Overgrown and Untidy Properties
Property owners are responsible for ensuring that their property is maintained and does not provide a place for vermin to live and breed. This means keeping properties free of long grass and vegetation, as well as waste.
Properties must be maintained so that they do not become so untidy such they create a threat to public health and safety.
Problems between neighbours about overgrown or untidy premises are generally matters to be resolved between the owners.
Where circumstances exist that are within our jurisdiction, we will investigate and may take further action to enforce the property clean up. However, where there is not a threat to public health and safety that falls within our jurisdictional powers, we will not take further action.
In some cases, the situation may be within our jurisdiction but the circumstances are not such that they warrant further action.
What is an overgrown property?
- To be considered an overgrown property for the purposes of Council action, the property must be located in an urban area. Properties on the edge of the urban area or in rural or rural residential areas are expected to have circumstances with longer grasses or vegetation and may not warrant action.
- For Council to take action, the circumstances must exist that are within our powers or jurisdiction. This includes circumstances such as the property is likely to be harbourage for, or is home to, vermin, and/or is likely to create unsafe or unhealthy conditions that impact on others.
Vermin does not include any native fauna, including snakes. The presence or potential for snakes does not create circumstance that are within our powers to take action.
Evidence of vermin can include rodent sightings, faeces, nests, runs, and eggs. The standard that there is a harbourage to vermin is high, and circumstances must be clearly present. There must be a significant risk to public health and safety to warrant Council taking legal action which incurs significant legal costs
- If you are concerned that the condition of the vegetation on a property poses a fire hazard, please contact the Rural Fire Service via their website.
- An 'untidy' property does not necessarily mean that the property is unsafe or a public health risk or that Council has other powers within our jurisdiction to take action or that circumstances warrant the taking of formal legal action.
- The legal processes involved in enforcement action may take several years to pursue through the Land and Environment Court if legal action is warranted.
- Trees or other significant vegetation on neighbouring properties having an impact, including damage to buildings, or dropping of limbs or leaves on properties are not considered overgrown properties and are not within our jurisdiction to control. The Tree (Disputes between Neighbours) Act 2006 provides a resolution process for this type of issue through civil proceedings. Council has no role in these matters.
What can I do?
Often property owners are unaware that their lack of property maintenance is causing a problem. Usually the owners are happy to address the problem that is impacting on neighbouring and surrounding landowners after being notified.
We encourage residents to talk to their neighbours, where possible, about the problem and to seek a mutually suitable solution. Please note that we are unable to release property contact details.
What can Council do?
Council has certain powers under the Local Government Act to take action in a limited set of circumstances. The circumstances that are set out in the legislation must exist and be able to be proven to enable us to take enforcement action.
If you contact us, the following steps will generally be taken:
- If the complaint received indicates that the property is a fire risk, we will advise you to refer the matter to the NSW Rural Fire Service. We have no powers to act under the Rural Fires Act.
The RFS will respond in accordance with their policy and procedures. We have no power to force them to act.
- If the complaint relates to matters under Council's jurisdiction such as harbourage of vermin or the unsightly nature of the property, we will send an initial letter to the property owner. This will advise them of the concerns raised about their property and that we will be inspecting the property.
We will inspect and assess the property to determine whether the conditions are such that it justifies us taking further legal enforcement action.
- If we do not deem the property to be unhealthy or unsafe, we will advise you that will not take any further action. The property owner will also be advised that we will be taking no further action.
- Where it is determined that there are conditions existing on the site that are within our jurisdiction, however, they are not sufficient to warrant formal legal action, the property owner will be asked to take some action to alleviate the concerns of their surrounding neighbours. This letter is considered a courtesy letter only and no further action will be taken by us.
- Where it is determined that further action by Council is warranted, the owner will be requested to take action to rectify the issue and we will monitor with further inspections.
- If the property owner fails to adequately address the circumstances, we will continue to engage with the property owner to attempt to find a resolution to the issue.
- If the matter remains unresolved, we will need to determine whether it is in the public interest to take formal legal action. We must consider all the relevant factors including the any relevant legal advice, relevant enforcement policy and the potential cost benefit of the legal action before making its decision.