Leylandii owners could face fines of up to £1,000 if they fail to cut down their high hedge when ordered to.
Offending hedges are over two metres high and block out light
New legislation coming in to force on Wednesday means local authorities can intervene in disputes over high hedges.
They will be able to decide if the hedge height is unreasonable and spell out exactly what action must be taken. Complainants could also face charges.
Minister Jim Fitzpatrick said: "It is good news that people will now have somewhere to turn for a fair decision."
Until now, local authorities have been powerless to act in disputes over high hedges.
Resolution attempt urged
But under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, local authorities will be able to decide if a hedge is stopping someone's reasonable enjoyment of their home or garden.
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) said: "Where it is needed, the local authority will be able to serve a remedial notice to the hedge owner to identify what they must do to sort the problem out.
"If they fail to comply with the notice, they could be fined up to £1,000."
People complaining about high hedges will have to show they have tried to resolve the matter with the hedge owner.
They will have to pay a fee, set by their local council, for their complaint to be investigated.
A hedge must be evergreen, more than two metres high and blocking out light, access or reasonable enjoyment of neighbours' property for it to be considered offensive.
Quality of life
Mr Fitzpatrick, a minister in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, said: "This legislation offers a light at the end of the tunnel for people whose lives have been made a misery from high hedges.
"Out of control hedges can block the daylight from neighbours' homes and gardens, becoming a real drain on their quality of life.
"Involving the local authority should only be a last resort and I urge people to talk to one another to resolve disputes before it goes too far.
HOW THE LAW WORKS
Complainant must try to resolve matter privately first
Council can order hedge to be cut to two metres
Failure to comply could mean a fine of £1,000
Applies to all evergreen hedges
"This new legislation is yet another example that the government will take action against those who continually show a lack of consideration for others."
For the Conservatives, shadow minister for local government, Eric Pickles, said: "These new high hedge regulations will impose significant administration costs for local councils.
"These expensive new rules will force councils either to increase council tax bills, divert resources from frontline services, or introduce exorbitant fees for bringing a complaint."
Growing a hedge to ridiculous proportions is selfish and anti-social. I agree these people should be fined £1,000. However, I do not think the neighbours trying to reclaim their light and their view should have to pay for the council to investigate. Surely the inconsiderate neighbour should bear the brunt of all costs.
Jo Garbutt, Teesside
A neighbour to the rear of my back garden planted a Leylandii hedge a few years ago. I only have a small garden which would quickly change from a sunny relaxing retreat to a dark mess if the hedge were not pruned regularly. This would make my life a misery and reduce the value of my home. Fortunately the three families that have lived there in the six years since the hedge was planted have always allowed me to do this, but it is comforting to know that if any occupant did refuse, that there is now a process to have this addressed.
Alan, Leeds, England
Why single out Leylandii? Surely any fast growing coniferous shrub would qualify.
Paul Smith, Manchester, UK
Why does it only apply to evergreens? My neighbour has several large hawthorn trees that make both my house and garden very dark and it appears that I am unable to do anything about it.
Mary, Shrewsbury, UK
About time such a law was put on the books but in the defence of leylandii, it can make a wonderful hedge if correctly maintained. Unfortunately, it has been used by too many people who want to be easy, bank holiday gardeners. I wonder, however, is this law applicable under Scots law as well as English law? As usual, the BBC doesn't make this clear.
Margaret Crawford, Glasgow, Scotland
A £1000 fine sounds rather excessive - perhaps the owners could tap into a hedge fund. Will councils be able to solve these disputes? I think it'd be wise to hedge one's bets.
Harry Reed, Munich, Germany