Hedge responsibility?

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Gabriel
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Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2005 3:44 pm
Location: Lincolnshire

Hedge responsibility?

Post by Gabriel » Sun Jun 05, 2005 3:52 pm

Help much appreciated:
We live in the second of a row of four cottages, built in 1898, and still with original privet hedges between front gardens. The hedges all used to match. Four years ago, a new neighbour moved into number 3, since when, our neighbour at number 4 has been having a running battle to persuade him to maintain his front garden. This includes the other side of what is technically our hedge (though planted along the original boundary posts, so that almost half of it projects into number 3’s garden). The hedge is high enough for me not to see over it, so the state of Number 3’s garden hasn’t exactly been a high priority for me, but it offends number 4. Number 3 didn’t cut his side of our hedge at all for a long time (ditto between him and number 4), but has now cut it in a different style from any of the other hedges, which number 4 sees as a deliberate provocation. Number 4 now tells me that, as it is our hedge, we have a duty to maintain it in the original style, including the side facing number 3. Hmm.

I believe that if it was a wall, we would have the duty to maintain it and right to access the other side of it, but does this really also apply to hedges? I would hope that neither “clipping style and frequency” nor being “in keeping” on number 3’s side should be our problem, but number 4 seems very sure. Does anyone know what the legal position is here? I’d love there to be a solution that would keep me out of this argument. I’m a bit worried that any intervention on our part would provoke number 3 to cut the hedge back to the boundary, thus causing it to fall over (when originally planted, none of the hedges allowed for any growth on the north side).

despair
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Post by despair » Sun Jun 05, 2005 4:12 pm

Legally your neighbour probably cant force you to trim his side

HOWEVER its your hedge and traditionally hedge growers have had the consideration to maintain both sides plus the top

Sadly in recent years especially with the advent of hedge wars and leylandii many hedge owners do not give a fig for the neighbour who may not want the onerous task of trimming a hedge

If you want to live in harmony then since its your hedge i suggest you show willing and keep your hedge trimmed on all sides

Countryman
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Post by Countryman » Sun Jun 05, 2005 4:35 pm

I'm reading your post a little differently from Despair I think.

First check your deeds to ensure there are no covenants applicable to hedge maintenance then assuming there isn't..............In my opinion neighbour 4 has no legal right to tell you that you have to trim your hedge that is projecting into neighbour 3's garden.

You do not have to offer to trim the hedge from neighbour 3's side but Despair is correct ; it is considered neighbourly to offer to trim it (perhaps when you are doing your own side you can offer without making a big issue of it , he of course does NOT have to accept your offer). If however you believe the situation between neighbours 3&4 is so volatile that an offer by you trim the hedge would be misunderstood by neighbour 3 then you are not legally bound to do anything. The choice is yours.

Other members may have a different viewpoint.

Countryman

Gabriel
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Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2005 3:44 pm
Location: Lincolnshire

Post by Gabriel » Sun Jun 05, 2005 5:29 pm

Thanks Countryman.

No covenants. I think good will was assumed in 1898, but, with less good will now, the original planting could cause problems, because the hedges were planted right against the boundaries.

We did offer to trim the other side of our hedge, when it first became apparent that gardening was not number 3's thing, but I think his back had already been put up, because he refused the offer. According to Number 1, who have lived here since before WWII, it has been usual just to trim sides facing onto garden and owners to trim tops. It used to work.

Please don't misunderstand me Despair; I'd be happy to trim as many hedges as it took to make everyone happy, but it's not a question of courtesy to number 3, because he doesn't want anyone entering his property. I rather hope I don't have the right to insist on access, because that would get me off the hook with number 4. It's not neighbourliness I'm trying to avoid, just a row.

twig
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Joined: Fri Feb 25, 2005 10:35 am

Post by twig » Sun Jun 05, 2005 6:07 pm

I agree with Countryman, you are under absolutely no obligation to trim the side of the hedge in no. 3's garden if he doesn't want it done. In fact I assume that to do so you would have to trespass on his land. Not a good idea!

Why not tell no.4 that you have offered to trim it but that the offer was not accepted and that you will not enter no.3's land without permission. I don't see how they can drag you into it further that way.

despair
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Post by despair » Sun Jun 05, 2005 6:31 pm

I agree

Gabriel
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Location: Lincolnshire

Post by Gabriel » Sun Jun 05, 2005 6:38 pm

Thanks also twig.

Number 4 knows we have offered, but is now holding us responsible for the state of the hedge.

Were it a wall, I believe there are laws governing access to repair, but walls don't grow over neighbouring property, so I rather hope there's no corresponding right here.

I'd like to avoid escalating things, but equally avoid appearing unco-operative with number 4.

twig
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Joined: Fri Feb 25, 2005 10:35 am

Post by twig » Mon Jun 06, 2005 12:22 pm

Alright, let's break it down a bit...

Your hedge is trespassing over the garden of No. 3. No. 3 can request that you remove the trespass, remove all or some of it himself (and offer it back to you) or decide that he likes it and keep it as it is. That is his right. Because the hedge was planted so close to the boundary you cannot cut it yourself without trespassing.

No. 4 cannot insist that you do anything, there is no trespass on his land. It may be iritating to him but you have no more right to enter No. 3's land than he does. His request is not reasonable, tell him that you will cut the hedge if he can gain consent from No. 3 (in writing might be a good idea given the circumstances..) or he should do it himself if he has the guts.

Gabriel
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Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2005 3:44 pm
Location: Lincolnshire

Post by Gabriel » Mon Jun 06, 2005 2:01 pm

Thanks again twig.

Eminently sensible, and you highlight my fear that, if pushed, number 3 will simply remove the ‘tresspass’, making any screening height of hedge (currently 5’ 6”) unsustainable (anyone ever tried transplanting 40 ft of 100-year-old privet?), ditto his own hedge to the north.

In other contexts, we get on quite well with number 4, but I think I’ll have to ask her to take legal advice.

Things got slightly sillier yesterday evening: number 4 is now claiming that, as owners have always cut the tops of the hedges, that has demonstrated a right, by use, to the property up to the northward edge of the hedge (Oh, leave me out of this!), and that number 3 has to allow reasonable access for “repairs”. This is not my understanding and I’m feeling a little used.

Thanks again for the reassurance.

twig
Posts: 452
Joined: Fri Feb 25, 2005 10:35 am

Post by twig » Mon Jun 06, 2005 5:48 pm

I think you are being used... and number 4 is grabbing at straws. By cutting the top of the hedge up to the North side all that you have demonstrated is that you are neighbourly.

She's frustrated, maybe understandably, but she can't place the responsibility on you - it isn't yours. It seems to me that unless the three of you can work something out amicably you are going to end up falling out with one or other of them, no. 4 is being unreasonable, no. 3 is probably being stubborn and you're just getting sucked in.

Maybe you could all sit around a table with a few bottles of wine and hash it out?

Gabriel
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2005 3:44 pm
Location: Lincolnshire

Post by Gabriel » Tue Jun 07, 2005 12:20 pm

Hmm. Perhaps proximity talks ;-)

I can understand the upset caused to people who have lived in a place for over 40 years in one case and nearly 70 in the other, when they see such a mess made of Old Mr 3’s garden and of their own views, but, even in time-warp areas like this, people have become much more private about their private property and resistant to neighbourliness. Changing times.

On a purely academic basis (because I’d like to persuade number 4 to forget the whole subject of boundaries - most inflammatory), I wonder if she has raised an arguable point. There is presumably something in law which argues against it, but:
Unlike overhanging branches, a solid hedge deprives you of the use of the space it occupies, creating a de facto barrier at its surface. If you clip someone else’s hedge within your boundary, I wonder if that counts as an acknowledgement. I wonder if it could be argued that the right to cut a hedge back to the original boundary should be limited to 12 years, or is it 10 now? I don’t wonder it at all seriously, but it would be interesting if all our boundaries had unwittingly taken “a jump to the left” (anyone who doesn’t see Christopher Biggins at this point is not of my generation :)

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