Breaking one of these little-known garden laws could cost you up to £20,000 in fines

Could you be breaking the law in your own backyard? You could be violating these garden laws without even realising it – here's how to avoid them

Country house garden with established trees and flower beds to highlight garden laws you could be breaking
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There’s no doubt that many of us will be in the garden making the most out of the last of the summer sun or preparing our plots for the winter weather ahead. But before you start any garden maintenance you may want to check you’re not about to break one of these surprising garden laws.

Whether you’re heading into the garden armed with the latest budget garden ideas to spruce up your space or perhaps sowing grass seed ready for next spring there are some hidden garden laws you could be breaking unknowingly. 

Garden maintenance experts at Tool Station, have disclosed the list of common yet little-known garden laws that are all too easily broken but should be avoided at all costs. 

8 Garden laws you could be breaking without knowing

From removing trees to bird feeding, you could be breaking the law in your garden without even realising it. And with fines of up to £20,000, it’s worth being in the know so you can avoid them.

So, if you’re itching to cut down a particularly obstructive tree or want to install a shiny new shed here are the garden laws to be aware of before you start any jobs. 

1. Tree Removal

Quite possibly one of the most important garden laws to remember and also perhaps one of the easiest to break is tree removal.

According to the experts at Tool Station, if one neighbour wishes to remove or heavily prune a tree that the other neighbour values then problems can occur. They say, “Disputes can arise over the impact on the view, shade, or privacy. However, the good news is, if the tree is within your property boundary, it is ultimately your choice what you do with it.” 

There is however still cause for concern even if the tree is in your garden. Before cutting down or drastically pruning your trees it’s best to check if they’re protected by a Tree Protection Order (TPO). This order makes it a criminal offence to uproot, top or destroy even your trees and can lead to you being fined up to £20,000. 

Thankfully it’s easy to avoid this. If you’re looking to cut down any of your trees you can check if it has a TPO by contacting your local council for a map which will show you the information. Failing this, you can also ask to speak to your local tree officer. 

Garden laws you could be breaking - picture of outdoor dining set and shed

(Image credit: Getty Images)

2. Property boundaries and fences

If you’re looking to landscape or redesign your entire garden with one of the latest garden trends then you might need to double-check your property boundaries before you start digging. 

A common reason neighbourly disputes can begin over property boundaries is if either side is planning on installing a new fence or even about who owns the fence that already exists. 

As a rule, the owner of the fence is usually on the side where the fence posts are. However, should it be a new fence being installed then there are a few conditions that might have to be met when deciding on the height and location of the fence. The experts at Tool Station, suggest sticking to fences or hedges that are no higher than two metres.

“Luckily, standard fence sizes are less than two metres tall so you shouldn’t have a problem,” explain the experts. Should you want to avoid disputes completely, then it’s always a great idea to chat with your neighbours before making any big fence decisions."

Garden laws you could be breaking - woman painting fence

(Image credit: Getty Images)

3. Bird feeders

Luckily there aren’t any specific laws stopping people from feeding birds in the UK and it’s a great thing to do to bring some wildlife into your garden. However, should the food you’re providing attract unwanted guests like rats then this is where things get tricky – because getting rid of rats is not as easy as keeping foxes out of your garden.

According to Tool Station's garden maintenance experts, “If the situation turns particularly bad and rats become a problem, you could be issued with an abatement notice asking you to stop and fix the problem.” 

Don't tear down the bird feeder just yet though. To come close to receiving up to a £5,000 fine or a Community Protection Notice the situation would have to get really bad. To avoid the issue altogether you can always invest in a pest-proof feeder which stops heavier animals like rats from being able to access the food at all.

4. Building garden structures and additions

Humongous or tiny, building a structure in your garden is all well and good unless it obstructs your neighbour's views. Whether it’s a shed or a pergola, if it either blocks completely or slightly obstructs someone's view or light then you might find yourself in a dispute. 

Before starting construction or purchasing a shed it's a great idea to speak to your neighbours and see if there’s any way your new garden addition could dramatically affect them. 

Should they complain but you still want to go ahead, contact your local council and they will best be able to advise you on how to go forward. 

When choosing you're outdoor addition there are some simple universal rules to follow. Co-founder of Power Sheds, Jack Sutcliffe, explains, "When it comes to obstructing the view of your neighbour due to a pergola or a shed, the main rule to be aware of is that sheds must not exceed 4 meters in height for a dual-pitched roof or 3 meters with any other type of roof." 

Mint green painted garden shed used as an outbuilding to highlight garden laws you could be breaking

(Image credit: Future | David Giles)

5. Overhanging greenery

This may not seem like much of an issue to most but overhanging greenery from our neighbours can sometimes become quite invasive. Whether it's tree branches blocking sunlight, unwanted fruit dropping from above or even potential damage to structures, their best plants can quickly become a nuisance to you. 

There can be a host of reasons you might want to trim back a neighbour's tree or shrub, and the good news is that you can. Jack says, "Unless the tree is not under a type of preservation order, you can trim your neighbour’s tree to the boundary point between your property and theirs. " Should you go any further and into their side without permission on the other hand then you could be reported for trespassing.

It's also important to point out that your neighbour can still ask for the branches or fruit that you've cut down as technically they are their property but in most cases, you'll be free to discard them.

Garden laws you could be breaking - person sawing a tree

(Image credit: Getty Images)

6.Harvesting overhanging fruit or flowers

Although it's perfectly legal to cut back any branches that hang into your garden, as mentioned previously, the plants, flowers and fruit still belong to your neighbours. Taking fruit from their trees or cutting flowers from their shrubs without permission would be against the law according to the garden experts at Tool Station. 

Despite the branches belonging to your neighbour, it's still your responsibility to dispose of them should you decide to cut them down. Throwing them over the fence to your neighbour's garden could be classed as garden waste fly tipping and might land you with a hefty fine. 

Instead, Sutcliffe recommends either composting the waste, taking it to your community compost heap or putting it in your garden waste bins for the council to pick up. Any of these options are great sustainable garden ideas

7. Planting obstructive trees

Similarly to constructing a shed or pergola, it's against the law under the Rights of Light Act to plant a tree that obstructs someone else's source of natural light. Under the act, the affected window in question has to have been receiving natural light for 20 years or longer. 

To avoid a potential dispute it's best to choose a space in your garden where the tree at any height and width will not block anyone's access to the sun. 

Choosing a smaller tree is another great solution, Jack recommends Globosa Nana Dwarf trees as they only grow around three feet. He says, "They have a beautiful pyramidal shape foliage with blue and green colours too." 

If you're short on space, planting smaller trees can be an essential small garden tip that can help you maximise your garden's potential. 

Garden with trees to highlight a garden lawn you could be breaking without knowing it

(Image credit: Future)

8. Breaching privacy rights

Every homeowner has an undeniable right to privacy within their home and garden. Major disputes can be caused when this right is infringed upon. 

Neighbours should not be able to intrude on your garden or have enough view into your garden to be able to observe activities without your permission, explains Tool Station's experts. 

If you're looking to add security cameras, sheds or outhouses it's best to make sure they're not anywhere that could affect your neighbour's privacy. Should you ever feel like your privacy has been infringed on by a neighbour then it's best to make them aware as soon as possible. If the situation escalates or is not solved then you're free to contact your local authorities for help and guidance. 

garden laws you could be breaking - family in garden

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What should you do if your neighbour breaks a garden law?

The best first step is to speak to your neighbour directly and see if the dispute can be calmly solved face-to-face. Go into the conversation knowing your rights and openly voice your feelings and concerns to them. 

Should the issue persist or the conversation turn sour, you can let them know you intend to get help from the council. Although awkward, it's important to voice concerns as soon as they arise so that issues can be resolved before they worsen.

Emily Smith
Digital lifestyle writer

Emily joined woman&home as a staff writer after finishing her MA in Magazine Journalism from City University in 2023. After writing various health and news content, she now specialises in lifestyle and home writing where she covers all things cleaning, interiors and homeowning.