Forced to sell home to pay fines for weeds

Messy garden in 2012

Adrian Woodyatt, a 47-year-old from Gloucester, has been ordered to sell his house, in order to pay council fines and costs - imposed because he let weeds get out of control in his garden.

Woodyatt owns two properties in Nine Elms Road. One is where he lives, and the other is empty. It's the empty property where the weeds have been allowed to take over (pictured before the council went to work in 2012).

The state of the garden was shocking, with 15 feet high weeds, and brambles and creepers almost entirely covering his back garden (including the shed) - and threatening to climb over his car parked on the overgrown drive at the front.

Weeds taking over in 2012

The Mirror reported that the neighbours got sick of looking at the mess in 2011, and contacted the council. They issued a notice demanding remedial works at the property. After Woodyatt failed to respond, the council took him to court to demand he cut back the jungle. In October he was fined £600, and ordered to pay £2,055 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

The work still wasn't done, so the council has been forced to keep the garden under control. Last week councillors agreed they would force him to sell the £150,000 property, to pay the fines and cover the cost of the ongoing work.

The local residents told the Daily Mail they were glad to hear there has been action taken, and that they hoped it would mean the garden would no longer be such a blight on the area. However, they may have to wait before popping champagne corks, because forcing a sale is not a speedy business. It's going to be a while longer before they get a new resident and a neat and tidy garden.
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Your rights

When a neighbour doesn't look after their garden it can be distressing, but there are some instances in which you can do something about it.

The first step is to approach your neighbour and ask them to tidy up. Try to keep the conversation polite: you could even offer to help, as often gardens are left to go to rack and ruin because of other issues in someone's life.

If that doesn't work, if the property belongs to a private landlord or the council, you can get in touch with them. Part of the tenancy agreement will be to keep the garden tidy, so they can apply pressure.

After that, you can make a complaint to the council. If the weeds are causing problems on your side of the boundary you can report it to the Environmental Health Department.

You can also take action if rubbish has been left in the garden, and risks attracting pests. Again the Environmental Health Department should be your first port of call.

If you are just unhappy with the state of the garden, you can report it to the council, who is likely to write to the resident and ask them to improve the state of things. In extreme situations, they will take the steps that Woodyatt has faced.

There are therefore things you can do in order to force someone to clean up. However before you start, it's worth asking yourself just how bad things are. People have very different standards when it comes to gardens, and there are degrees of tidiness that are perfectly acceptable.

It's worth asking an impartial observer whether they think it's a serious problem. If they do, you can pop round for a word. However, if they don't, then wading in is just likely to cause upset. You may be better off focusing on creative planting that will enable you to see less of the neighbour's garden instead.

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Nightmare neighbours
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Forced to sell home to pay fines for weeds

Gerard and Christina White from Moseley in Birmingham hit the headlines in September last year, when their neighbour ignored his planning permission, and built so close to their house that they said it effectively turned their detached property into a semi-detached one.

Despite the fact it left them unable to maintain the side of their property, the council washed their hands of the case, and said the couple would have to take private legal action if they wanted the extension to be pulled down.

Helen Coughlan, a 52-year-old carer from Woodford Bridge in north east London, was stunned when her neighbours built an extension just 24 inches from her window - completely obscuring her view.

Despite the fact she says it took £100,000 off the value of the home, and rendered it unsellable, the council said it could do nothing to force the demolition of the new extension.

In 2013, a row that had been rumbling for 17 years finally came to court. One of the neighbours had planted eight conifer trees in his front garden, and ignored repeated requests to cut them back to allow natural light into his neighbour’s home.

He was eventually forced to by a court - after the trees had caused a crack to appear in his neighbour’s wall.

Wendy and Paul Collins from Brownhills in the West Midlands watched in horror as their neighbours erected a six foot fence at the bottom of their front garden, blocking their front gate and leaving their car stranded on their front lawn.

Their home faces onto a car park serving a block of flats, and the owners of the flats erected the fence to stop the couple driving through the car park in order to park on their front lawn. The couple can still access their house through the back - and have a drive round the other side of the house - unfortunately their car is stuck on the lawn.

A Michigan man who had been through a bitter divorce, decided to get his revenge on his ex-wife by moving in next door.

As soon as he had moved in, he erected a 12 foot statue in the front garden, of a hand giving the finger. The statue is even lit up at night.

In May last year, Steven and Fiona Young from Blawith were ordered to pay their neighbours, Peter and Lesley Raymond, £600,000, after a campaign of harassment.

The Youngs had lived in a large farmhouse, but decades earlier sold up and moved to a smaller property next door. The Raymonds moved into the farmhouse and the Youngs became nightmare neighbours.

They piled rubbish in the garden, damaged fences, let animals foul their garden, and rode quad bikes over the grounds. When the Raymonds installed CCTV, Mr Young mooned them, and then painted over them.

The Raymonds sued for harassment, trespass, nuisance, assault and slander - and were awarded £200,000. The Youngs also had to pay £400,000 costs.

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