Rubbish neighbours

Our lawyer Fiona McNulty looks at the legal issues of neighbours dumping unwanted items in their front gardens
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Rubbish neighbours cartoon
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Question: Our neighbours keep dumping unwanted items in their front garden, including mattresses, televisions, baths and even food.

I asked the council and they said that, as it is private land, they cannot do anything. They suggest that I approach the neighbours directly but I prefer not to (they look scary). Shouldn’t the council do something?

Answer: The council cannot take action against home-owners who leave rubbish on their own land unless they are breaching particular legislation that specifies that the local authority is the enforcing body.

You mention that food is dumped and, if the rubbish constitutes a health hazard, the council would be able to take action under the public health regulations. You may be able to take action yourself, alleging that the neighbours’ actions constitute a nuisance that reduces your enjoyment of your own land. You would have to show that their actions were either excessive or malicious.

Additionally, in many areas - particularly on modern housing estates - the developers impose obligations on all the properties, by way of covenants (legal promises), which ensure a minimum standard of amenity for all home-owners.

A common covenant that often occurs is “not to cause any nuisance or annoyance to the developer or any of the neighbours". You should contact your solicitor and check whether there are any such provisions in your deeds and, if so, how you could enforce them.

You must always remember that taking legal action can be expensive and coming to an agreement after discussion will always be preferable.

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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

Fiona is a partner in the property team at Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons Solicitors

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