Six garden laws you could be breaking right now – ‘counts as stealing’

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Over the past month, searches for the search term “spring flowers” has gone up by a huge 556 percent, which is no surprise considering the start of spring is just weeks away. Planting trees, trimming back branches and picking flowers are just some of the tasks keen gardeners will be completing in the build up to spring. However, many gardeners don’t know they could be breaking several laws by doing the most basic tasks.

To put your mind at rest, a team of legal experts at BPP University Law School has shared six things that could get you in trouble with the law while prepping your garden for spring this year.

Stealing fruit

If your neighbour has an apple tree and you sometimes find yourself picking up a rogue apple that has fallen from their tree, they actually have the legal right to ask for the fruit back.

Not only this but removing said fruit and keeping it “would count as stealing”. The experts advised: “If you want to avoid this, the best solution is to return the fruit as soon as you find it – and avoid simply throwing it back into their garden.”

Throwing it back into their garden, even if it is their own fruit, could be seen as garden waste fly-tipping or littering.

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Trimming branches

During winter, branches on your trees and bushes may have overgrown wildly out of control while you’ve neglected your garden.

You may even find that the branches are blocking the sun or obstructing pathways. 

While this can be frustrating, you cannot simply hack off the branch of a tree if it doesn’t belong to you. Despite this, you are, in fact, allowed to cut branches up to your property line – which is essentially where your garden ends and your neighbours’ begins.

However, to “avoid” any conflict, it is always better to ask first.

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Planting trees

Planting trees is a great way to make changes to your garden, however, you may want to think twice before planting one.

Under the Right to Light Act, if your neighbour has had natural light accessible via a window for 20 years or more, you are not allowed to block it.

It is therefore always wise to plant trees and bushes out of the way of windows that do not belong to you, to avoid any confusion.

Asking neighbours to clean up their leaves

There’s nothing worse than fallen leaves obstructing pathways and flowerbeds. However, even if the leaves have fallen from a tree outside your garden, it’s your responsibility to clean up the leaves.

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Your neighbours are not under any legal obligation to clean up leaves that may have fallen into your garden from their trees over the winter.

While it may be tempting to ask your neighbours to get sweeping, as the tree belongs to them, it would be wise to invest in a leaf blower or sweep them up yourself.

Taking flowers from your neighbours

While it may be tempting to pick flowers from trees overhanging in your garden, or flowers that have fallen into your garden, you shouldn’t.

While the flowers may have already fallen or may be able to fall from the tree, your neighbours still have every right to ask for them back – just like with fruit.

Instead, order spring seeds and bulbs so you can have flowers in your own garden. Or, if you don’t fancy that, pick up a bouquet from your local supermarket.

Taking land disputes into your own hands

This is an issue that has probably torn more neighbours apart than anything else – land disputes.

If you’re wondering whether your neighbour’s fence should be that close to your house or where the boundaries between your homes are, you will need to contact HM Land Registry rather than take matters into your own hands.

Unfortunately, as boundaries can actually move over the years, this kind of confusion can usually only be settled by contacting HM Land Registry.

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