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.