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Hot tub raises border concerns

Last month we put a hot tub in our secluded back garden. However, almost as soon as we did, our neighbour cut down the hedge that was blocking his view of us. Now, whenever we go for a dip, he seems to be out in his garden. Surely we have some right to privacy?

I’m afraid there is no general “right to privacy” in English law. There are some protections but these generally relate to paparazzi situations rather than ones with neighbours. Generally, people are entitled to spend time on their land as they choose and you cannot demand that your neighbours change their behaviour simply because you do not like it.

Can we force him to re-grow the hedge?

Generally, no. However, there are special instances where this may be the case. For example, the title deeds on new residential estates sometimes impose privacy protections, which may require your neighbour to maintain a hedge of a certain height. Likewise, if you live in a conservation area or there is a Tree Preservation Order (restricting pruning, felling or uprooting) relating to the group of trees that formed the hedge, then you may be able to report the neighbour to the council for carrying out works without the council’s permission. Ultimately, this could lead the neighbour to have to replace the hedge as it was previously. In the first instance, the best thing to do is check the title deeds for your and your neighbour’s land for evidence of ownership of the hedge as this will ultimately determine your next immediate steps.

The hedge certainly was on his side. Do I have any other options?

If the hedge is on your neighbour’s side of the boundary line (even if bits leaned over into your garden), then it belongs to your neighbour and you cannot force him to regrow it. Your only option would then be to put up your own boundary feature (hedge or fence) on your side which you can generally do quickly and without any planning permission. If you plant a hedge of your own, it is worth bearing in mind that your neighbour may be able to make a “high hedge complaint” to the council, if they feel that the height harmed the reasonable enjoyment of their house or garden (generally only possible where the hedge is over 2 metres tall). Using something less controversial and faster growing than leylandii, such as bamboo or pleached hedges, could be an option. If you erect a fence, you should bear in mind that generally planning laws restrict fence heights to 2 metres, unless you have specific planning permission to allow for something higher. In addition, if you did apply for permission, your neighbour could object and you could have a difficult time convincing the council that a fence higher than 2 metres was necessary.

Melanie Benson is a partner and Jonathan Hewitt is an associate and notary public in the real estate group at Harbottle & Lewis

Landlord’s new energy rating duty

I have a flat in east London that I rent out. It’s a converted Victorian terrace — totally charming. I’m currently between tenants, but have a young professional couple moving in from May. They are insisting the energy efficiency needs to be at least an E rating before I can let it to them. Is this really necessary?

Yes. From April 1 2018 private landlords are prohibited from granting a tenancy if the energy performance certificate (EPC) assesses the property as having a rating of band F or G. You may be liable to pay a financial penalty if you let a substandard property.

But last year I carried out some of the energy improvements recommended on the EPC (I installed double glazing). And it has still only achieved a band F rating. Am I still prohibited from letting it?

This will depend on whether you can validly claim one of the exemptions prescribed by the government. The following exemptions may be of relevance here: 1, you carried out all of the “relevant” energy improvements and it still only achieved a band F rating; 2, you have been unable to obtain the consent of any required third parties for the improvements — such third parties might mean the consent of your mortgagee or the local authority (this will be relevant if the improvement requires listed building consent, planning permission or building regulations approval); or 3, you have obtained written advice from an independent surveyor which says carrying out the works would devalue your flat or the building of which it forms part by more than 5 per cent.

Crikey. Do I have to notify the government if one of the exemptions applies?

Yes. You must register it on the PRS Exemptions Register. You should remember that an exemption will only last for a period of five years, so make a note to review its validity in 2023.

Jenna Whistler is an associate at Farrer & Co

The legal issues discussed in this column refer to England and Wales. Scenarios have been compiled for illustrative purposes only

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