Right of Way & Access To Back Garden: What You Need To Know

Mariam Abu HusseinLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 14th November 2023

Living next door to someone can sometimes be tricky, especially when there’s a dispute about how and when someone else can access your property. 


In this article, we’ll look at the details around right of way and access to back gardens, including the rules that UK homeowners might have to deal with when they’re having disagreements with their neighbours over this. 

First up, let’s be clear on what a right of way is.

A right of way is when someone is legally allowed to pass over a certain piece of land, even if they don’t own it. 

Now we've cleared that up, let's dive in.

What is right of way to access to a back garden?

Right of way access to a back garden is when homeowners may have a legal right to walk through someone else’s land to access their garden. 

Right of way access to a back garden is usually written down in the property’s deeds. For arrangements like this to work smoothly, neighbours need to reach a clear agreement on how the right of way can be used, any restrictions, or things both parties must do. If they don't do this, it can end in a right of way dispute.

Key principles of right of way to access to a back garden

So, now we know what right of way access to a back garden is, what else do you need to know? 

  1. Maintenance: Neighbours with right of way should be considerate and not damage or clutter up the space or cause a nuisance that might spoil the owner’s enjoyment of their property.

  2. Usage Rules: Neighbours should only use the access for what it’s mean for, like walking through. 

  3. Interference: Neighbours shouldn’t block a right of way in any way. 

  4. Solving Disputes: If neighbours can’t agree on how this right of way should work, it’s a good idea to try talking it out in the first instance, or get help from a mediator before going to court. 

If you do have problems with right of way access to a back garden, a neighbour dispute solicitor can explain what’s what and break down the process to solve the issue as amicably as possible. 

When is right of way to access to a back garden okay?

In the UK, there are different legal concepts that grant right of way access to a back garden:

Express Grants 

This is a legal document that says you can use a neighbour’s garden. It explains all the rules around how, when, and in what way it can be used. 

Easements by Necessity 

Easements by necessity are often put in place when there’s no other way to reach a property. For example, a path through 

Easements by Prescription

These come about when someone has been using a way through a neighbour’s garden for a long time without any problems. In some cases, they might have a legal right to keep using it. 

Express Agreements

This is when neighbours make a formal agreement about who can use a garden or piece of land, and how. 

Public Rights of Way 

These are paths that anyone can use, but they’re different from private rights of way. 

Should a dispute arise around access, you can work with a solicitor to create a deed of easement that sets out when it is okay for a neighbour to walk across your land to access their back garden.

When does someone not have right of way to access a back garden?

If there is no legal right or agreement to access a neighbour’s garden, it’s technically trespassing, which is against the law. 

Of course, no one wants to get into a dispute with their neighbour, so while it might seem like an inconvenience, in some cases it may be easier for all involved to agree on what access is and isn’t appropriate.

How to prevent unwanted access to your land

If you find yourself in a situation where a neighbour is a walking through your land to access their back garden and you want them to stop, here’s what you can do: 

  • Review your property title to check for any easements or rights of way that may grant access to your neighbour.

  • Begin by politely informing your neighbour about the issue and kindly request them to stop accessing your property without permission.

  • Consider installing a fence or gate to prevent access.

  • Seek legal advice from a property or neighbour dispute solicitor who can guide your situation.

  • Mediation can be a cost-effective approach to resolving the issue. It involves a neutral third party who can help facilitate a fair resolution.

  • You can apply for a court-ordered injunction to prevent further access if there is immediate harm or urgency.

  • If the unwanted access causes damage or distress, you can take civil action for trespass. This may involve obtaining a court order and seeking compensation.

Right of way access can be a bone of contention between neighbours that can quickly escalate into a bitter neighbour dispute. 

If you find yourself in a situation where both you and your neighbour aren’t sure who has the right to access what when it comes to your property, it’s best to seek advice from an expert lawyer who can advise you on what’s fair, what to do, and if you have a case. 

Lawhive's solicitors are ready to work with you online to solve your right of access dispute. Tell us about your case and receive a no-obligation fixed fee quote to get started.

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