Everything in the garden isn't lovely

Our lawyer, Fiona McNulty looks at the legal rights a property owner has when a neighbouring garden is derelict and causing a nuisance
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Derelict garden cartoon
© Malcolm Willett (www.willett-ink.co.uk)
Question: The garden behind my property is derelict and overgrown. There is buddleia 12 feet high blocking light from my garden and it has begun to seed and sprout along my garden walls.

There is an infestation of rats that may have been attracted by food waste. Do I have any legal rights to force the owner to clear up his land?

Answer: The owner of the neighbouring garden is clearly causing a nuisance and so you could bring a claim for private nuisance against your neighbour for interfering unlawfully with your land.

However, to avoid the cost and risk of litigation you could contact your local council. If the premises are in such a state that they create a nuisance or are prejudicial to health, the local authority can take enforcement action.

The council is obliged to investigate any complaint, and if the situation amounts to what is known as a statutory nuisance then it can serve an abatement notice on the owner or occupier of the neighbouring land, requiring the garden to be tidied up within a period of time. It is a criminal offence to ignore an abatement notice.

If the council does not take enforcement action you may begin proceedings yourself by submitting a complaint to the magistrates court after notifying your neighbour in writing of your intention.

Alternatively, as your enjoyment of your property is being affected by the state of the neighbouring land, you could lodge a complaint with the planning department of your local council, which could also serve a notice requiring your neighbour to remedy the situation. If your neighbour failed to comply with the terms of that notice an offence would be committed.

What's your problem?

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

Fiona is a partner in the property team at Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons Solicitors www.ttuk.com.

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