British home owners are being warned of the eight surprising ways they could break the law in their own gardens.
Garden experts from GardenBuildingsDirect.co.uk have published a list of eight things Britons should avoid doing in their gardens this spring and summer if they want to stay on the right side of the law.
The list covers common issues such as overhanging branches, boundary disputes, blocked sunlight and wind fallen fruit, among others.
For example, a person may cut back tree branches that overhang into their garden, as long as they do not go past the boundary line and there is no Tree Preservation Order in place.
But they cannot keep the trimmings nor any fruit or flowers on them – nor can they simply throw the branches back into the tree owner’s garden without permission.
Surprisingly, homeowners are also being urged to be mindful of where they place popular garden accessories likes trampolines and hot tubs.
A spokesman for GardenBuildingsDirect.co.uk said: “It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that just because you own or rent your property, you’re well within your rights to do whatever you want in it – including in your garden.
“But the fact of the matter is that if you have neighbours – which most Brits will – you have to be mindful of their rights too.
“On the other hand, there may be times when it would be within your legal right to take action if your neighbour has acted beyond the law, but it could cause tensions.
“We’d always advise trying to come to a neighbourly solution first, as this is always preferable to having to call in the lawyers.
“If you brush up on the law as it stands, you may be able to avoid any sort of dispute altogether, which is always the ideal solution.”
1. Trimming branches
If a tree’s branches overhang into your property from a neighbour’s, you can trim them, but only up to the property line. You can’t lean into the neighbour’s garden to do this, though, as it constitutes trespass.
If a tree is covered by a Tree Preservation Order, you can’t cut the branches.
2. Keeping branches
Although you can cut branches that hang into your garden up to the property line, they still belong to the neighbour – as do any flowers or fruit on them.
Your neighbour is legally entitled to demand them back, so you won’t be able to stockpile the branches for your next bonfire. But do not throw them into the neighbour’s garden, as this could constitute garden waste fly tipping.
This also applies to hedges. If a hedge grows along the boundary between two gardens, both neighbours are responsible for trimming. If a hedge belonging to a neighbour grows into your garden, you can trim it but, as with tree branches, you must return the trimmings to the owner.
3. Keep windfallen fruit
Windfallen fruit technically still belongs to the person who owns the tree. So, if your neighbour’s windfalls end up on your lawn, ask for permission if you want to keep them.
4. New trees
Under the Rights of Light Act, if a window has received natural light for 20 years or more, you and your neighbours can’t block it with a new tree.
5. Fences and boundaries
These can be tricky to resolve. The house deeds should indicate who owns fences and is responsible for boundaries (although there is no legal responsibility to keep boundaries well maintained unless the deeds state otherwise). But boundaries can move over time and cause disputes later. You may need to contact HM Land Registry for help with boundary disputes.
6. Hot tubs
Although a bubbly, relaxing hot tub is a pleasure for most people, the noise it creates could constitute a nuisance to your neighbours so check that they’re happy for you to have one installed before going ahead.
Whether you’re hosting a family barbecue or simply relaxing next to a chiminea in the garden, smoke can also be a nuisance to your neighbours and could put you on the wrong side of the law.
Be careful where you place your children’s trampolines – try to avoid placing it anywhere your kids (or the adults) would be able to see into neighbours’ gardens or houses when they’re bouncing away as this affects their right to privacy.Enjoy more Kitchen Garden reading in the monthly magazine. Click here to subscribe.