/ 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.

>>> 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.?

@ 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.

David B says:
10 May 2020

Rubbish, Councils do not collect for free, and most houses with junk piled up are privately owned residences, because renters and council tenants have rules to abide by. Regardless, if a property is a mess to the point it causes a reduction in the quality of life for others, then there should be fines.

I am afraid our front garden has a pile of junk on a section of the driveway, although it is neat and well organised. I have tried to keep it tidy and reasonably concealed from public view behind a wall and shrubbery but it annoys me to see it every day. It was put there awaiting collection by a disposal contractor who is unable to remove it for the time being. It has been necessary to add to the pile recently as more clearance work has carried on in the garden and garage.

A number of other local residents have also taken advantage of the current movement restrictions to stay at home and put their affairs in order by getting rid of their rubbish – or at least assembling it ready for collection as and when such services can resume.

A number of houses were in the middle of building works when the lockdown commenced and have unfinished alterations, stacks of building materials, unemptied skips, and portable toilets adorning their frontages, mostly now with weeds growing amongst them.

I think some councils will undertake free collections of bulky household waste but only within certain categories and up to a set number of items. Most councils make a charge – ours charges £24 for the first item and then at lower levels for each additional item up to £104 for ten items. It does not include plastic sacks of rubbish nor DIY items nor hazardous waste. The service is not available to businesses or landlords.

Our council charges £32 for one to five bulky items. Where I used to live, households could request a free collection once a year.

During the coronavirus lockdown there has been more fly tipping, presumably thanks to waste recycling facilities being closed. Ours have reopened but only for waste that cannot be stored safely.

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.

Oooh, this is a tricky one. I live in a ground floor flat and have a real problem with my neighbours upstairs dumping their stuff in the garden – old bits of wood, curtain poles, and – yes – the obligatory mattress. I have explained it to them but they keep doing it, so the rubbish becomes my responsibility. I do clear it away, but am annoyed at having to do it, and would be even more annoyed if I were fined for it, given that it’s not my rubbish!

I can see why it means a lot to people that their local area is kept in good shape, as it does help to give a better impression – especially if you’re trying to sell or rent a property. But ultimately I think encouragement is a better course of action than punishing people. After all – they may not know that the council will take things for free, or it may well (as in my case) be their neighbours’ rubbish!

If you live in a flat your lease should be clear who owns the garden space so I am a loss to understand what is happening. Either they are dumping it on your garden or it is their garden anyway. It is conceivable that it is communal but that is rare if we are talking a two flat house.

David says:
23 December 2013

If the garden belongs to you and other people are dumping household rubbish on it, they are committing a criminal offence. If you can prove who is doing it, beyond reasonable doubt, the council should be able to prosecute them. This is fly tipping.

Youi can’t even give them permission to do it, as you are not a licensed waste disposal operator.

Nick says:
22 May 2020

Does this include garden waste dumped at a mates farm, right on the edge of a track?

I should think so, Nick. The transport and disposal of waste by an unlicensed person or firm is a criminal offence, and disposing of waste [even by a licensed operator] at an unlicensed site is also an offence.

Fly tipping should be reported to the council, Nick: https://www.gov.uk/report-flytipping If there is any asbestos or hazardous materials they could involve the Environment Agency.

Waste that is not put in your own bins or taken to a council centre must be handled by a licensed operator, as John has said. This is not cheap, as anyone who has hired a skip will know. It’s important to deal with fly tipping promptly to avoid encouraging others to add more rubbish and possibly a vermin problem.

I noticed bags of rubbish and the obligatory mattress at the entrance to a farm when out for exercise during the lockdown and it had been removed within a few days.

Keeping the place reasonably tidy is simply being considerate to neighbours and others who live in the area. Some council estates have many gardens over-run with weeds and I feel very sorry for those who enjoy gardening and put in a lot of effort to have an attractive garden.

Eleanor says:
14 June 2012

I think it’s about finding a balance, as well as collective action.

We put a lot of effort into our garden and we also help our neighbours (one of whom is disabled and one who is elderly) to keep on top of their gardens by cutting their hedges, mowing their lawns and weeding.

We live on a estate (part private housing and part housing association). There is some Council owned “green” land at the end of our road that was left to overgrow and look unsightly which we, along with some other neighbours on our street, now look after ourselves and have planted nice shrubs and bushes (those who can afford to have donated one plant each). Collectively this is cheap, relatively easy and non time consuming.

Dumping rubbish in your garden (old bits of wood, broken toys and furniture, and – yes – the obligatory manky mattress) is altogether different and those responsible should be fined if they don’t do anything about it.

I think that housing associations in particular need to take more responsibility and support and encourage their tenants not to dump rubbish. They also need to bring persistent offending tenants to account. Certainly where we live it is the housing association who neglects its responsibility to ensure that its properties are well maintained and kept clear of rubbish, despite repeated requests for it to do so.

That makes a lot of sense, Eleanor, and it is considerate to help out neighbours.

I think a lot of the problems stem from the refusal of local councils to take away bulky refuse free of charge these days. Most make a charge and set a limit plus other restrictions. My council charges £27 for up to five items then £5 per item up to a combined total of 15 items in any one collection. People on council tax or housing benefit or with pension credit pay a reduced charge but can only have one collection per twelve-month period. Then there are rules about how, when and where the waste should be presented. More enlightened authorities, in order to encourage a better streetscene, make no charge or organise six-monthly community collection schemes, provide skips in designated places, and have roving dustcarts clearing people’s frontages. I’m not condoning messy gardens but I think any council that wants to start fining people must first offer a reasonable service. In my experience there is some connexion between financial hardship and front garden junk and in many areas the community is just not cohesive enough to help people with their bigger waste. As for landlords, social or otherwise, instead of helping they just seem to abdicate all responsibility and then wonder why, when a tenant has quit, they have to clear a mountain of stuff from the property.
I could go on about civic values and the failure of schools to instil any sense of social discipline but that’s for another day or another topic.

My house is the only one left in our street that still has a front garden, All of the rest have been flattened & turned into car parking areas? some legal some illegal.

Jean says:
29 June 2012

I live in Townhill Swansea some of the gardens here are a disgrace, what people do not realise is that the front of a house shows what sort of person you are, a neet tidy garden shows that you take pride in your surroundings and yourself, I had a horse get into my garden due to the local council turning a blind eye to animals kept in back gardens, the animal caused approx £100.00 damdage to plants the owners of the animal just laughed and the Council and police did nothing not even a response to the complaint. How can people who keep their property looking nice hope to win when the councills do nothing about untidy gardens and animals kept in unapropriate conditions.

rich says:
9 October 2012

hi people i have approx 3 ton of garden waste in my front garden as i have recently set up my own gardening business and do not yet have the income to pay the council £35-£50 per half ton at my local tip.half the rubbish is from my garden itself and the rest from customers gardens.my neighbours and landlord are threatening me with fines if i do not clear it. I want to no if im legally obliged to do so.i understand it does not look amazing for the rest of the road but i currently cant afford non essential things such as tipping fees and council fines.any help would be amazing thanks rich.


You are entitled to take your own garden waste to a local tip and it should be free of charge. If you enquire locally you may find that there are other free ways of getting rid of garden waste.

You should not risk turning your front garden into a mini tip as you will incur the wrath of neighbours, local Environmental Health officers, etc.

If you have any wood, e.g. logs then you could try selling on E Bay or give away on sites like Freecycle.

Good luck with your business.

David says:
23 December 2013

I believe you will be breaking the law if you are transporting garden waste from customer gardens and dumping it on your property, unless you have a waste carriers licence. It is unlikely that such a licence would permit you to use your garden in this way.

Unless you also have mixed use planning consent, you may be in breach of planning laws.

The landfill tax is set to reflect the impact of land fill, particularly the long term impact, and therefore make businesses change their ways of working to better minimise the true cost to the community of their business.

If there are less costly, legal, ways of dealing with your waste, market forces should result in businesses providing such services.

Tomos Saggers says:
27 February 2017

[Sorry Tomos, your comment has been removed for being off-topic and offensive. Please ensure your comments stick to our commenting rules. Thanks, mods]

I appreciate that the preceding comments about waste in front gardens [and commercial waste in particular] are a bit long in the tooth now but these are relevant modern concerns.

A friend works as a gardener, mainly for elderly and disabled folk who cannot manage their plots on their own. She expects her clients to have a garden waste bin into which all the arisings from her pruning and weeding work can be put. She will not allow an accumulation of garden waste to spoil the appearance of the gardens she looks after so if there is no brown bin there will be no service from her!

Commercial gardeners, like Rich (above), who remove their clients’ waste themselves should take it to a tip and pay the commercial charge [which they can recharge to their client], not dump it on their own property to the annoyance of their neighbours. Having three tons of waste on a front garden is an offence.

While there is a general tolerance of running a small business from a residential property, it is not alright if it involves disturbance or loss of amenity to other residents of the area and a planning application would be necessary [with the possibility of consent being withheld].

Since this Conversation started nearly eight years ago the internet has mushroomed with all manner of trades and occupations being carried on from home, often leading to larger volumes of waste, frequent callers and deliveries, and processes which give rise to noise or activity levels not normally associated with a residential area. This has become more noticeable during the lockdown when other residents are having to stay at home all day every day.

Katey says:
25 May 2015

I have a neighbour across from me who privately rents the property from a relative. We have seen numerous drug activities and ‘dodgy’ people coming and going. The children they have have been taken into care. We have contacted the police numerous times who have done nohing about it. Luckily the man of the house has moved out and has quietened down a little. However a makeshift fence has been erected at the side of the property and is very unsightly, made up of old wood and a metal sheeting all at different levels, the garden is very untidy and is very unkept. We were looking to move recently but it is a major sticking point for anybody that comes up the street. If i were to arrive up and see ta house across from one i were about to buy it would be a definate no!! How do i approach this? What rules are in place for the property owners to abide to to ensure neighbours are not left in a position that they may not be able to sell their own property due to the state of another neighbour?

Hi Katey, thanks for posting your comment and I wish you all the best when you decide to move home. Have you read through our really useful guide about neighbour disputes? – we’ve published lots of advice on what you can do. If you haven’t read it, you can view it here.

Unfortunately, the people you describe are unlikely to change their harrowing habits long term. Talking sometimes works for a while and just when you think the problem has gone away, slowly but surely their ingrained habits return. You could try contacting their landlord first and if he/she fails to act to remove them and all other action fails to produce a satisfactory result you can threaten legal action against both the landlord for failing to take action and their tenants. Most landlords are reluctant to become involved with legal action due to the expense involved but if drugs are involved plus the fact that houses in the area are deemed unsaleable this should go in your favour. Your neighbours may agree to make a contribution since their properties are affected also.

Good Luck. I have been living with a similar situation for the past twelve months and am happy to say at last they have been given notice to leave by their landlord after I threatened to start legal action. As soon as they leave my house is going on the market as I am more or less at the mercy of the landlord and his/her future tenants.

Helen says:
8 July 2015

Hi, looking for some advice,I am busy renovating my garden, but due to redundancy I have ran out of money, I have about ten garden waste bags full of soil up my drive, one of my neighbours keeps complaining and the council keep coming round, I’m unsure if I have the money to finish renovation, so I’m hanging on to bags for now. I’ve told the man from the council this, but he keeps coming round, I’ve hidden the bags behind the wheelie bins, it’s soil will not decompose and attract vermin, it is a private drive…..any advice?

Rob says:
17 July 2015

Hi, My wife and I are returning to view a house for the second time on Saturday. We like the house very much, it ticks all the boxes and is in a lovely leafy residential area of Bournemouth. The only issue is with site of the neighbours front drive/garden.

It has become a scrap yard, from the front you can see there’s an old crumbling caravan, car body parts, numerous vans in bits, and that’s just what you can see, heaven knows what is behind! The house itself doesn’t look well maintained but thats not my issue.

Is there anything that can be done to force someone to remove the junk (I call it junk but to them it might mean something). The people who currently live in the house we are looking to buy say he is a hoarder and an eccentric but a lovely person who would do anything for you. Now this all sounds good but people when coming to sell will tell you what you want to hear.

I’m going to go and knock on a few neighbours doors to see if I can find out a little more. But if anything, what can be done to fix the lack of curb appeal.

Any advice or hands on experience would be greatly appreciated.


My lovely neighbour decided to complain, no, actually give advice, to a mutual acquaintance about my front garden and house. My front garden is lawn, kept mown in the summer, I spent an age sorting the hedge out (from a small wood to something manageable now), bedding plants are old now and concrete driveway is not as pretty as next door indian sandstone flag stones.

I actually found it amusing, as over the last 5 years, anything involving disruption had lead to problems. I had the cavity walls insulated by British Gas (on a working day) and the neighbour shot out in a huff in her car. Later on I was asked not to have work done on a week day morning as the girlfriend of the son was on night shifts, amongst other requests. In the end I reached a point where I could finish off and have given up trying to do anything that isn’t completely essential, i.e. nothing new. So, actually, I find it rather annoying that the neighbour is vexed about what they see of my property wandering down their driveway but then has a problem with things actually getting done.
Fines? … well that would get interesting…

K Laing says:
20 June 2016

Part of the problem is – Exactly what is an “eyesore”? Obviously piles of unbagged rubbish, and dismantled cars and machinery, but is a fully concreted front, what about lots of council wheelie bins, what about uncut grass, what about parked cars, what about overgrown bushes and plants – and how overgrown?

One of the problems is that the definition of “eyesore” is just too subjective – there ought to be

Eyesore – too true. One persons eyesore is another persons joy to behold. Look at some of the art at the Tate Modern. I guess some of these front gardens might qualify as art (if an old tank can, then why not?) Or even as show gardens at Chelsea – just describe them as havens for wildlife.

People with front gardens almost always have back gardens where they can leave their rubbish and admire it. Front gardens are part of the public realm whether we like it or not and, in my [admittedly self-righteous] opinion, people occupying a house with a front garden have a civic duty to keep it looking decent. Most tenancy agreements require it but it is rarely enforced. Owner-occupiers generally have an incentive to keep their front garden in good order but perhaps if they are not thinking of selling their property they let it go.

One thing has changed in recent times – there are fewer old cars left in front gardens under the guise of “I am working on it and will get it back on the road one day”. Cars not subject to a statutory off-road notification [SORN] have to be insured even if they are going nowhere. A SORN declaration is free of charge but some owners have an aversion to making one and would rather scrap the vehicle than keep it.

Many areas have community support schemes which will do a bit of regular gardening for needy people and those who cannot manage it themselves.

I am in the orocess of building a house and my neighbour has put 4 industrial containers right up against the boundary fence because we complained about the roaring of engines from their scrap cars as they race them as a hobby. Thes containers ar in fact not in the rear of their property but in the front. W ehave been told by Moray Planning enforcement officers that they are perfectly within their rights

This comment was removed at the request of the user

My neighbour has started his own Building business and every night he empties his van on his front garden, we look out of our window and it looks like we are living next to a builders yard, what can we do about this as the pile of bricks/wood and cement and sand is getting higher and higher

My first thought would be to ask the local council whether the property has planning permission for operating a building business and request them to take enforcement action if it does not. It is unlikely that planning permission would be granted for such a use in the middle of residential area. The sooner the better before the use acquires established status.

My neighbours are antisocial in many ways. In the front garden they have a 5 x 3 ft flag (does not go down well in the village at all!) flying directly outside my cottage front window, they have wheely bins, brushes and mops (no one else does in the village) a dirty board actually IN my garden which they won’t remove, they pile boxes on top of the bins, dog toy, wellies, shoes, bricks, bags of compost just left around the garden, tubs of rubbish, smashed up wooden pallets, the fence is held together by bits of wire, they let their 2 big dogs mess down the passage way (which I share). Is there anything I can do about this? In the village, we feel that this eyesore has devalued our properties. People tell me they feel sorry for me! Their cottage used to be pretty, their front garden is only about 2 x 4 meters! Is this some sort of syndrome?