Neglected neighbouring gardens

Weeds invading from a neglected neighbouring garden can be extremely irritating. However, in the majority of cases there is little a person can do to prevent their neighbour’s weeds from spreading into their own garden.

Sometimes a friendly chat with the neighbour or the installation of a weed barrier along the boundary may resolve the problem.

However, it may be easier to resolve problems regarding piles of rubbish in a neighbouring garden as local authorities have specific statutory powers in relation to litter.

Can a neglected garden amount to a nuisance?

If the state of neglect of the neighbour’s garden is considerable and the problem persists it may amount to a ‘nuisance’.

There are two types of nuisance, a ‘private nuisance’ and a ‘public nuisance’.

A private nuisance is a continuous, unlawful and indirect interference with the use or enjoyment of land, or of some right over or connected with the land.

A public nuisance is an unlawful act or omission which endangers or interferes with the lives, comfort, property or common rights of the public. There are a number of pieces of legislation which deal with particular types of public nuisance including the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005.

If excessive weeds or rubbish in a neighbour’s garden are causing problems on your property, it can amount to a nuisance which you can report to the Environmental Health Department of your local council who can pursue legal action.

Specific weeds

Occupiers of land can be prevented, under the Weeds Act 1959 (as amended) from allowing the spreading of certain types of weeds (known as ‘injurious weeds’). The following types of weed are covered by the Act:

  • Spear Thistle;
  • Creeping Or Field Thistle;
  • Curled Dock;
  • Broad-Leaved Dock;
  • Common Ragwort.

Where one of these types of weeds is growing, the Act gives the Secretary of State the power to serve a written notice on the occupier of land, requiring them to take such action as may be necessary to prevent the weeds from spreading, within a time period specified in the notice.

If the occupier of the land unreasonably fails to comply with the requirements of such a notice, they will commit a criminal offence and can be fined. In such circumstances the Secretary of State has the power to take the action required and recover his reasonable costs of doing so from the occupier or owner of the land.

The Secretary of State is not, however, under an obligation to serve such a notice and unless one of the weeds covered by the act poses a direct threat to agricultural land it is unlikely that such a notice will be served.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is a criminal offence to plant or otherwise cause to grow in the wild certain weeds, including:

  • Japanese knotweed;
  • Giant hogweed;
  • Himalayan balsam;
  • Rhododendron;
  • New Zealand Pigmyweed.

It is not, however, an offence to have these plants growing on your land or in your garden, and there is no legal requirement to control them.