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Overgrown properties

Cessnock City Council is located in a region that receives adequate rainfall most of the time. The rainfall received during the spring and summer seasons encourages vegetation growth that if not adequately maintained can become overgrown.

It is during this period that Council receives a large number of customer requests about overgrown properties. To ensure this is managed and resources can be directed to where they are most needed a procedure has been developed.

Council also wants to help property owners understand when a property would be considered overgrown and the process Council may initiate to ensure property owners maintain their properties to a reasonable standard.

What to do if you think a property is overgrown

In the first instance and prior to contacting Council you are encouraged to contact the property owner and discuss your concerns with them. Often a property owner is not aware of the situation and, most of the time, they are eager to address the matter once informed.

It helps to keep in mind that not all property owners wish to maintain their properties in a perfect ‘park like’ condition and whether a property is considered overgrown also depends on the properties zoning.

If you are unable to contact the owner or your concerns are ignored then Council may be able to assist but only if the property is deemed to be in an unsafe or unhealthy condition.  

The following guidelines will help you determine if Council can assist:

  • The property in question must be located in a residential zone (R1, R2, R3, R4 or R5). As a general rule Council will not respond to customer requests in rural, semi-rural or those classified Environment Protection (E1 and E2);    
  • The overgrown vegetation has been confirmed as a harbourage for vermin likely to create unsafe or unhealthy conditions. Evidence of vermin can include rodent sightings, faeces, nests, runs or eggs. (Vermin however does not include any native fauna); and/or    
  • The vegetation in question is more than 600mm (approximately) in height and covers a significant portion of the property. Please note: Overgrown Vegetation does not include any vegetation that is protected by the Threatened Species Conservation Act, Environment Protection or Council’s Tree Preservation Order, and does not include a commercial crop. 

If a property is deemed overgrown what happens next

Council will send an initial form letter to the property owner advising of the concerns of a neighbour regarding vegetation on the property (please note that your personal details are not disclosed). The letter explains the situation and requests that the property owner maintain the property to a reasonable standard. The property owner is provided with a timeframe of 28 days to improve the condition of the property.

If at the end of the 28 day period the works have not been completed or you still have concerns then you are encouraged to contact Council again.

In this instance Council will inspect and assess the property. If Council is satisfied of the overgrown nature of the property then a formal process will be commenced. (Note: If Council is not satisfied of the overgrown nature of the property then you will be advised in writing that Council is unable to assist).

This involves the issuing of a formal notice on the property owner directing them to manage and maintain the vegetation. In accordance with administrative provisions of the legislation a four (4) week time frame is generally provided. The failure by the recipient of a notice to satisfactorily comply with the required stated works may result in enforcement action by Council.

Please be aware that in some circumstances the period of time to achieve an outcome can be quite long. This is due to a number of variables but mostly the willingness of the property owner to respond and manage the vegetation.