourself, then approaching your neighbour together might be more effective in getting the issue sorted.

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My father, and his father before him, and his father; for the past 3 generations, my family have always been into gardening. The green fingers is a gift passed down to me and I thoroughly enjoy it! I also have worked in the manufacturing department for Bosch and DeWalt so I like to think I know a thing or two about tools and such!
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8 comments on “Cutting a Neighbour’s Hedge Without Permission – When is it Morally Right?”

  1. My house backs onto an unregistered piece of drive, which is approx two vehicles wide. On the other side is a 5 ft wall, which is the back garden of a neighbours house in the street running parallel to mine.
    Above their wall are 6 conifers they planted, they have let the conifers grow to approx 20 ft, which looks more like 25 ft including the wall and are at least 8 ft wide. You can walk under them that is not the problem.
    Because they are so high off the ground, they are parallel with my six ft fence, which is making then very over bearing & the height is taking away the morning sunlight off my house.
    I trimmed off some dead branches which were hanging down and just two branches. The owner came and told me I couldn’t touch them because the land wasn’t mine.
    I felt awful the situation didn’t end nicely, the next day we sent a letter stating I had broken the law and would sue me for criminal damage if I took them again.
    He said he would cut them back after the nesting period, but will not lower the height. What can I do if he doesn’t cut them back or refuses to lower them.
    Very unhappy

  2. Our neighbour has a white cedar hedge planted behind our chain link fence,as well as,other shrubs planted just inside his property line. Issue is that now 25 years later they are growing up to two,three feet on our side. We have been having them trimmed professionally on our side since we moved in nearly four years ago. Out of the blue he decided to come onto our property and cut all the live growth back leaving a hideous eyesore in our front of the house!
    Surely he had no right to do this without our permission? The roots may be on his side,but more than half the growth was on our side? Shrub had to be completely removed he damaged it so badly and we now have a hideous large dead hedge area right at the front of our house. Is it reasonable to ask him to contribute to cost of planting new hedge material to replace the damage to our side?

  3. Good advice my neighbour has started destroying mine under 2 MTRS well under said persons son threatened me called police and wildlife act and ASB section 8 missus won't talk we are scared

  4. my neighbour planted a hedge 60 years ago when the houses were built. we moved in 7 years ago. i noticed it is nearly 1 and a half metres over the boundary line on my side, what are my rights please as regards to trimming etc, many regards.

  5. I have a large garden with large green laurel around my land, in my garden. the neighbour that backs on to me also have the same laurel plants growing in their garden and they has asked me to cut mine down to 2.5 metres. One I don't want to see into their garden and two their garden is big enough so its not like it is blocking any light.

    the plants are on my land not his - im not blocking his light, and to be honest, I like my privacy

  6. I found this very quickly just typing "Criminal Damage to my Conifers". That was good and I sympathise with everyone. I note that the common factor with all the comments seemed to be the lack of communication! Due to the Pandemic my trees had grown taller due to not having their usual "trims" every few months. Also due to the heavier and more frequent rainfall. My neighbour has never mentioned the trees in the 15 years since they moved here, He has spoken to my gardener a few times, always trying not to let me see him! They were very special to me as my mother bought them for me during her last visit from Spain, prior to her death. Some of her ashes mixed with my fathers` ashes are buried under the trees at her request. All 3 conifers are totally ruined from a aesthetic as well as structual point
    of view. They do not provide cover being almost transparent. They provided nesting for a variety of birds attracted by my regular bird feeding. I expect it will take some years to replace this facility as well as unexpected expense and care. I am hoping to find legal advice and assistance with this. Also please note, all the trimmings have been removed which is required for the perpetraitor not to be also guilty of THEFT, if nothing else!
    Thanks for reading.

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