Boundary and garden disputes
If you're having a dispute with your neighbour about boundaries or gardens, you can:
- approach your neighbour only if you feel safe to do so
- talk to their landlord if your neighbour is a tenant
- get help from a mediation service
- contact your local authority
- get in touch with your local councillor or MSP
- call the police if your neighbour is breaking the law
- take court action.
How to check your property boundaries
You can check the boundaries by looking at the property documents or the title deeds. If you don’t have the property documents or title deeds you should read How to find property documents and title deeds.
If you rent your home, your tenancy agreement may state where the boundaries of your property are. If it doesn’t, or you don't have a written tenancy agreement, you can contact your landlord. You can find your landlord’s contact information by searching the Scottish Landlord Register.
If you want to put up a wall or a fence
You might need to check your property boundaries if you want to put up a wall or a fence. If you don’t have the property documents or title deeds you should read How to find property documents and title deeds.
If the property documents or deeds don’t mention fences or barriers then, generally, you can put one up. Find more information about building walls or fences on mygov.scot.
Who is responsible for shared walls or fences
To know who can use or repair a barrier, you need to find out who owns it. The property documents or title deeds may say who owns a barrier and who has responsibility for repairs and maintenance of it.
If you don’t have the property documents or title deeds you should read How to find property documents and title deeds.
If the property documents or title deeds don’t talk about the rights to use and repair a barrier, then you should consider getting legal advice.
A barrier that belongs to one person can be used by them as they wish, without their neighbour’s consent, as long as it's safe. The neighbour has no rights over the barrier. For example, it can’t be used to support trailing plants without the owner's permission. If the fence is jointly owned, each neighbour can use it for support, as long as neither makes it unsafe.
A property owner doesn't have to repair their barrier unless the title deeds say so. However, if the barrier injures a person or damages property, the owner may be liable for damages. It is therefore in the owner’s interests to keep the barrier in a reasonable state of repair.
If you can't agree who's responsible for a shared garden
The property documents or title deeds of the property may say who is responsible for keeping a shared garden in good order. If you don’t have the property documents or title deeds you should read How to find property documents and title deeds.
If you think a neighbour's garden is a health hazard, you should contact the local authority environmental health department. Find contact details for your local authority using mygov.scot.
You can buy property documents for £3.00 (plus VAT) on Scotland’s Land Information website. The property documents contain:
- a description of the property
- who the current owners are
- details of any mortgage
- the obligations (burdens) on the property owner
- a title plan showing the boundary and position of the property on an Ordanance Survey map.
To get all of this information and more, you can check the title deeds. If you don’t already have the title deeds, you should buy the property documents instead. The property documents usually contain all the information you need and are much cheaper to get.
If your neighbour's tree is causing a problem
The tree's owner has a legal responsibility to make sure it doesn't damage a neighbour's property, garden or driveway.
You can cut back roots and branches that overhang onto your property, but it's best to discuss it with your neighbour first.
If your tree is causing a danger or obstacle in a public road or pathway, you can be forced to cut it back by the local authority. If you don’t follow orders by the local authority, they may carry out the work themselves and send you the bill.
Neighbour's hedge or tree is blocking light or views
If you've lost daylight to your property, or views you previously enjoyed, you should try to negotiate with your neighbour to reduce the height of the tree. You don't have the right to take height off your neighbour's tree without their permission.
If there's a hedge or two or more trees in a row that are blocking light and you can't reach a resolution, then you should follow the procedure to submit a complaint to your local authority.
Neighbour's tree coming into your garden
If your neighbour's tree branches or roots are spreading into your property, you should approach your neighbour.
You can cut branches or roots back to the boundary line without their permission. However this may damage the tree and the relationship with your neighbour.
What if your neighbour refuses to cut back the tree
If your neighbour refuses to cut back the tree, there are more steps you can take to resolve your dispute.
If your neighbour can't look after their garden
If your neighbour is unable to look after their garden due to disability or old age, they may be able to get help from the local authority. Your local authority might run a garden aid scheme. This is a basic gardening service for people unable to look after their gardens. Find details for your local authority on mygov.scot.
How to sort out dangerous or non-native weeds
Certain dangerous and poisonous weeds can be very invasive. It's against the law to let non-native plants, like Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed, spread into the wild.
If you have a problem with a dangerous weed growing into your garden, you may be able to persuade the owner of the land to remove the weed. In some cases the local authority may be able to get rid of the weed for you. To find out if you could get help, contact your local authority.
If you have to get together with neighbours to get rid of the weed there are specialist companies for controlling these weeds. You should be able to expect the following from such companies:
- free first visit for a quote
- reasonable charge based on time taken to get rid of the weed and the cost of chemicals used
- guarantee for a reasonable number of years.
You can get help from an adviser at your local Citizens Advice Bureau.