Are you breaking the law in your own back garden?

Garden experts have identified eight ways you could be acting beyond the law – from poorly positioned trampolines to unruly branches

You may have intended it as an innocent way to entertain the kids through the summer. But did you know that your trampoline could potentially get you into trouble with the law? Depending on where it’s located, your bouncy backyard amusement could be a threat to your neighbours’ rights to privacy – a matter for the authorities.

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Experts from GardenBuildingsDirect.co.uk have identified eight things that Brits should avoid doing in their gardens this summer if they want to avoid breaking the law. And some of them might really surprise you.

1. Beware of trimming overhanging branches…

breaking-the-law-in-your-own-back-garden-overhanging-branches

Image credit: David Giles

Those pesky branches overhanging your fence from next door’s garden might be annoying, but prune them at your peril. You’re totally within your rights to cut back branches that hang into your property, but you mustn’t cut past the boundary line and you must check they aren’t protected by a Tree Preservation Order, beforehand.

You’re also on rocky ground if you lean into your neighbour’s garden to make your cuts, as it could constitute trespass.

If your gardens are bounded by a hedge, you’re equally responsible for trimming it.

2. …And don’t keep them without your neighbour’s permission

Any branches that you do chop off, even if they were on your property, still belong to your neighbour. That goes for any fruit or flowers on them. However what you do with them is tricky.

Technically, your neighbour could ask for them back, so think before putting them on the bonfire. However, you can’t just throw them back into your neighbour’s garden, as that could amount to garden waste fly tipping!

Our advice is therefore to always consult with your neighbour, and save yourself any future hassle.

3. Don’t take windfallen fruit without asking, either

breaking-the-law-in-your-own-back-garden-windfelled-fruit

As with pruned fruit and flowers, windfallen fruit technically still belongs to whoever owns the tree. So before you go making jam or chutney from any apples or plums that end up on your lawn, you should by law ask if you can have them.

4. Think carefully before planting a tree

breaking-the-law-in-your-own-back-garden-tree

Image credit: Colin Poole

If it’s anywhere near a window, you could be in trouble. Under the Rights of Light Act, if that window has received natural light for 20 years or more, it can’t be blocked with a new tree.

5. Know your boundaries

So you’ve decided to give your fences a tasteful paint makeover – or even replace them. Before you do, though, it’s wise to check the title deeds to your property and check who actually owns the fences. it’s not always the case that whoever owns the fence is legally responsible for its upkeep – it varies from deed to deed. If you’re in any doubt about boundaries, you can contact HM Land Registry for clarification.

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6. Could your hot tub be a noise nuisance?

breaking-the-law-in-your-own-back-garden-hot-tub

Image credit: Steve Russell

You might think there ‘ain’t no party like a hot tub party’ but your neighbours may not agree. The vibrations they create can constitute noise pollution, and you could be reported for it, especially if you’re enjoying a late-night dip. It might be worth checking with the Joneses next door before you have one installed – and perhaps invite them to use it once in a while!

 

7. Be sensible about smoke

It’s not just the noise of a hot tub that could cause an issue. Excessive smoke drifting over from a barbecue or chiminea could get you into trouble with the law, too.

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8. Position your trampoline thoughtfully

Garden trampolines are great for keeping the kids entertained. But if they are bounce-bounce-bouncing away in a spot where they can see into your neighbours’ gardens or homes, you could be invading your neighbours’ rights to privacy.

‘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,’ says a spokesperson for GardenBuildingsDirect.co.uk. ‘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.’

‘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. And 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.’

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