If your neighbour’s high hedge is becoming a nuisance, there are options available to you. Elliott Brookes from B P Collins’ property dispute resolution team advises.
Maintaining a hedge
According to Part 8 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, a high hedge is predominantly evergreen or semi evergreen, a line of two or more trees and shrubs (but not ivy or bamboo) and is taller than two metres. If the hedge falls under this definition, this act may apply which can result in maintenance obligations imposed on the hedge owner.
Try to reach an agreement with your neighbour
If you feel that your neighbour’s hedge is becoming too intrusive, try to talk to them first to see if you can come to an agreement. If emails or letters have been involved in the communications, be sure to keep them safe to show that you have tried to reach a solution. Likewise, it is advisable that you make a note of any conversations you have had regarding the matter.
What if an agreement cannot be reached?
An experienced property litigation solicitor will be able to help, as they have the expertise to look at all the legal documents relating to the property and recommend a way forward.
This could be a cost-effective option as it may end the dispute sooner rather than later, help to avoid court action and crucially, you can start to enjoy your property and garden again.
Is mediation an option?
Local councils do not mediate in neighbour disputes, but mediation with a qualified independent mediator is a very effective way to resolve disputes quickly, and at a fraction of the cost of court proceedings.
You are required to consider mediation or another alternative dispute procedures before you issue any court proceedings. Anyone who issues proceedings prematurely risks having to pay the other side’s costs, even if they win their case.
You should be actively involved in the mediation meeting and you should only settle the dispute if you are sure that it is what you want to do. The terms of any settlement reached at a mediation can be very wide-ranging and are not restricted to the points in dispute e.g. ongoing maintenance of the hedge.
Can you contact the local council?
You can make a complaint pursuant to Part 8 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 on the basis that the reasonable enjoyment of your property is being adversely affected by the height of the hedge. This can include an obstruction of your view or a reduction in the light to your property for example.
The local council will consider both sides of the case and make a decision either rejecting the complaint or declaring that work should be done to cut back the hedge to a height that’s based on the requirements of the person making the complaint and the hedge owner. You can appeal its decision if you do not agree with it.
If you decide that court is the only option, it’s important to note that the judge will not view your decision favourably unless all other avenues have been explored and your neighbour has been unresponsive or refused to seek a reasonable resolution.