Trees, bushes and fobbing off

Trees, bushes and fobbing off

Postby Greenthumb » Wed May 29, 2013 10:16 am

Hi,

We are having problems resolving an issue we have along one of our borders. We live in a terraced house with a long narrow garden. The garden is around 80-100ft long and we have responsibility for the border to the right looking down the garden. Along this same border our neighbour has numerous trees and bushes planted just inside the border. They aren't looked after as the house is rented out and the landlord seems very hands-off.

Some of the trees, we have been told, are laurels and seem to grow incredibly fast. We understand we can cut the trees back to the border but my partner and I both work full- time, we have a new addition to the family about to arrive, and we struggle keeping our own garden/grass/plants looking nice and patio etc weed free, without continually cutting back all of our neighbours tress and bushes continually. It feels like painting the golden gate bridge and to be honest its not a part-time job I signed up for.

We did cut all the the trees and bushes we could reach at the beginning of last summer. It was a mammoth task, and took a whole weekend just to do the cutting. We were then left with huge amount of debris to get rid of. We made numerous trips to the tip, we only have a Ford Fiesta and its a good few miles away, so it was pretty inconvenient, but we still had an amazing amount to clear. In the end we paid someone to clear the remainder.

At the end of the summer we spoke with the neighbours landlord and explained the situ, and the mammoth task it had been, and that the trees still needed reducing and that we had only cut back what we could reasonably reach. We also explained we had learned we were now expecting and wanted to 'feather our nest" so to speak, part of which involved putting a fence in along our border between our gardens so we wanted to give notice of that, but we were also concerned that we would either be unable to do so, or that in the long term, the laurels particularly, may push from behind and cause damage so wanted to discuss what could be done. The landlord agreed to visit the property with a gardener and see what needed to be done and asked us to e-mail her some pics so she could see. That was the last we heard from her for 9 months, despite sending e-mails and calling.

Recently she did answer a call, largely due to me calling from a landline and withholding my number, and she made some excuse about having been really busy and not having received the e-mails or voicemails, or any missed calls?, and again stated she would come and visit the property with a gardener to assess the situ. Its now been a month and we have heard nothing. I've tried to call again recently without success. i suspect it will be another 9 months until we hear from her again when she accidentally answers her phone without thinking. Tbh honest its pretty rude and frustrating, particularly as we are taking great pains to be nice, friendly and to come to an amicable solution. Essentially she just fobs us off, as the property to her seems to be just an income and, as long as the tenants pay, she doesnt want to know. I understand this to a degree, but that still leaves us as her unpaid gardeners.

She did say that we can feel free to cut the trees back to the border, which was generous of her, but i did explain that were we to do so that we would not again incur the cost, in time and money, of disposing of all of her foliage and that we would be returning it to her garden, as per the law, hich is not what we wanted to do which is why we were getting in touch. With 3 laurels and numerous bushes, there is a lot (one of the laurels currently extends 7 or 8 feet into our 14 foot wide garden and must be at least 15 feet high- its like an explosion of foliage- and the grass under it has died just leaving soil). She suggested returning the foliage would be rather unneighbourly of us, to which i pointed out how unneighbourly it was to put your neighbour in a situation of choosing between continually hacking back a wall of fast growing plants that aren't his, and disposing of the debris, or leaving the plants to grow unchecked across our whole garden, killing our grass as they go.

I know the returning of the debris to the garden of the owner is a point of contention on these forums, but i have checked and checked across the internet and with our local council and nothing says the responsibility for disposal of the debris lies with the person who doesn't own the plants, but there is plenty to say the debris belongs to the owner and it should be returned. The confusion comes from the statement that debris should be offered back to the neighbour, no-where does it say it can't be returned, or must be disposed of by me if they refuse. Of course they won't want it back, who would? but i don't want it either and its not mine; its bad enough I have to cut it allt o begin with. Some suggest to return it is unneighbourly, to that i'd totally agree, and were I to have another option, or have been able to reach an amicable solution with the non-communicative landlord, I wouldn't do it but she seems intent on just fobbing us off. Essentially, avoiding doing so was the very reason for contacting her in the first place, but im not a mug either so i won't be spending my precious weekends cutting back her trees and then making shuttle runs to the tip. I can't see why its ok for her plants to be in my garden but not ok for her plants to be in hers.

We aren't unneighbourly, there is an old gent and his wife in the house on the other side and some of his plants tend to creep over our side, holly bushes and such, and we trim them back and dispose of the debris, we've even been known to help him with his side when hes not feeling up to it, but there is a limit on goodwill when it comes to scale and volume.

So...if push comes to shove ill have to cut back and return them in a nice tidy, massive pile to the tenants next door, who it will hopefully inconvenience, who will hopefully complain to their landlord, who will hopefully be more communicative in trying to come to an amicable solution. Before I do this, i wondered if there was anything else i could try first. I know various places there is vague information stating you can take issue if someones trees and bushes infringe on your right to enjoy your garden and/or cause damage. Does killing a 5 foot x 6 foot patch of our lawn constitute damage? Does the extent of the "trespass" count as impeding our right to enjoy our property/garden?

Any advice is welcome. Incidentally, the trees/bushes in no way block out any light, they just trespass extensively into our garden. With the laurels, particularly, they have leaves from 15feet high right down to almost ground level so are like huge domes of foliage; its these that are killing the grass underneath.

Wow, longer than i thought it would be, sorry for the rant.

Thanks
Greenthumb
 
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Re: Trees, bushes and fobbing off

Postby despair » Wed May 29, 2013 11:21 am

Given the situation and the refusal of the landlord to even see matters let alone deal with them I think most of us would feel severely cutting right back to the boundary and returning the cuttings is your best way forward

At 15ft high I am surprised they do not block light .......it is vaguely possible you could consider the High Hedge Law

Certainly Laurels are very thirsty and fast growing shrubs and if its possible I would be investigating digging the entire border chopping off every root and installing a root barrier....................treemans preferred option but I do not know how expensive it is

Even if you use old paving slabs stood on edge to block the roots invading your garden it would help
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Re: Trees, bushes and fobbing off

Postby Greenthumb » Wed May 29, 2013 12:26 pm

Thanks for the replies. The sun isn't really blocked out as i guess we have a westerly facing garden (slightly west by north west), meaning the trees actually block out the sun to her tenants garden, hers being our northern boundary. The tenants have said to us that the grass is dying in their garden but i guess they don't repeat this to the landlady. I suspect they get it cheap on proviso they don't rock the boat, or create any issues she has to deal with, as when i mentioned this to the landlady she said it was the first she'd heard of it.

I've again spoken to the council this morning, and although the chap i spoke to said it would be a private matter, and neither the council, or the police were likely to get involved or be able to provide definitive guidance, he advised that if he were in the same situ he would feel comfortable cuting it all back and depositing it in their garden; particularly after having made extensive efforts to find a solution,

He also advised, if i was still concerned about any consequences to contact citizens advice as they were sure to have dealt with the situ many times in the past. I've done that and they will be calling me back this week.

Thanks
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Re: Trees, bushes and fobbing off

Postby kipper » Wed May 29, 2013 12:38 pm

I would suspect it is the tenants responsibility within the terms of the lease to maintain the garden. Have you spoken to them about it?
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Re: Trees, bushes and fobbing off

Postby despair » Wed May 29, 2013 1:47 pm

Very true Kipper

I suggest the tenants are approached as they too might be fed up if the garden is not their responsibility under their tenancy
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Re: Trees, bushes and fobbing off

Postby hzatph » Wed May 29, 2013 1:50 pm

Do they form a high hedge? If so, look up high hedges legislation and you may be able to act under that.
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Re: Trees, bushes and fobbing off

Postby Greenthumb » Wed May 29, 2013 2:08 pm

Hi,

Thanks for the replies.

I have spoken to the tenants about it which is when they mentioned that the height was a problem for them; so why they hadn't told their landlady i'm not sure. I also gave them my mobile number and asked them to pass it on to their landlord before i finally got hold of her. They are not obligated to deal with it, and when i have spoken to the landlord she has not indicated they need to do anything but always stated she will visit, with a gardener, and assess the situation. I think its just a case that the landlord wants the rent and no hassle, and the tenants don't want to be a hassle for whatever reason, and its easy for the tenants to say its the landlords gig, and easy for the landlord to ignore us.

The bloke at the council did mention the high hedges thing but, as i understand it (may be wrong), the high hedges legislation is to do with blocked light, and reduction of views, neither of which really apply here, its more about the horizontal spread of their trees and bushes, the more vertical they grow the more it darkens their own garden.

Thanks
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Re: Trees, bushes and fobbing off

Postby Geometer » Wed May 29, 2013 3:05 pm

Greenthumb wrote:I have spoken to the tenants about it which is when they mentioned that the height was a problem for them; so why they hadn't told their landlady i'm not sure. I also gave them my mobile number and asked them to pass it on to their landlord before i finally got hold of her. They are not obligated to deal with it, and when i have spoken to the landlord she has not indicated they need to do anything but always stated she will visit, with a gardener, and assess the situation. I think its just a case that the landlord wants the rent and no hassle, and the tenants don't want to be a hassle for whatever reason, and its easy for the tenants to say its the landlords gig, and easy for the landlord to ignore us.

Your situation sounds a real pain, you have my sympathies. I also have sympathy for your neighbours as well. As a tenant, renting privately, I well understand their reluctance to stir things with their landlady; however, the solution lies in their hands, so I think you need to come to some agreement with them.

You've hinted that they have their own problems with these Laurels; you could also point out to them, diplomatically, that if, as seems reasonable now, you were to cut the trees back and deposit the arisings in their garden, it will be them who have to deal with the mess. Hopefully, this will prompt them to write to the landlady complaining about the trees, and asking either for her to arrange their removal, or for permission to let you do it.
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Re: Trees, bushes and fobbing off

Postby TO » Thu May 30, 2013 2:05 pm

Hi

You are perfectly entitled to trim back to the boundary everything that encroaches across it. The accepted convention is you offer back the bits you have trimmed off to the owner. If they decline the offer you dispose of the bits and pieces in a responsible manner. Placing the bits and pieces, no matter how carefully, back onto your neighbours land after they have declined the offer of return, or you haven't offered to return the arisings, is illegal dumping of controlled waste, and a criminal offence. This will of course be compounded by the civil offence of trespass. The penalties for dumping controlled waste are quite wide ranging, from fines to the confiscation of vehicles.

Environmental Protection Act 1990 (Part II) s.33
It is illegal for any person to deposit controlled waste, knowingly cause or knowingly permit controlled waste to be deposited in or on any land unless a waste management licence is in force and the deposit is in accordance with the licence.

Controlled waste is any household, commercial or industrial waste.

What action the Councils Officers would take may well depend on how much you annoy your neighbour/neighbours landlady and how much they pursue the Council to take action.

So my advice is this. You are pruning the overhang back for your own benefit. This is part and parcel of everyday gardening and property maintenance. Offer the arisings back to the neighbour, and if they decline the offer dispose of the arisings yourself in a responsible manner at a licensed tip.

Garden waste is one of the most frequently flytipped materials.

TO
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Re: Trees, bushes and fobbing off

Postby Greenthumb » Thu May 30, 2013 3:03 pm

Hi,

Thanks for the reply. Certainly interesting reading.

I've spoken to both the Environment Agency and Environmental Health Department at my local council and neither are able to confirm that returning the arising would constitute fly tipping. They Environmental agency said it was too small scale for them to advise on, as they only deal with situations involving over 20 tonnes of waste, and the EHD said they wouldn't be able to advise without consulting their solicitors, which they wouldn't do in such a minor case as it would be more a civil matter. They went on to say they felt it unlikely that returning arisings to whence they had come, as long as no damage was caused, would not be something they would get involved with and that they understood that the established protocol was to return the arisings as they were the property of the owner. The council advised me to speak to the Citizens advice bureau to see what they said.

Certainly not as conclusive as one would hope but equally, it sounds very much like any complaints from our neighbour would get the same response "it's a private matter, we wouldn't get involved". Equally, it sounds incredibly unlikely that returning the arisings would constitute fly tipping. I'm waiting on a call back from citizens advice bureau; and will let you know what their view on it is.

Lastly, i don't want to argue, but no, pruning back 15ft high, 8 foot deep trees/bushes, that are not yours, along an 80 foot section of garden is not part and parcel of everyday gardening. Cutting the grass at the weekend, weeding the patio, weeding the grass and flower beds, trimming back a few branches that have grown across the border sure, but there has to be a limit to how much tending to your neighbours garden you have to do to able to enjoy your own.
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Re: Trees, bushes and fobbing off

Postby despair » Thu May 30, 2013 3:47 pm

I totally and utterly agree with you

Pruning back that amount of growth and height of a neighbours shrubs is unreasonable sadly though as several cases in court over the costs of cutting back to the boundary incredibly high and massively overhanging Leylandi have not resulted in claims for recovering the costs to be upheld
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Re: Trees, bushes and fobbing off

Postby TO » Thu May 30, 2013 8:13 pm

Hi

I'm sure the Environment Agency and the local authority have far better things to do than pursue people for dumping rubbish in other peoples gardens. However the law is the law and it's quite clear. The dumping of controlled waste, and that includes the stuff you've cut off your neighbours plants, is a criminal matter. Could your neighbour get the authorities to act. Well that depends on how hard they wish to pursue it.

I think you are being fobbed off by the authorities to be honest, and they seem to be being a little disingenuous in the search for an easy life. There is no definition of fly-tipping, so stating categorically that dumping the arisings is fly-tipping is impossible. However, as mentioned previously it does constitute the dumping of controlled waste which is a criminal offence. It's the law and it applies to you, me, Despair, the Council, the Environment Agency and everyone else equally whether you like it or not.

Dumping of garden waste is a big problem, it's just that it's invariably done in small amounts, but they add up.

Trimming back the bushes to the boundary hardly constitutes doing your neighbours gardening. You are doing it because it's your garden, for your benefit, and you can, just like mowing your lawn and removing weeds from the borders.

TO
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Re: Trees, bushes and fobbing off

Postby kipper » Thu May 30, 2013 10:46 pm

You need to get either permission from the landlord for total removal of the hedge or permission from the tenant for reduction in height to a more manageable level, both by a contractor. It is likely that you will have to pay for this yourself or negotiate with the tenant for a contribution from them. If the height is reduced then you will find the hedge easier to manage if you and the tenant keep on top of the trimming.
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Re: Trees, bushes and fobbing off

Postby Greenthumb » Fri May 31, 2013 4:27 pm

Thanks Kipper,

The other alternative i'm considering is paying to go pick a solicitors brain. Maybe they can definitively tell me where I would stand regarding the arisings.

I was also interested to read about someone who won a claim in small claims court in a similar situ. They wrote a letter to a neighbour asking them to abate the trespass of their hedges stating if they hadn't by a certain time, then they would pay a contractor to do so. A second letter was sent without reply. Meanwhile they got 3 quotes and, when they heard nothing, they had the cheapest contractor do the work and then sent the bill to the neighbour. When it remained unpaid they took their neighbour to small claims court and won both the contractors cost and the court costs. The cost of bringing a case, for a claim of upto £300, is £30 I believe. :shock:

I'm in Kent and the landlord lives in the midlands.

I'd like to ask a solicitor about this, as people say all sorts of things on the internet.
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Re: Trees, bushes and fobbing off

Postby despair » Fri May 31, 2013 4:45 pm

I have seen this happen but its not commonplace and as its SCC it does not form a precedence

There was a case on Hedgeline where an alderly person won the 1st set of costs but lost the 2nd time

you could try contacting www.hedgeline.org and see if they can give you more help before you pay solicitors

Given 80 to 100ft of boundary I personally would feel its worth a try

save solicitors bills
get 3 quotes to cut back to the boundary and remove arisings
if theres no response from the owner go ahead get the work done and sue her
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