‘Unknown yet extremely strict’ garden laws you could be breaking

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With spring days away, many will be eager to ensure their garden is in pristine condition for when the weather warms up. While providing the garden with an uplift might sound like a good idea, there are a number of rules and regulations people should be aware of before deciding which jobs to carry out. To help, experts at Gazeboshop have teamed up with Colum Smith, property lawyer at Taylor Rose MW Solicitors to outline seven laws Britons could end up breaking in their own backyard. 

He said: “Whether you’re tidying up your garden or improving home security, remember to bear these seven laws in mind to avoid getting on the wrong side of the law. A lot of these issues can be ironed out if you maintain a good relationship with your neighbours and speak to them about any niggling issues you may have.” 

1. Allowing Japanese knotweed to spread in garden

Many people will be familiar with Japanese knotweed, due to it being such an invasive plant which is known to cause structural damage to properties.

Colum highlighted: “The laws surrounding the plant are often unknown yet extremely strict. In fact, earlier this year a man was sued for £200,000 for failing to declare his garden contained the plant during the sale of his house. 

“While you might not be in any rush to sell your house, it is vital to carry out a thorough inspection for the invasive species as letting the plant grow out of your garden and into the wild can leave you with a hefty £5,000 fine.”

Samantha Richards, garden gazebo expert at Gazeboshop pointed out that the perennial weed can be identified by its creamy white flowers, bamboo like stems and green shovel-shaped leaves.   

2. Cutting overhanging branches 

Having a neighbour’s tree infringing on another’s garden can be extremely frustrating especially if it’s blocking light or generally becoming a bit of an eyesore.

Whilst gardeners will probably be tempted to take things into their own hands, the property lawyer explained that if they do it is important that they only trim the overhanging branches up to the edge of their boundary.  

Colum warned: “You are not allowed to trespass onto their land in order to carry out the pruning. It is worth bearing in mind that you may be responsible for any damage which results from the pruning.”

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3. Intrusive garden sheds

Whether it’s a place to store your tools or an area to entertain guests, many gardens will house a shed of some sorts. For those thinking of setting up a new one for this summer, it’s worth bearing in mind it will need to meet some “stringent criteria”. 

The expert said: “Most importantly, the structure must not exceed 2.5 metres in height if it comes within two metres of the garden boundary, wall or fence.”

4. Blocking a neighbours’ light

Gardeners may think they can plant a tree anywhere they like in their own garden because they own the land, this is unfortunately not true. The expert warned: “If a tree you plant in your garden grows to block natural sunlight into a neighbours’ window that has had access to it for 20 years, this can land you paying compensation or being faced with an order to cut the tree down.”

To avoid this, before planting a tree, gardeners should think carefully about the height it will grow to and how it may impact sunlight into theirs and their neighbour’s garden. 

5. Removing or altering a fence

Fences are typically the number one source of disputes between neighbours, particularly when it is rotten or requires maintenance. 

The lawyer said: “Often the property deeds will point to who is obliged to maintain the fence, so they are definitely worth checking if you still have them.

“Do remember that boundaries can move over time so it’s important to refer to the latest documents when determining who retains ownership of a fence.”

6. Picking and keeping fruit or flowers

As the UK heads into spring, and fruits like strawberries and cherries begin to ripen, it can be tempting to pick some to have a little treat, especially if they’re hanging into your garden. 

But, if the fruit is from a plant or tree which is on someone else’s land, “this is technically stealing” and the neighbour is “legally entitled” to demand the fruit back. 

7. Disregarding people’s right to privacy

With more and more people taking precautions for home security, many are taking advantage of security cameras and doorbells with live video cameras. 

Colum said: “It is critical that your cameras placed outdoors only capture film within the confines of your own garden or public space and should not infringe on your neighbours’ privacy. 

“Perhaps surprisingly, other garden items that can infringe on privacy rights are trampolines. Where possible, avoid placing them anywhere where children can bounce and see into a neighbours house.”

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