My neighbour’s hedge is very high. Is there anything I can do about it?

The Trees and High Hedges Act 2005   

The Trees and High Hedges Act 2005 provides a mechanism for dealing with problems with high hedges and trees. The Act applies to owners and occupiers of domestic properties so it makes no difference whether you own or rent your property.

The Act applies where the reasonable enjoyment of part or all of a property, including a garden or part of it, is being adversely affected by a tree or a high hedge situated on neighbouring land.

The Act defines a high hedge as being 2 or more trees or shrubs over 2 metres high above ground level and which act a barrier to light. Hedges lower than 2 metres are not, therefore, covered by the Act.

How do I make a complaint under the Trees and High Hedges Act?

Under the Act you are expected to take reasonable steps to try to resolve the matter with your neighbour. Ordinarily this will involve talking to your neighbour about the problem and if that does not resolve the matter, writing to them setting out why you consider the hedge to be affecting the reasonable enjoyment of your property and what steps you would like your neighbour to take in order to address the problem and by when.

When setting a deadline for such steps you should consider how long the work is likely to take, whether your neighbour is likely to have to employ someone to carry out the work, whether it is reasonable to expect your neighbour to carry out the work at a particular time of the year or in certain weather conditions. If you do not take such matters into account and set a short deadline you may be viewed as not being reasonable.

If you are unable to resolve the matter with your neighbour a complaint may then be made to the Department of Local Government & the Environment accompanied by a fee.

Does the Department of Local Government & the Environment proceed with all complaints?

The Department of Local Government & the Environment may not proceed with a complaint if it takes the view that a person has not taken all reasonable steps to resolve the matter with their neighbour.

The Department of Local Government & the Environment may not proceed with a complaint if it is of the opinion that the complaint is petty or that the purpose of the complaint is simply to cause problems for the neighbour.

If the Department of Local Government & the Environment decides to proceed with my complaint what happens next?

If the Department of Local Government & the Environment decides to proceed with your complaint it will decide whether the high hedge is adversely affecting the reasonable enjoyment of your property. It will generally visit your property and your neighbour’s property before making a decision. The Department of Local Government & the Environment has the power to enter onto your neighbour’s property for this purpose providing that it has first given your neighbour 24 hours notice.

In reaching a decision the Department of Local Government & the Environment will take into account, not only the effect the hedge is having on your property, but also the effect that a reduction in height of the hedge will have on your neighbour’s privacy.

If the hedge is made up of trees the Department of Local Government & the Environment will consult with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry as to the extent to which the trees contribute to the amenity of the neighbourhood and consider any implications there may be under the provisions of the Tree Preservation Act 1993.

Remedial Notices

If the Department of Local Government & the Environment decides that the hedge is adversely affecting the reasonable enjoyment of your property it will issue a remedial notice. It will then send a copy of the remedial notice to you, to your neighbours and, where appropriate, to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry.

The remedial notice will state that a complaint has been made by you about the hedge in question, which will be identified in the remedial notice. It will explain that the Department of Local Government & the Environment has decided that the height of the hedge is adversely affecting the reasonable enjoyment of your property and will explain the reasons for this decision. The remedial notice will also set out what action needs to be taken by your neighbour and by when. Typically this will require your neighbour to reduce the height of the hedge in question.

In some cases it will also set out what action needs to be taken in the future by your neighbour, and any future owners or occupiers of the neighbouring property, in order to prevent a recurrence of the problem. This may include a provision requiring your neighbour to maintain the hedge to a certain level.

The remedial notice will also explain what will happen if your neighbour fails to comply with it.

No action to be taken

If, having proceeded with your complaint, the Department of Local Government & the Environment decides that no action needs to be taken it will notify you and your neighbours and provide reasons as to why it does not consider any action to be necessary.

If you do not agree with the Department of Local Government & the Environment’s decision you can appeal to the High Bailiff. Generally appeals must be made within 28 days of the decision of the Department of Local Government & the Environment.

What if my neighbour fails to comply with the remedial notice?

Failure to comply with a remedial notice is a criminal offence and, therefore, your neighbour may be liable to prosecution if he fails to comply with it. He can be fined up to a maximum of £5,000.00. The court may also or instead of fining your neighbour, order him to take the steps specified in the remedial notice by a certain date.

If your neighbour fails to comply with the remedial notice the Department of Local Government and the Environment can take the required action itself and recover its costs of such action from your neighbour. The Department of Local Government and the Environment is required to give your neighbour at least 7 days notice of its intention to carry out the action required. It is a criminal offence to wilfully obstruct any remedial action taken by the Department of Local Government and the Environment and in such circumstances your neighbour could be liable for a fine of up to £5,000.00.