Stinking dog poo, overgrown hedges and gardens full of rubbish are not only an eyesore but a health hazard. 

The responsibility of maintaining and tidying a garden falls to the owner (and sometimes the tenant if stipulated in the tenancy).

However, there are occasions when neighbours have cause to complain about messy outdoor spaces and local councils can take action. 

For instance, Folkestone & Hythe district council took one woman to court last year and fined her over £1000 for having a messy garden filled with dog poo and rubbish.

The council said that the woman had been issued with several warnings and a community order.

However, her inaction led to an "unpleasant odour" wafting around which affected those living in the nearby area.

Councils often receive complaints from locals who are reporting untidy gardens that range from unsightly to environmental crimes like fly-tipping.

An unkept garden on its own is not enough to take action against a neighbour and there are certain things you simply cannot do that would contravene the law.

Can I complain about my neighbour's messy garden?

You can make a complaint about someone's unkept garden via your local council website. 

In most cases, you will be asked to complete a form.

Some allow you to submit the report anonymously whilst others require you to fill in your details so that they can contact you about the report.

Beyond making a report to the council, you should not take any action yourself.

For instance,  you cannot trespass onto the gardens of neighbours to remove any rubbish or foliage.

Many councils allow you to check the progress of a report via their website.

Can the council make you tidy your garden?

Local councils can take action against people if they do not look after their gardens.

Councils have various powers to deal with untidy land or gardens if they contain material that is likely to rot.

This includes but is not limited to discarded foods, faeces, nappies, and dead animals.

The untidy front or back garden has to be causing a nuisance to neighbours or attracting vermin such as rats or mice.

At first, residents with untidy gardens are issued with a warning letter that will require them to clear and tidy their garden within a specific period of time.

If they don't comply, a community protection notice will be sent under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

Can you be fined for having a messy garden?

If the owner or occupier of the garden does not comply with the notice, they may receive a fixed penalty - typically around £80-£100.

Recommended reading

If the Fixed Penalty Notice is not paid, councils will then seek prosecution and owners can face fines of up to £2,500.

We will charge for all reasonable costs incurred to those properties where enforcement action is taken.

Speaking about the Folkestone and Hythe District Council case in November 2023, Cllr Polly Blakemore – Cabinet Member for Transport, Regulatory Services and Building Control – said: “Prosecutions are always a last resort, but action will be taken when people’s quality of life is being impacted by inconsiderate behaviour such as this.”