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Boundary and garden disputes

This advice applies to Scotland

If you're having a dispute with your neighbour about boundaries or gardens, there are a number of steps you can take. Find out more about resolving neighbour disputes.

Checking your property boundaries

You can check the boundaries by looking at the property documents or the title deeds. If you don’t already have them, you can order property documents on the Registers of Scotland website.

If you rent your home, your tenancy agreement might 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 details 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 already have them, you can order property documents on the Registers of Scotland website.

If the property documents or deeds don’t mention fences or barriers, then in general, you can put one up. Find more about building walls or fences on mygov.scot.

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 might say who owns a barrier and who is responsible for repairing and maintaining it. 

If you don’t already have them, you can order property documents on the Registers of Scotland website.

If the property documents or title deeds don’t talk about the rights to use and repair a barrier, you should get advice from a solicitor.

A person can use a barrier that belongs to 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 might be liable for damages. It's 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 might say who is responsible for keeping a shared garden in good order. If you don’t already have them, you can order property documents or title deeds on the Registers of Scotland website.

Problems with a neighbour's garden or trees

If you think a neighbour's garden is a health hazard, you should contact the local council's environmental health department. Find your local council on mygov.scot

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, drive or boundary fence.

You can cut back roots and branches that overhang or encroach onto your property, but it's best to discuss it with your neighbour first. Also think about whether it's safe to cut back the roots. You might damage the tree or make it dangerous. The tree may be protected by a Tree Preservation Order.

If your tree is causing a danger or obstacle in a public road or path, the local council can make you cut it back. If you don't follow orders by the local council, they might carry out the work themselves and send you the bill.

If your 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 a hedge or two or more trees in a row are blocking light and you can't reach a resolution, you should follow the procedure to submit a complaint to your local council.

If your neighbour's tree branches or roots are coming into your garden

If your neighbour's tree branches or roots are spreading into your property, you should approach your neighbour and discuss the problem. You both may need advice from a tree specialist about what will happen if the roots are cut back.

You can cut branches or roots back to the boundary line without their permission. But this might damage the tree and your relationship with your neighbour. The tree may be protected by a Tree Preservation Order.

If your neighbour can't look after their garden

If your neighbour can't look after their garden because they're disabled or elderly, they might be able to get help from the local council. Your local council might run a garden aid scheme. This is a basic gardening service for people who can't look after their gardens. Find your local council on mygov.scot.

If a neighbour damages your tree

Your neighbour can cut back roots and branches that overhang onto their property, but they should discuss this with you first. You both might need advice from a tree specialist about what will happen if you cut back the roots. 

If your neighbour cuts back a tree too far without your permission, or cuts it down, this could be criminal damage. Read more about how to resolve a dispute about damage.

Dangerous or non-native weeds

Some 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 might be able to persuade the landowner to remove the weed. In some cases, the local council might be able to get rid of the weed for you. To find out if you could get help, contact your local council using the details on mygov.scot.

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:

  • a free first visit for a quote
  • a reasonable charge based on the time taken to get rid of the weed and the cost of any chemicals used
  • a guarantee for a reasonable number of years.

You can get more help from an adviser at your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

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