Gardening this weekend? You could be breaking the law without realising

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Few people realise that not sticking to some rules while gardening could put them at risk of breaking the law. There are six rules gardeners should be aware of this summer.

Gardening is usually simple and straightforward, but not sticking to some golden rules could land you in hot water with your neighbours, who could issue legal action against you.

Luckily, experts at Garden Buildings Direct have put together a list of the common legal pitfalls you can face as a gardener, as well as sharing ways you can be a better neighbour.

A spokesperson for the company said: “Most of us want to be good, law-abiding neighbours, but that can be difficult if we don’t actually know what the law is.

“There may be times when it would be within your legal rights to do something, but it could cause tensions with your neighbour.

“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.”

One issue that is not widely known and can cause tension between neighbours, is trimming overhanging branches.

The rule is that if a tree’s branches from your neighbour’s garden is hanging into your garden, you are allowed to cut it, but only within your property.

You cannot lean into your neighbour’s garden to cut the branches without permission, as this constitutes trespass.

If wanting to cut the tree, make sure it isn’t covered by a Tree Preservation Order as it is illegal to cut back these trees without written consent from a planning authority.

Although you are allowed to trim the tree’s branches, if you cause any serious damage to the tree, you would be liable in law due to negligence.

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Another rule to be aware of is that to do with planting new trees.

Under the Rights of Light Act, if a window has received natural light for 20 years or more, neighbours cannot block it with a new tree.

This rule also applies when putting up fences and garden buildings – a neighbour could issue legal action against you if you put anything up that will block their window, and you are permitted to do the same if they block your window.

On the subject of fences, it is important to note that these, as well as boundaries, can be difficult to resolve.

House deeds should indicate who owns fences and who is responsible for boundaries, but these can move over time and cause disputes later.

If boundary disputes do happen, you should contact the Land Registry or help.

As for the maintenance of boundaries, there is no legal responsibility on anyone to keep them well kept, unless the houses deed state otherwise.

When it comes to fruit and flowers hanging from trees, although you are allowed to cut them if they hang into your garden, they still belong to your neighbour.

Therefore, after cutting them, your neighbour is allowed to ask for them back.

However, you must not throw them into your neighbour’s garden as this could be considered garden waste fly-tipping.

Similarly, with fruit that has fallen from your neighbour’s tree into your garden due to the wind, you must give them back to your neighbour as they still belong to them.

The sixth rule to be aware of is to do with hedges.

If a hedge grows along the boundary between two gardens, both neighbours are responsible for trimming it.

The same rule applies to trees that grow on the boundary.

If a hedge belonging to your neighbour grows into your garden, you can trim it, but you must give the trimmings to the owner if they want them.

Again, as with trees, fruit, and flowers, you must not throw them into your neighbour’s garden as it could be seen as garden waste fly-tipping.

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