We all need good neighbours, but how can we stop disputes?
With the summer fast approaching people are preparing to head out into their gardens, but before they can get the barbeque out some spring gardening must usually be undertaken.
For the most part, basic garden maintenance is rather straightforward, prune the hedges and shrubs, mow the lawn and get the chairs out of the shed.
But what happens when a neighbour’s plant is growing across onto your property? And what can be done if a neighbour’s tree is blocking the light into your garden?
Hannah Parsons, Solicitor from DAS Law is here to answer those all important questions.
Can you cut down branches that overhang into your garden?
The simple answer is yes, however there are a few points to consider before you start cutting. It is always best to speak with a neighbour and ask them to take action or advise them that you plan on cutting the branches that are overhanging into your garden.
If you are cutting the branches back then simply cut them to the boundary line ensuring that it will not kill the tree/foliage. It is advisable to inform a neighbour that you either plan to place the branches carefully back on their land or to dispose of them.
It is always worth considering whether there is a Tree Preservation Order on particular trees, as this can prohibit some activities that can be carried out. A local planning department should be able to help with this.
Whose responsibility is it to repair or replace an adjoining broken fence?
Initially it is best to look at property deeds to assess whether it is clear who is obliged to fix a broken fence. In most cases deeds can be found through the Land Registry.
If deeds are unclear then it may be necessary to consider whether a precedent has been set where one party has normally fixed the fence. If so, arguably you could ask that they take steps to fix it again.
It is also possible for neighbours to agree between themselves who will fix a fence and how this would be done.
What if they refuse to maintain the fence?
If it’s a neighbour’s obligation to fix a fence and they aren’t it may be necessary to put your concerns in writing to them asking them to take action or to try and reach an agreement with them.
If the above is unsuccessful it may be necessary to take legal advice on the matter, although you will be unable to force a neighbour to maintain their fence unless it is causing damage or a nuisance to you or is trespassing on your property.
Do you have a right to light if a neighbour’s tree blocks the sunlight to your garden?
There is generally no right to light in a garden.
Does your neighbour have a duty to control harmful weeds and invasive plant species which are affecting your garden?
A neighbour does have a duty to prevent the spreading of harmful and invasive plant species. If a neighbour fails to take preventative steps there may be potential claims that can be taken against them. Legal advice would need to be taken on these claims.
There are also avenues to make complaints about a neighbours failings, potential prosecutions that they may face and guidance as to how they should control or remove certain species.
www.gov.uk offers guidance on prevention of harmful weeds and how to deal with invasive non-native plants spreading.
We would always advise diplomacy when dealing with people who live next to you, seeking legal guidance for your exact circumstances can give clarity to the situation. Legal expenses insurance sold as an add-on to or as part of your home insurance may provide cover for legal disputes with neighbours and often come with access to a legal advice helpline.