Have you ever looked out your window and noticed the bushes from your neighbor’s yard creeping over the fence into your property? I have, and let me tell you, it’s so annoying!
I get that bushes grow. It’s just what they do. But when your neighbor doesn’t keep them trimmed back, it can cause some serious issues. Last year, my next-door neighbor’s huge rose bushes were getting completely out of control. Here are some of the problems I ran into:
- The bushes kept spreading farther into my yard every day. Soon, long, thorny branches were hanging over my patio, making it uncomfortable to sit outside.
- My fence was getting damaged. The weight of the branches was causing the panels to lean and warp.
- It became an eyesore. My yard went from cute to scrubby pretty quickly with those mega-bushes invading it.
- The encroaching bushes made it hard to mow and edge right up to the fence like I usually do.
According to a survey by FindLaw.com, 42% of Americans have faced similar issues with a neighbor’s unkempt lawn or visual nuisance. So, if you’re dealing with out-of-control bushes from next door, you’re definitely not alone.
The good news is there are things you can do about the problem of bushes creeping into your turf. Let’s go over some tips and tricks I’ve picked up for getting encroaching bushes back on the other side of the fence where they belong.
1. Check your local laws and regulations
I know this sounds boring, but it’s super important to check the specific laws and regulations in your city or county about property lines and overhanging vegetation.
There might be rules about how much a neighbor’s plants are allowed to cross over onto your property.
For example, my town has an ordinance that bushes can only grow 2 feet over the property line before the neighbor has to trim them back.
It’s good to know stuff like this beforehand so you don’t overstep. There is nothing worse than getting into a feud with your neighbor only to have the city side with them!
To find out the laws where you live, I’d recommend first calling up your local code enforcement office.
Just explain the situation, and they should be able to tell you what’s allowed. You can also search online for your city/county code of ordinances.
It’s usually published on the government website.
I’ll be honest: reading through all the legal jargon can be a slog. But just try to find the sections about property maintenance and vegetation.
That’ll give you the info you need. Knowing the rules of the game makes it way easier to get your neighbor to rein in their wild bushes!
2. Locate your property line
This one might seem obvious, but you need to know exactly where the property line between you and your neighbor’s yard is located. In most neighborhoods, there are markers called survey stakes that identify the boundaries.
Finding your corner survey stakes is super easy to DIY. Here’s what has worked for me:
- Check with your city’s planning department – They usually have a copy of the plot map for your property on file. This will show you where the corners are so you know where to search.
- Use a metal detector – Most stakes are underground a few inches. Dragging a metal detector over the area can help pinpoint them quickly. You can find decent ones pretty cheap on Amazon or at hardware stores.
- Dig around – Once you’ve got a rough idea of where the corners are from the plot map, start digging! Scuffing the ground with a shovel helps uncover the stake.
- Verify it’s legit – Make sure you’ve actually found a real marker and not just some random buried metal. Survey stakes will typically have the surveyor’s markings or tag numbers on them.
Having the physical property line clearly marked makes it crystal clear how far the neighbor’s bushes are encroaching. I put little flag stakes at the corners so I can monitor the invasion in progress!
Knowing exactly where your yard ends is powerful. You can use it to back up your argument when asking your neighbor to trim back their jungle.
3. Understand setback rules
Along with property line laws, you also need to pay attention to setback requirements that your city has in place.
Setbacks dictate how far back a structure (or plants!) must be from the property line. They keep buildings and landscaping from crowding right up to the boundary and blocking views.
Usually, setbacks are something like 5-10 feet from the property line depending on your zoning. However, some neighborhoods have larger setbacks if the lots are bigger.
You can find the setback dimensions in the municipal code with the other property laws. It’s important to know because trimming back encroaching bushes to the property line may still violate setback rules.
My neighbor’s rose bushes were growing right up to the chain link fence. But the setback in my area is 6 feet. So even after trimming at the property line, some of the bush still crossed into the setback zone.
I had to very clearly explain the setback rules before my neighbor agreed more drastic pruning was necessary. Now, there’s finally a nice buffer between our yards!
The bottom line, read up on setbacks so you can speak intelligently about them. Knowing the rules will strengthen your case big time.
4. Don’t forget Homeowners’ Association rules
If you live in a neighborhood with a HOA, they often have their own covenants and restrictions about landscaping and maintenance.
And HOA rules tend to be even stricter than regular city codes.
Before you make any moves, check your HOA docs to see if there are any specifics about vegetation encroaching on adjoining properties. There may even be a required “brush clearance zone” between yards.
I’m not under an HOA, but some of the people I know are.
And they’ve told me horror stories about convoluted HOA rules around property line disputes. It’s better to know what you’re dealing with upfront.
If you’re unsure about the HOA guidelines, reach out to the board or property manager.
Explain what’s going on with your neighbor’s invading bushes and ask what the policy is. They’ll be able to tell you what’s allowed or prohibited.
Having the HOA’s blessing will make the process smoother if things escalate. And you definitely don’t want to end up tangling with your HOA because you inadvertently violated a rule!
5. Verify who owns the bushes
Before asking your neighbor to trim their unruly bushes, it’s smart to confirm that the plants actually belong to them. Sounds obvious, but sometimes things get murky around property lines.
The general rule is that whoever’s property the tree trunk sits on is the owner. If the trunk straddles the property line, you both share ownership.
With bushes, it gets trickier since there’s no central trunk. In that case, verify on which side the main mass of roots originates from. Wherever the root system is predominately located indicates who the bushes belong to.
I ran into this with a huge laurel hedge between my house and my back neighbor. The hedge sat right on the property line, and the roots were intertwined across the boundary.
Turns out we technically co-owned the hedge even though it looked like it belonged to my neighbor. This meant we both had to sign off before removing it.
Try to get confirmation from your neighbor on which side their bushes originated from. But if it’s ambiguous, you may need an arborist or landscape pro to determine ownership before proceeding.
Knowing who’s responsible for the overgrown mess gives you more leverage in getting the issue fixed.
6. Have a friendly chat
Now that you’ve done your homework on the legalities and ownership, it’s time to politely discuss the issue with your neighbor.
Having the boundary lines, codes, and hedge origins sorted out makes the conversation more straightforward. But the key is keeping things friendly and above board.
Here are some tips:
- Set a positive tone. Maybe open with something like “Hey, neighbor! Your hydrangeas are looking amazing this year. I wanted to chat with you about your bushes over here along the fence line.” A little flattery can’t hurt.
- Show them the encroachment. It’s possible they haven’t noticed how far the bushes are spreading into your yard. Offer to walk the property line together so you can point it out.
- Be solution-oriented. Suggest trimming the bushes back to the property line yourself or splitting the cost to have a pro do it. The goal is resolving the problem, not placing blame.
- Involve the HOA if needed. For really stubborn neighbors, having an HOA rep explain the rules can help get through to them.
- Follow up in writing. After you talk, send a friendly letter documenting everything you discussed and the resolutions you both agreed to. This makes it official.
It takes patience and kindness, but in most cases, cordial one-on-one communication can convince a neighbor to take care of their encroaching greenery.
Nobody wants beef with the people living next door if it can be avoided!
7. Send formal written notice
If asking nicely doesn’t spur your neighbor to prune back the invading bushes, it’s time to put things in writing.
A formal letter serves as official documentation of the ongoing issue. It also shows you’ve made multiple good-faith efforts to address the problem directly with your neighbor first.
Your notice should include:
- The date
- Your neighbor’s name and address
- The specific location of the encroachment
- Details about applicable city codes or HOA rules
- A request to trim the bushes by X reasonable date
The tone should still be polite and helpful. You’re not making threats or demands. Just clearly stating facts and proposing a solution.
It can be a good idea to send the notice via certified mail as well so you have delivery confirmation. Also, keep a copy for yourself.
Hopefully, a professional request in writing will finally convince your neighbor to whip their shrubs into shape. But if there’s still no action, then it may be time to explore tougher measures.
The written notice is your proof that you did everything possible to resolve the issue amicably. Don’t underestimate the power of putting it down on paper.
8. Explore compromises
Before making the nuclear option of severe pruning or legal action, try proposing compromises to see if you can find a middle ground with your neighbor.
Here are some ideas to get their overgrown bushes under control while keeping the peace:
- Split bush removal costs: Offer to go half-sies on having a landscaper remove the portion of bushes extending across the property line. This shares the financial burden.
- Install yard barriers: Putting up a small fence, trellis, or row of tall plants on your side blocks the invasion. Less drastic than removing the bushes entirely.
- Agree to regular trimming: Work out a schedule, like every spring and fall, for your neighbor to trim back anything overgrowing. Maintains the bushes without chopping them down.
- Reroute the fence: If the encroachment is isolated to one area, offer to move the fence onto your property a bit to give the bushes more space.
- Shift the property line: As a last resort, officially move the property boundary to accommodate the longstanding bushes. Requires surveying and legal filings but avoids the removal dispute.
Taking an open and creative approach shows your willingness to find a win-win solution before bringing down the hammer. And who knows, one of these ideas might be perfect for both your landscapes!
9. Do it yourself trimming
If your neighbor continues refusing to trim their encroaching bushes back, in many areas you have the right to prune any branches crossing onto your property yourself.
But before grabbing the loppers, check your local property laws about this. Some municipalities require you to provide advance written notice, even for DIY trimming.
Assuming you’re legally in the clear, here are some tips for tackling the trimming yourself:
- Only prune back to the property line – Don’t go further onto their side or you could face consequences for damaging their property.
- Make clean cuts – Use sharp bypass loppers and saws to cut branches cleanly without tearing.
- Don’t be too aggressive – You want to resolve the encroachment issue, not kill the neighbor’s landscaping. Be judicious.
- Dispose of debris properly – Offer to haul away the trimmed branches you cut rather than leaving a mess for your neighbor.
- Take before/after photos – Document the pruning process thoroughly in case it causes disputes down the road.
With the right careful, selective trimming, you can likely eliminate most encroachment without drastic removal. And sticking to your own property gives your neighbor no room to complain.
But be prepared.
They still might not react well to seeing you chop away at their beloved bushes!
10. Recover costs for damages
If your neighbor’s invading bushes have caused legitimate damage, you may have legal options to recoup some costs by taking them to small claims court.
But I’d view this as an absolute last resort if asking, warning, trimming, and compromising fails to resolve things civilly. Lawsuits can quickly turn neighbors into enemies.
That said, if the sprawling bushes led to significant expenses you wouldn’t have incurred otherwise, it could be worth pursuing, such as:
- Costs to repair a damaged fence or wall
- Professional trimming fees if the bushes were unruly for you to DIY
- Medical bills if you got hurt by falling branches or thorns
Make sure you have ironclad evidence like photos, repair invoices, medical reports, and records of all previous attempts to rectify with your neighbor.
The judge will want to see you did everything possible to handle it out of court before resorting to legal action.
In my case, my roses were a lost cause. But my neighbor reimbursed me $300 for a new fence, which I considered a decent outcome.
So while expensive, taking your neighbor to court can sometimes resolve an ongoing plant encroachment if you have verifiable damages.
11. Build a barrier
If you’re unable to get your neighbor to rein in their bushes, another option is to install some kind of barrier on your side of the property line to block the encroachment.
This creates a physical separation without requiring major pruning or removal of the troublesome bushes. Some ideas:
Installing a tall solid fence right along the line blocks both the unwanted overhang and the view of the messy bushes. Just make sure to follow any setback rules so the fence itself doesn’t encroach.
Plant privacy shrubs
Creating a dense hedgerow with evergreens like arborvitae or holly sends the message the plant invasion stops here. With time, these can grow into a living wall.
Build a trellis
Affixing a simple lattice trellis to your side of the fence creates an instant screen. For extra impact, plant vining plants like vines or jasmine to cover the trellis.
Use yard art
Ornaments like large potted plants, statues, art pieces, or even cute garden gnomes strategically placed can help camouflage the view of the unkempt bushes next door.
Going the barrier route means you don’t have to keep fighting the endless encroachment battle anymore!
12. Use herbicides cautiously
In severe cases where bushes aggressively regrow after cutting back, applying herbicide may be the only way to finally halt the invasion.
But sprinkling weed killer should be an absolute last resort, and only with proper caution.
Here are some key tips if you decide to deploy herbicides:
- Spot treat only – No blanket spraying. Only apply it directly onto the invading bush stems and leaves.
- Follow label directions – Using more than the recommended herbicide amount can damage your and your neighbor’s property. Stick to the instructions.
- Avoid drift – Windy days increase drift risk. Spray when it’s calm so the chemicals only contact the target bushes.
- Wear protective gear – Gloves, goggles, mask etc. Keep yourself safe when handling herbicides.
- Disclose your plans – Let your neighbor know beforehand you’ll be using herbicide so they can take any precautions on their side.
- Monitor carefully – Keep an eye on the application area in the following days to ensure the chemicals stay put.
With judicious spot treatment directly on the invasive branches, herbicides can resolve even the most stubborn bush encroachment issues.
But one slip-up could lead to unintended plant die-off, so proceed very carefully if you go this route. And always follow your local laws regarding herbicide use near property lines.
13. Seek mediation
If you’ve made every effort to resolve the encroaching bush issue with your neighbor directly but made no progress, mediation may be a good next step before taking legal action.
A mediator is a neutral third party trained to facilitate compromises between conflicting parties. They create a structured environment for you and the neighbor to communicate openly and find a mutually agreeable solution.
The benefits of trying mediation include:
- Less adversarial – The focus is on cooperation not escalating differences. A mediator can calm heated emotions.
- Maintains privacy – Unlike court, mediation sessions are confidential and informal.
- Gives closure – You get a definitive resolution rather than dragging things out through lengthy legal battles.
- Preserves goodwill – Coming to a consensus repairs relationships rather than destroying them through litigation.
- It’s affordable – Professional mediators charge hourly fees, but it’s likely far less than attorney fees.
While not guaranteed, an experienced mediator often has the skills to facilitate compromise that works for both you and the difficult neighbor. And it beats marching down an ugly legal road.
Bonus: 14. Consult an attorney
If all else fails, your last resort may be consulting with an attorney about your legal rights and options regarding the neighbor’s invading bushes.
While reaching a litigious nuclear option could permanently damage your relationship with the neighbor, an attorney can advise you on how strong your case is if you want to pursue legal action.
Here are some specific ways a lawyer could help:
- Send a “lawyer letter” to the neighbor demanding they remedy the encroachment and cite relevant statutes. Sometimes, the added legal threat carries more weight.
- File for a court injunction ordering the neighbor to remove the bushes or allowing you to remove them yourself.
- Sue for damages related to the encroachment (with evidence documentation).
- Place a lien on the neighbor’s property for any unpaid damages or court judgments.
- Provide legal defense if the neighbor tries to retaliate with their own nuisance lawsuit against you.
Having an experienced real estate or property attorney in your corner strengthens your position if the bush dispute can’t be resolved through simpler means. And a strongly worded lawyer letter alone may be enough to finally spur action from a recalcitrant neighbor.
So don’t be afraid to call in legal reinforcements if you’ve truly hit a dead end!
Don’t let encroaching bushes get out of hand
Dealing with invasive bushes from a neighbor’s yard creeping into your property can be extremely frustrating. But as you’ve seen, you have more options than just gritting your teeth and accepting the encroachment.
The best approach is always to try reasonable, amicable solutions first before escalating to extreme measures. Open communication, compromise, and finding creative solutions can often convince your neighbor to take care of the problem bushes.
But if asking nicely fails after multiple attempts, you can progressively turn up the pressure with formal notices, legal threats, removal without permission, and legal action as a last option.
The key is thoroughly documenting your efforts to resolve the issue cooperatively so the neighbor can’t claim you didn’t try.
With persistence and the right blend of friendliness and firmness, you can get your neighbor’s unruly bushes back where they belong. Don’t let their mess become your problem!
And if you’ve faced similar bush encroachment battles, share your own stories and advice in the comments below. I’d love to hear how you finally got control of the situation.