Renovating Your Garden – Without Breaking the Law!

Renovating Your Garden - Without Breaking the Law!

Many people imagine their garden to be their own piece of land that they can change to their heart’s content. Of course, this isn’t always the case. You may think that last sentence doesn’t apply to you if you own the property outright – but that isn’t true, either!

Spring is now upon us, which is going to have a lot of people eager to get out into the garden and start making some changes. But before you step foot out there with whatever tools you’re planning to use, you need to ensure that you’re actually going to be following the law.

You may not think that the law would need to get that involved in what you’re doing in your back garden. But changes and additions that may seem innocent to you may spark the ire of neighbors and your local homeowners’ association. Which, of course, can lead to some trouble with police and lawyers! So you shouldn’t be making any assumptions when it comes to the legality of anything you do in your garden. Check out this quick guide to become more learned in this often-trick area of law.



Who owns your property

Of course, if you don’t actually own your property outright, then making any renovations in your garden is probably going to land you in some hot water (and not the pleasant kind that you happily bathe in. Like, really hot water). That doesn’t mean renovations are off the table completely; you just need to make sure the landlord consents to it. It’s unlikely that they’ll be too interested; if it’s a big renovation that could actually add value to the property then they might be, but they’d want to oversee the project themselves.

Even if you own the home, you still might need to double-check your mortgage terms. If you haven’t paid off everything in full, then you may not be allowed to make alterations to the property just yet. You may have to talk to the institution that technically owns the house – this may, in most cases, be the bank lending you the money.


Respecting boundaries

When people picture back gardens, they often picture bits of lands with clearly delineated boundaries, with fences and whatnot. But many people don’t actually have fences that create clean splits between their back garden and their neighbors. With this in mind, of course, you’re going to have to make certain where your property begins and ends.

Even with fences present, issues can still arise. If there’s something you’re adding to the garden that may stretch out over the fence – for example, a tree – then this could end up violating boundaries. It’s also worth mentioning that tall additions that end up causing some other inconvenience to your neighbors – for example, that same tall tree blocking out some of that midday sunshine they want pouring into their living room. Make sure you know precisely where the boundaries are, and discuss such changes with your neighbor. Speaking of which…



Notifying the neighbors

Garden renovations are usually the quietest activities one can engage in. So notifying your neighbors of any work you’re going to do is certainly a courtesy you should extend to them. It would be disingenuous not to point out, however, that most states don’t actually compel you by law to inform your neighbor of any work you plan to do.

However, before you get the chainsaw and sledgehammers out, you should read that sentence again: most states. You will need to check your specific state laws if, for whatever reason, you really don’t want to talk to your neighbor about the upcoming work. In California, for example, you need to give your neighbors thirty days’ written notice before starting any project.



Quality matters

So you walk out into your garden one day and find that your neighbor has installed the ugliest fence you’ve ever seen in your life. It shocks you to your core. You didn’t think you were the kind to care much about fence aesthetics, but this has really taken you aback. And, of course, an ugly fence in their garden is an ugly fence in your garden (or, technically, just a few centimeters away from where your garden begins). What can you do?

Well, again, the law doesn’t won’t compel anyone to consider quality or aesthetics in their garden renovations just because their neighbor doesn’t like it much. However, if your neighbor’s views happen to align with that of your homeowners’ association, then that’s different. These guys may have the power of municipal law to ensure that any renovation you make on your own property doesn’t damage the overall quality of the neighborhood. It may sound a little snooty, perhaps, but it’s what helps keep property values up in that area. So take care when you’re reviewing the various styles of wooden fences if you’re thinking of putting one up!



Prohibited plants

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. And that might be a problem. When people think about plants that are illegal to grow in your garden, they usually only think of one plant – a certain member of the Cannabaceae family. But there are actually quite a lot of plants that you’re not allowed to grow in the likes of the United States and the U.K., even in your own back garden. The reason that there are a lot of “innocent” plants that are prohibited from private growth is because, generally, they’re what we call “invasive plants”.

These are plants that have a very high reproductive rate – as in, you plant one, and in no time at all you’ll see another one nearby. And because they have very few – quite often none, in fact – natural predators or ‘enemies’ in the form of mammals, insects, or bacteria, they can end up populating way too fast – and taking out other species of plant in the process. Which may sound a bit The Day of the Triffids to you. It’s not quite that dramatic, but you should still double-check the state legality of any plant you’re currently eyeing.

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