Leaf Blowing & The Law
Leaf blowers are useful, popular, accessible tools that offer great functionality for keeping your patio, garden, sidewalk, or driveway clear of fallen leaves in the fall. They are easy to use and great for keeping your outdoor areas clean and smart looking, but they are also very loud, and that is where the law comes in.
There are some areas where leaf blowers are restricted by law, and knowing exactly what the legal regulations surrounding leaf blowers are can make a massive difference to your experience of using them. You don’t want to be caught on the wrong side of the law, but that law can be confusing and hard to follow for many people.
That is where we come in. Here at Best of Machinery, we’ve researched leaf blowing and what the law says, and below, you will find the results of our extensive studies. With the help of this guide, you can develop a strong sense of what the law says about leaf blowing, and ensure that you never cross the line by accident!
What are Leaf Blowers?
Leaf blowers are common garden power tools, also sometimes known as “blowers.” They work in a fairly straightforward fashion, using a powerful fan to draw in air from one side and force it out at very high speed from a jet at the front of the tool. This air jet is relatively powerful and can be used to blast fallen leaves aside in order to clear areas as quickly and efficiently as possible. These tools can be used in similar ways to regular garden rakes, but leaf blowers work much faster and help you to clean up your garden much faster than you might be able to without power tools.
Leaf blowers come in a range of different sizes and styles, covering backpack-mounted leaf blowers, handheld tools, or larger wheeled devices. In general, the smaller options are more than sufficient for home use, but the larger models are better for keeping larger areas clear effectively. They are, however, much more expensive and generally louder to operate, and therefore the law may well cover them differently.
Where are Leaf Blowers Banned?
There is no nationwide law covering leaf blowers and whether or not you are allowed to use them, but different states and cities place different restrictions on your use of these tools. These vary wildly, and you should look up the specific regulations in place in your city, but there are some general guidelines that you can use to get a general sense of what is going on.
California is the state with the most restrictions on leaf blower use, and this state has actually come down quite hard on leaf blower users over the last few years. The laws are different in each city, so you will need to check the specific restrictions in your city, but a lot of them are quite strict. A few cities have banned all leaf blowers completely, but most cities just ban larger gas-powered leaf blowers and restrict what time of day you can use your leaf blower.
There are more restrictions in place in Californian cities, and far more cities in California than any other state place restrictions on leaf blower use, but other states have certain laws in place. States such as New York, Colorado, Florida and Illinois have certain laws and regulations in place, and some of these can be quite restrictive. Regardless of where you happen to live, you should always check with your city to make sure you know exactly what the local law says when it comes to leaf blower use.
Why are Leaf Blowers Restricted?
The biggest reason for leaf blowers to be restricted in any way is because they are very loud tools. This is particularly relevant for gas-powered blowers, as their engines are much more powerful and run much more loudly. The noise produced by these power tools can be very disruptive and annoying for people relaxing at home or being outside in their yards. Complaints about the noise have been frequent enough that government regulations have been put in place.
Many cities have put noise restrictions in place to control the decibel level that leaf blowers are allowed to put out. Most gas-powered blowers produce about 75 decibels of noise from a distance of about 50 feet away, and a lot of cities place a maximum allowable noise threshold of 60 decibels on power tools. That means that many people are abandoning their gas-powered leaf blowers in favor of electric leaf blowers, which are much quieter. They are still loud tools, but not as loud as gas-powered leaf blowers. Most cities still allow electric leaf blowers to be used but place restrictions on what time of day they can be used.
Gas-powered leaf blowers are also very polluting and have a major impact on air quality and emissions. Studies have shown that the fumes produced by a single leaf blower cause more pollution than the emissions of more than 10 cars! Regular exposure to gas-powered leaf blower fumes can be toxic and can have a significant impact on your health.
Electric Leaf Blowers
There aren’t many cities in the US that completely ban leaf blowers, but that number may well rise in the future. These tools are loud, disruptive, and have a significant impact on both health and the environment, and restricting their usage is looking increasingly like a good idea. Even if there aren’t any restrictions on the use of leaf blowers in your city, you might want to consider switching to an electric blower or just using handheld tools instead of power tools. These options are much more environmentally friendly than gas-powered leaf blowers, much less disruptive to your neighbors’ home life, and significantly less damaging to your long term health overall when used regularly.
Who owns the Leaves?
This is the other area where leaf blowers and the law get a bit complicated. If leaves fall from your neighbor’s tree onto your lawn, who is responsible for them? If your neighbor uses a leaf blower to blast their leaves and other debris onto your property, is that against the law? Let’s take a look at what the law says here. It is complicated, confusing, and full of gray areas that only make it harder to find an answer, but we’ve done the best we can and we’ve put together an introduction to how it all works.
When leaves fall from your neighbor’s tree into your property, the law is surprisingly clear. When leaves fall onto your property, even if the tree they have come from is on a different property, those leaves are your problem. The law generally considers leaves to be a “natural product,” and therefore, your neighbor who owns the tree isn’t responsible for them, even if they make a mess or clog up your drains. Once those leaves have fallen, it is up to you to get rid of them.
Moving leaves from one property to the other is a more complicated situation, however. If your neighbor actively walks onto your property to dump leaves there, then you could consider that trespassing. But if they just stand on their own property and use a leaf blower to blast dead leaves over onto your property, then that is not trespassing. It is a complicated gray area that may be defined a bit more clearly by your local state statutes or municipal codes, but there is no general law covering this.
Blowing leaves off your property and into the street is a different matter again. If you blow leaves into the street, then they may well clog up water drains and cause problems for the city. To prevent that, many cities have enacted municipal codes to cover this particular action. In a lot of cities, leaf blower users are not allowed to blow leaves into the public right of way. This is considered to be illegal dumping and can carry heavy penalties. Depending on your location, this could be up to a $500 fine or a 6-month prison sentence.
The other thing to consider is a simple matter of etiquette. If you are thinking about blowing your leaves into your neighbor’s yard, think about your relationship with your neighbor! No matter what the law may say, it is likely to annoy your neighbor. Once the leaves are in your yard, they are your problem. Passive aggressively blowing them over the fence to your neighbor isn’t going to do anything good for your relationship, and could cause all sorts of problems!
The laws governing the use of leaf blowers vary a great deal between states. As there is no nationwide law covering them, the specific regulations that will affect you will depend on where you happen to live. If you are wondering about buying a new leaf blower, though, then it’s a good idea to buy an electric unit rather than a gas-powered leaf blower, as electric units are more likely to be allowed in most areas, and are less likely to become restricted by future laws.
The laws and etiquette governing blowing leaves off your property are more complicated, but in general, you should just consider it a matter of common sense. No matter what the law might say about being allowed to blow leaves around, try not to upset anyone who lives nearby!
Hopefully, our guide has provided a good start point for understanding leaf blowers and what the law says. You should always be sure to check local statutes and regulations, however, as there can be a great deal of variation between states and cities when it comes to leaf blower laws!