Gardening rules you might be breaking that could land you in legal trouble

Scotland is no stranger to pristine gardens. Well-kept lawns and flower beds are a staple in British households.

But while there are plenty of Scots with green thumbs, there are also a number of nosy neighbors – who can flag you down if you’re breaking certain gardening laws.

it’s a hobby that has kept many of us sane throughout lockdown, but trimming a neighbor’s trees or picking fruit from a nearby tree, you could be in legal trouble. Even if you mean well, trespassing on someone else’s boundaries, pruning overhanging branches, and planting all have specific regulations.

Gardening can cause tension between households, especially if plants start to shade out or even lean into other properties. To avoid litigation and possible law enforcement action, Birmingham Live has compiled some of the most common offenses to get people in trouble.


Under light rights law, if a window has had natural light for 20 years or more, neighbors cannot block it with a new tree. This rule also applies to fences and new garden buildings such as summer houses or sheds.

If you’re installing something that might block the light from your neighbor’s windows, they might rightly object. Apart from that, you have the right to plant whatever you want, wherever you want within your property boundaries, as long as it is not a invasive species.

However, it is advisable to ask your neighbor before making any drastic changes to your garden that could impact them. Ultimately, you will be responsible for any damage caused by the plants in your garden, whether trees or hedges.

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Perhaps the most broken law in all neighbor gardening is picking someone else’s fruit. You cannot pick and store fruit from someone else’s overhanging branches, even if they are bent over in your garden. This is indeed theft, because the fruit belongs to the owner of the plant.

You also cannot save fruit that falls into your garden, as it still belongs to your neighbor. By law, you must either leave it alone or return it to your neighbor.


You can cut overhanging branches from your neighbours’ garden on your property, as long as you no entry to do it. You can also climb the tree, as long as you don’t have to enter your neighbor’s garden or land to do so.

You also don’t have to give your neighbor notice to cut branches and you don’t need to receive permission. However, once you have cut branches or pruned them, they must be returned to the owner of the tree, as it is still their property.

You cannot cut further than the limit to prevent regrowth. You are also responsible for any damage caused to the tree, for example if it dies as a result of your cutting.


If a tree base is on the boundary of two properties, it belongs to both parties. One owner cannot perform any kind of work on the tree without the permission of the other as this counts as trespassing.

When it comes to climbing plants, the plant belongs to the soil it grows in, not the property it grows on. However, you can remove it from the walls of your property as long as you don’t kill it or remove its roots from your neighbor’s garden.

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