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Four common gardening mistakes that could see you breaking the law UK News

With more sunshine and warmer weather, May often marks the start of the gardening season for thousands of Britons – but while mowing the grass is uncontroversial, it can be all too easy to break the law.

There are a number of offenses that can cause you to drive a neighbor crazy – and a nasty fine or trial could ensue. Costly mistakes such as pruning a tree that you don’t own or stealing fruit can cause disputes over the garden fence.

Even for those with the best intentions, there are essential rules to know if you want to avoid getting in trouble for violating someone else’s borders, pruning overhanging branches, or planting against the law. To help, Birmingham Live has compiled some of the most common offenses that can get people in trouble.

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Under the Light Rights Act – dating from 1959 – if a window has received natural light for 20 years or more, neighbors cannot block it with a new tree. This rule also applies to fences and new garden buildings such as summer houses or sheds.

If you’re installing something that might block the light from your neighbor’s windows, they might rightly object. Apart from that, you have the right to plant whatever you want, wherever you want within your property boundaries, as long as it is not a invasive species.

Stock photo of someone planting a tomato seedling.
Gardening could get you in trouble with the law

However, it is advisable to ask your neighbor before making any drastic changes to your garden that could impact them. Ultimately, you will be responsible for any damage caused by the plants in your garden, whether trees or hedges. Hedges in particular can be a point of contention. In 2004, the office of the then Deputy Prime Minister issued guidelines stating that while there was no set height limit for a hedge, a range of factors had to be taken into account. These can range from the size of any hedge and its geographical location to the slope of your garden.

The Royal Horticultural Society has some helpful advice on this – experts write: “You have the right to plant what you want, where you want on your property. However, it is reasonable and respectful to consider the consequences of planting potentially tall or impose trees or hedges near a boundary and make planting decisions to minimize the negative impact.”


Perhaps the most broken law in all neighbor gardening is picking someone else’s fruit. You cannot pick and store fruit from someone else’s overhanging branches, even if they are bent over in your garden.

This is indeed theft, because the fruit belongs to the owner of the plant.

You also cannot save fruit that falls into your garden, as it still belongs to your neighbor. By law, you must either leave it alone or return it to your neighbor.


You can cut overhanging branches from your neighbour’s garden on your property, provided you no admittance to do it. You can also climb the tree, as long as you don’t have to enter your neighbor’s garden or land to do so.

You also don’t have to give your neighbor notice to cut branches and you don’t need to receive permission. However, once you have cut branches or pruned them, they must be returned to the owner of the tree, as it is still their property.

You cannot cut further than the limit to prevent regrowth. You are also responsible for any damage to the tree, for example if it dies as a result of your cutting – so be careful with the shears!

The possession

If a tree base is on the boundary of two properties, it belongs to both parties. One owner cannot perform any kind of work on the tree without permission from the other as this counts as trespassing. Legally, the two owners are “tenants in common” – and decisions must be mutually agreed.

When it comes to climbing plants, the plant belongs to the soil it grows in, not the property it grows on. However, you can remove it from the walls of your property as long as you don’t kill it or remove its roots from your neighbor’s garden.

Has gardening got you in trouble with your neighbors? Let us know in the comments below

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