/ Home & Energy

Should fines be issued for messy front gardens?

Junk tip

I’m looking for a place to buy at the moment, and a front garden that’s full of junk is a real turn-off. A government antisocial behaviour proposal suggests fining people who leave rubbish in their front garden.

I’m house hunting at the moment, and as an avid gardener, a good garden is important to me. But it’s not just my garden that’s important to me – it’s the others in the street.

Even a garden that’s just unkempt is off-putting, so I can understand that householders feel that messy gardens blight their street, especially if they’re trying to sell or rent out a property.

Garden Criminal Behaviour Orders

A government White Paper on antisocial behaviour has proposed that people who leave rubbish in their front gardens could be fined or taken to court. But in fact, councils already have the power to prosecute people who are neglecting their plot.

Stephen McGlade, a Which? Legal Service lawyer, says:

‘Councils have long since been able to intervene and ask an owner or occupier who neglects a piece of land to tidy up the site, and to fine them if no action is taken. Anyone can complain to the council about the condition of any land in its area. The council may also act without a complaint being made.’

Eyesore Gardens Scheme

The Barking and Dagenham area must be looking pretty smart these days, because its council has been using its existing powers to run its Eyesore Gardens Scheme for the last three years. The scheme dealt with 3,050 untidy gardens last year – an average of more than eight per day. That’s a hell of a lot of messy gardens that needed some attention, and suggests that the problem is pretty widespread.

But what constitutes an ‘untidy’ garden, exactly – or a ‘health hazard’ for that matter? Piles of rubble, broken fridges and old mattresses presumably count, but what about gardens that are just overgrown? One woman I know sowed a wildflower meadow in her front lawn, and drew complaints from her neighbours, who thought the un-mown look spoilt the look of their street.

What do you think constitutes a messy garden, and have you approached your council about a troublesome garden in your area? How quickly was it dealt with?


In my opinion, conservation and housing association areas are the only places that the rule should apply. There is no law saying that you have to repaint your house, repoint the brickwork, buy a new door, replace the rotting windows, repave your drive if it is falling into disrepair.

If there is a garden on your street with junk in it, either the person is a hoarder or they are renting, or both. The council can come and remove all of it free of charge anyway, it just needs someone with the knowledge of this to just ring them up. Maybe someone just couldn’t get all the stuff in a car to take it to the recycling centre.

You are never going to find a street that’s perfect, so I recommend buying a brand new house, like my partner and I did. Then all the gardens in the street are small, well kept and immature. Plus seeing as it’s a new house, people are very wary about what they plant and where they plant it creating some really interesting and unique streets.

Em says:
13 June 2012

>>> There is no law saying that you have to repaint your house, repoint the brickwork, buy a new door, replace the rotting windows, repave your drive if it is falling into disrepair. <<<

Not true. The Town and Country Planning Act Section 215 gives local planning authorities powers to require proper maintenance of land. In this context, "land"" includes buildings.


Sorry, I think you have misinterpreted that “rule” Em

You have also applied your own context.

“Proper Maintenance” is subjective and you give no indication as to whether this rule relates to private or commercial properties or even clarified where it says that this rule is pertinent to general upkeep. It is a completely vague rule to which you have incorrectly decided applies to the comments I made.

Perhaps you should’ve added “only if it a risk to public health” or “only if there is a risk to damagin nearby property” or something like that. Or maybe quoted the exact rule that states that it applies to private dwellings.

I’m happy to accept that there is some sort of rule, but the example you give really cannot be used in this case.


Absence of a law does not mean that allowing a building or a garden to decay is actually desirable either for the individual or the neighbours. Dean says “The council can come and remove all of it free of charge anyway”. Is there any example of this please?

The UK has a history of laissez-faire towards social legislation and perhaps we are now getting to an era where people specifically require laws to understand their duties to society. In Germany they have always felt a need for everyone to observe the same standards: e.g.
“Winter Service and Street Sweeping: If there is no caretaker then residents are legally obliged to remove snow and ice from in front of their house during winter. This is generally stated in the rent contract. If tenants are responsible for removing snow and ice then they are liable for all injuries incurred if they fail to meet their obligations. In some regions the streets also have to be swept once a week.”

Perhaps not keeping rubbish in the garden is not too much of a restriction on a resident.?

Em says:
14 June 2012

@ Dean – I appreciate that you might not recognize how s.215 could relate to your post, as even local planning authorities (LPAs) sometimes fail to understand its very broad scope and application. So I have posted a link to the Best Practice Guidance that was issued to LPAs in 2005.


You will see from this that it does apply to private dwellings and it does concern itself with the general upkeep of properties:

“Section 215 has been effectively used on … [other circumstances] … as well as the more typical rundown residential properties and overgrown gardens.”

“The scope of works that can be required in s215 notices is wide and includes planting, clearance, tidying, enclosure, demolition, re-building, external repairs and repainting.”

It also contains some “before and after” photographic case studies, if you don’t want to read chapter and verse.

There does not have to be any specific risk to public health or safety – these are dealt with under other, more specific, laws.

The only requirement for a s.215 notice to be served is detriment to amenity, in the opinion of the LPA. Normally, a threat of action by the LPA is sufficient to cause remedial works to be undertaken, or the property to be sold on to a more responsible owner/developer.

If your LPA is not initially sympathetic and you feel there is a genuine case, pressure from other like-minded residents and local councillors may well do the trick. I’ve seen it work in practice to good effect.

Bronco says:
5 July 2014

Any Enforcement Order can only be made against any Building/Dwelling if it falls BELOW The Tolerable Standard, which normally excludes Paintwork, which is classed as being only Superficial, and not as a danger to the main structure of the Building itself.
Therefore, no one can be forced to re-paint a building unless there is some requirement in the Deeds to the property, that states that the building must be maintained in this way.

You can however be made too keep “The appearence” of a building up to a presentable standard, should it be contained in the conditions of a Building that has been granted “Listed Status”, and Re-painting is a part of the required Status Conditions.

Roger says:
2 June 2015

Well then Dean & partner, lucky you! I find this a somewhat narrow solution for a select few who can afford your way out. Logically of course it means that everyone will live in a new house and all the older properties will be abandoned. Hmmm! If I voted then your party would be quite low on my list.I live in a property which I bought cheaply, as it was in just such an abandoned condition as we are describing, and by dint of hard labour turned it into something rather more desireable. Unfortunately I have socially irresponsible neighbours on both sides and am presently considering how to deal with this. But of course! Silly me! All I have to do is buy a new house and move.


This is a tricky one as the ‘face’ appeal of a place is so subjective. Of course broken appliances and stained mattresses are a given to go in the unacceptable pile. But when it comes to how you design your garden there can’t be restrictions as everyone’s tastes are different.