Moving house? How packing up your garden could cause legal issues

If you’re planning to take plants to your new home, make sure you avoid the mistake that could land you in legal hot water.

Moving house is no walk in the park. Packing your life into boxes and leaving the space where you may have created many memories over many years is widely considered to be one of life’s most stressful events – especially if you’re downsizing.

And if you’re leaving behind a loved garden that you’ve invested time and money into, it can leave you feeling even more uprooted, so it’s no surprise you may be keen to take plants with you when you move.  

Man and woman standing in front of a house holding a plant and boxes, with more belongings in boxes by the front doorCredit: Shutterstock / LightField Studios
The kerb appeal of your front garden will likely affect the amount you sell your house for

While grabbing your favourite potted plants and hanging baskets might seem straightforward, what happens if you want to take shrubs, trees and flowers that are planted into the ground with you? It turns out that digging them up could land you in all sorts of trouble with your house buyers.

We’re here to help you avoid any legal issues that could make an already stressful time even more nail-bitingly tense. 

Can you take all your plants with you when you move?

Your garden is a huge selling point

When you’re purchasing a house, first impressions are a big deal. People aren’t just investing in your house, they’re buying into the land it sits on. 

An unkempt front garden was among one of the top things that put buyers off,  making a bad first impression, according to research from personal estate-agent platform eXp UK. The company found that 23% of buyers would offer up to 20% below the asking price (which is more than £57,000 on the current average UK house price of around £285,000). 

It’s more than likely your outside space – whether it’s a thoughtfully planned sensory garden or has a gorgeous outdoor kitchen – has influenced the amount of money your buyers have offered. Yes, that includes your prized fruit trees and reliable rosemary bush.  

Some plants are considered fixtures and fittings

“The beauty and design of a garden is often just as influential as the size,” says James Forrester, managing director of estate agent Barrows and Forrester. “Buyers who sign the contract and then move in, only to find the garden plants have been removed by the seller, could be rightly fed up – especially as replacing an established garden can take years of time and effort.” 

He adds that sellers must be aware that garden plants often form part of the sales agreement, which means removing them without permission from the incoming owner could invalidate the whole transaction. “This means sellers must be perfectly clear they intend to take the plants with them before any kind of contract is signed.” 

Make sure you fill forms correctly 

As you can’t take plants that are fixed to the property without the buyer’s agreement, it’s important to be as clear as possible with your intentions for your garden’s bounty from the get-go. 

“The best way to deal with it is to agree through the agent or solicitor what is to be taken and to ensure that the agreed plants are listed as excluded in the fittings and contents (TA10) form,” explains Tim Jordan, partner and director of conveyancing at SAS Daniels Solicitors. 

Can you take your potted plants with you when you move?

It’s best to be honest about what’s being left behind

Though potted plants and some raised beds aren’t technically ‘fixed’ to the property, you may still need to declare what’s moving house with you. 

“These will likely feature on the property information form or fixtures and fittings list that is provided to prospective buyers,” notes Forrester. “If the seller intends to take, or indeed leave, any plants when they move out, it’s important to make it clear. 

“This isn’t just silly, petty stuff; far from it. Mature, established plants can be worth thousands of pounds and take years to cultivate. A beautiful garden can also inspire a generous offer from a buyer. It’s only decent for sellers to be upfront and honest about their intentions from the start.” 

Don’t forget your houseplants 

If you’re the proud parent of any houseplants, you’ll already know how fickle and fussy they can be. Some plants don’t take well to moving around a room. Extra care is needed if they are to withstand moving house entirely.  

My favourite houseplant retailer, Patch Plants, has some useful care tips on its website. These include how to prepare for moving day, best practice on the day itself and how to gently introduce your houseplants to their new home (avoiding any tantrums). 

How to safely take your plants with you when you move

Try taking cuttings and seeds instead

If you’re feeling disheartened by this news – fear not. There are other ways you can take your plants with you when you move. You won’t break a sweat lifting heavy foliage either (that’s win in our books). 

“In many cases, there is no need to do the hard slog of digging up your favourite plants in order to transplant them in your new garden,” says Saga Exceptional’s gardening editor Simon Akeroyd. “Not only can this plunge them into shock and damage their roots, but also mature plants can be bulky and take up unnecessary space in your moving vehicle.  

“It’s far easier to just take a few cuttings and collect seeds, which can all be packaged in a neat, compact box. Careful planning is necessary for this, as some plants can only be propagated at certain times of the year. But you usually have plenty of notice when it comes to moving, so it’s easy to plan ahead.” 

Of course, many plants can only be successfully uprooted in their dormant state at certain times of year. You may have no choice but to leave them behind and take cuttings instead. 

Sharpen your tools

If you are taking any cuttings, be sure to know how to sharpen secateurs safely. This gives them the best chance of survival. We’ve also got some handy guides for when to take rosemary cuttings and how to grow lavender from cuttings 

A removal company’s top tips for moving your plants

Ways to take plants so that they will thrive in their next home

Once you’ve agreed on the plants you will be taking with you when you move, you’ll need to make sure they’re looked after in the removals process. 

We’ve probably all experienced the odd missing or damaged item. I’m still searching for two bed legs that walked off a few years back. So it’s crucial that any plants being moved are cared for properly.   

Removals expert Master Movers has shared some useful information on its website. We’ve included some below…

Master Movers’ top tips:

  1. Discuss which indoor and outdoor plants will be handled by the removals company. The team can then organise dedicated space in the van and/or arrange storage and watering.
  2. Minimise stress on plants in the ground prior to moving by watering and avoiding extreme temperature changes. Outdoor plants should be placed in a dry, sheltered area ahead of the move. Potted plants can be sprayed with water to keep them hydrated instead. This will lighten the load and avoid water building up in the pot.
  3. Give larger plants a prune if the time of year is suitable. Check pots and containers for signs of cracks or damage before moving day.
  4. If you’re digging up plants, do this as close to moving day as possible. Water the ground the day before to loosen the soil and hydrate the roots. If the weather is hot, dig at night, whereas daytime is best during colder months. Fill any holes you’ve created – ask for help if necessary. 
  5. Pack your plants properly. Uprooted garden plants need their root structure intact. You can do this by covering the roots in soil and wrapping them in a layer of sheeting or damp sacking. Follow with insulation or bubble wrap (depending on the time of year).
  6. Lined boxes are suitable for unpotted plants, gently tied up if needed and supported by canes. Larger, stable pots can be popped in plastic bags.
  7. Plants should be the final items loaded onto vans. This means they’re the first to be taken off and placed somewhere cool, dry and out of direct sunlight. Then, they can be carefully re-established as soon as possible in their new home.  
Rosanna Spence

Written by Rosanna Spence she/her

Published:

Rosanna Spence has been a journalist for nearly 10 years, reporting on a huge array of topics – from microwaves to cocktails, sustainable buildings, the Caribbean islands and beyond. She’s interviewed chefs at the helm of Michelin-starred restaurants and chatted to countless CEOs about their businesses, as well as created travel guides for experienced travellers seeking life-changing adventures. Throughout her career, she has created content for Business Traveller, i-escape.com, Pub & Bar, BRITA, Dine Out and many more leading titles and brands.

  • linkedin