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.


Have some additional questions? Leave a comment, please!

Header image source: Shutterstock / By chanchai plongern

Posted in Garden Advice

Last update: August 24, 2018
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Comments (2)

  • 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.


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