Its that time of year again when the weather is getting a bit warmer and the nights are a bit lighter and people are looking to start using their gardens again. A lot of people find solice in gardening and enjoying their garden, however for others it can a point of dispute and can lead to altercations and bad feelings with neighbours. No one wants to fall out with their neighbours, as ultimately until one of you move you are stuck with them. In knowing what the law says about your rights in land, in reference to your garden, you could save yourself the time and cost if a dispute arises.
It is important to know your boundaries and know who owns them and is liable for the upkeep of them. When buying property your solicitor should advise you of the same. If it has been some time since you purchased your property you can either seek the advice of a solicitor or alternatively make your own enquiries with the land registry as to your title. The title you own to your property will set out who is liable for the upkeep of boundaries.
Other issues that can arise relate to the trees and shrubs growing in your garden. No one wants their garden overshadowed by large trees. The general rule is that a tree or shrub belongs to the owner of the land on which it grows even if its branches or roots go over or under adjoining land. This includes the branches and the fruit of any tree or shrub. The leaves, fruit, berries of the tree or shrub therefore belong to that owner.
You are not allowed to go onto your neighbours land or to lean over it to cut your hedge. You need the consent of your neighbour. The same is true about going onto your neighbours land to trim back branches. If you enter your neighbours land without consent then you may find yourself liable in trespass.
If your branches overhang your neighbours land then this would constitute a trespass on his air space. The neighbour can cut the branches back to the boundary but he has to return the lopped branches to the owner of the tree together with any fruit that might have been on them. If he cuts back beyond his boundary then this could constitute a trespass. It is best to ask your neighbour first as a matter of courtesy although you do not need his consent to cut overhanging branches so long as they are returned.
If the trees or shrubs become unruly and you are unable to cut them yourself and these encroach on your land then you could ask your neighbour to arrange to cut back the tree or shrub so as to prevent the tree constituting a nuisance. Professional tree cutting services can be quite costly, however, this would be cheaper than seeking to litigate over a dispute regarding the tree or shrub. If all else fails and you can not resolve issues with your neighbours then you could sue the owner of the tree or shrubs for trespass; nuisance and/or negligence (if they become dangerous). Similarly if falling leaves block a gutter, which results in water damage, the owner of the tree could be sued for damage.
The Theft Act 1968 makes it a criminal offence to take wild flowers, fruit and foliage from any plant if it is sold for commercial gain. However, falling leaves and fruit still belong to the owner of the tree or shrub, the law does not require the owner to come and sweep up the leaves or pick up the fruit.