Who is Responsible for Cutting Boundary Hedges Between Neighbours?


“So whose hedge is that? If it’s mine should I trim the whole row on both sides or do I share the responsibility with my neighbour?” Tricky enough questions that are asked every so often (you’re not the only one, trust us).

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Disputes do sometimes end in the local council, costing everyone involved a fair amount of money. That is, however, something avoidable. Hedge maintenance may be boring enough already and should remain so and not become a source of fuming rage. So, is there a clarifying law on trimming the boundary hedges and what does it say? Can you and should you touch that?

Hedge ownership and what does it mean?

The ownership of the boundary hedge itself is defined by where the main trunk is growing at. An owner of a hedge is responsible for it not damaging their neighbour’s property. If, for example, your overgrown hedge is pushing on your neighbour’s fence and eventually damages it, you will stand liable. You do NOT have to cut your hedge on your neighbour’s side unless the growth is treatening to damage their property. Such overgrown hedges can be a nuisance, so if you think yours is causing the neighbours distress but don’t own the right tools to properly reduce it you can turn to a specialist and hire them for the desired hedge maintenance (link to our service page that will open in a new tab).

Hedges and shrubs that stand on the boundary line are owned by both properties. Defining a property’s boundaries can be done by looking at its title plan. However, they will still remain sketchy as it is not considered needed to exactly record a property line (this is mostly the case in England and Wales).

But then who’s responsible for trimming the hedges among the property owners?

If you are unsure of what to do in a situation with your neighbour, you should always try to resolve matters informally first. Your local council can and will reject your complaint if they decide you haven’t taken all steps (within reason) to reach an agreement without involving them. Here’s who’s really responsible for cutting the hedges:
The responsibility for boundary hedge cutting is shared. Both you and your neighbour should be trimming each other’s respective side of the hedge. You are free to cut back roots or branches that are within your property’s boundaries. However, you’re only allowed to trim the growth on your property. Going further may result in your neighbour taking you to court for property damage.

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What the law says on trimming hedges

Important laws on cutting the boundary hedges that you should be aware of:

The “high hedge” restriction

A “high hedge” that can be a subject of a complaint is considered any hedge that is over 2 metres tall. However, if both sides are satisfied with the hedge’s height it can be kept at over 2 metres. There are other ways of extending a boundary’s height legally.

Bird nesting season and lawful hedge trimming regulations

Try to restrict yourself from trimming hedges that have bird nests because it is an offence to do so. When to cut hedgerows that are home to nesting birds:

To avoid any unwanted mistakes you can pause hedge trimming between March and September as the RSPB suggest. The main breeding season for nesting birds is officially set as between 1 March and 31 July, but for some species, it may extend to August. If you knowingly prune a tree or a bush that you’re aware shelters nesting birds, you are performing an offence.

If you’re certain you have no nesting birds in your hedges you can prune them between Spring and Summer. Generally, the domestic hedge trimming season is either Spring or Winter. Informal hedges require a one-time cut throughout the year. Formal hedges, however, may need maintenance from 2 to 3 times.

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Have some additional questions? Leave a comment, please!

Header image source: Shutterstock / By chanchai plongern

Posted in Garden Regulations

Last update: November 29, 2018
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Comments (6)

  • If I cut back my neighbours overgrown hedge on my side what can I do with the cuttings? Can I return them to my neighbours side?

    • Hello Clare,

      We have to be honest, from the research we did, it may be more troublesome if you don’t offer to return the cuttings back. Check more info on the matter here.

      Regards!

    • Hello Gilbert,

      First of all, we cannot directly advise on matters concerning law, and before you proceed, you should make a thorough research. You should read our full disclaimer here. However, there are a few things that usually happen in such cases, check them below.

      As we specified above, it’s difficult to know whether a hedge officially belongs to you or not, and we’ve specified how to find that out.

      If however, it’s 100% confirmed that the hedge belong to you, you might want to try a reasonable discussion to reach a mutually satisfying decision if you didn’t yet, before you resort to an official dispute.

      In any case, if the hedge is cut down to a foot, whether or not it belongs to you, you might have a few ways to act.

      First off, we wouldn’t advise reporting the issue to the police, as they would most probably say the case could be determined a civil issue and needs a court resolution.

      You can check whether you live in a conservation area. Then the trees that the hedge was made up with can be seen as distinct trees, and you can speak to the local planning enforcement authority about your issue. When you cut down hedges in a conservation area, you always need consent for this by the planning authority.

      There’s also the high hedge case and the bird nesting case, you can check them above in the post if you didn’t.

      Finally, if you go to court, you need to prove a loss. In a case where the hedge is not completely rooted out, the plants can grow back and the loss in such cases, is described as temporary loss of privacy. Then the court might act in a few ways – prevent your neighbour to not cut it again and order damages. The latter’s extent is determined by the court’s own view – it could go from covering the expenses to plant a new hedge or even erecting a temporary privacy barrier.

      Hope this has been useful to you. In any case, we strongly advise you to resolve the matter peacefully with your neighbour, no matter their inconsideration when first cutting down the hedge. If that’s not going to work out, then go with your other options.

      Hope this was useful for you!

      Regards,
      Fantastic Team

  • Hi,
    I have recently moved into a property that has 3ft thick hedges that overgrow my footpath to my front door, as they are conifers they are hard to cut right back.
    Although they are my neighbours border, the roots and in fact the whole hedgeline are in my property, am I within my rights to cut it down if the roots are on my land??

    Robert

    • Hey Robert,

      You should still inform your neighbour so they are not caught by surprise. However, to answer your question:

      According to law, you can cut down both roots and/or branches that come into your property from your neighbour’s one, as long as you cut up to your neighbour’s property border and don’t go over it.

      This law also applies when it’s a matter of public road’s hedge.

      Regards,
      Fantastic team

      Check also the sources we’ve included above for more info.

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