Law guide: Complaints and disputes

See how we helped Liz

"It's not just a website... there are people there on call who can help answer your queries."

Liz W, London

Graffiti and fly-posting

Graffiti and fly-posting

Graffiti and fly-posting in England & Wales

Getting graffiti and fly-posters removed

Graffiti is words or drawings that are written, painted, sprayed or scratched on the surface of any property. Fly-posters usually advertise or promote events and are placed without permission of the owner of the property and can take the form of stickers, signs or posters. Councils take fly-posting seriously - when you report fly-posting, your council will make enquiries into the source of the advertisements and take action if possible.

Graffiti and fly-posting are both illegal, spoil both public and private property and can be very costly to remove. Fly-posting is the unauthorised placing of advertising - usually posters or stickers - on any available surface. You can report graffiti and fly-posting to your council.

Graffiti penalties

Graffiti and fly-posting are both criminal offences carrying large fines if given out by a magistrate, or a fixed penalty notice if issued by the local authority or police (the default penalty if £75, but the local authority can specify a different figure in the notice). If you see anyone doing graffiti or fly-posting, you should report it to your local council or the police.

It is also an offence under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 to sell an aerosol paint container to a person under the age of 16.

Fly-posting penalties

Fly-posting is an offence under Section 224(3) of the Town and Country Planning Act (TCPA) 1990 and the Highways Act 1980.

Advertisers can be fined up to £2,500 on conviction for this offence under the TCPA 1990, and in the case of a continuing offence, £100 per day after a conviction. The individual who physically affixes the poster (rather than the advertised business) may be issued with an FPN (the default amount is £75, but they can specify a different amount in the notice).

The local authority can remove posters from highways without notice, and in other instances can serve Defacement Removal Notices requiring the person who has put up the poster (if their address is known) to remove the fly-posting. The notice will give a minimum of 28 days for the removal of the poster, after which the local authority can remove it and recover its costs from the owner of the property.

Responsibility for removing graffiti and fly-posting

Your local authority is usually responsible for removing graffiti and fly-posters from public buildings, street furniture or monuments.

Other structures, such as telephone boxes, bus shelters and electricity boxes, are the responsibility of the company that has placed them there.

However, the local authority does have a power to issue a Community Protection Notice to the property owner under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act which requires them to remove the graffiti or fly-posting if their conduct is unreasonable and having a detrimental effect, of a persistent or continuing nature, on the quality of life of those in the locality. If they fail to do so, the local authority can do the work themselves and recover the costs.

Your local council can't remove graffiti or fly-posting from private households and other private property without the owner's permission. However, many offer a free or subsidised service to assist the removal.

Reporting problems to your council

If you are affected by graffiti or fly-posting, or you see it on property nearby, you can report it to your council, which will be able to advise what steps can be taken to remove it.

Graffiti and fly-posting in Scotland

Under the Antisocial Behaviour (Scotland) Act 2004, there is now a ban on the sale of spray paint to under 16s (local authorities to enforce) and new powers for local authorities to remove graffiti from street furniture, such as phone boxes, park benches, transport and educational institutions.

In Scotland, graffiti can fall under two separate criminal offences. Firstly, it could fall under the common law offence of 'malicious mischief'. Secondly, it is also a form of vandalism, which is dealt with by section 52 of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995. In terms of that section: "any person who, without reasonable excuse, wilfully or recklessly destroys or damages any property belonging to another shall be guilty of the crime of vandalism."

The maximum penalty for malicious mischief depends on the maximum range which the trial court possesses. For vandalism, there is a maximum fine of £1,000 or a maximum sentence of 60 days' imprisonment in a district court. In the sheriff court, there is a maximum fine of £5,000 and/or 3 months' imprisonment (6 months for a second or subsequent conviction). The court in which a case would be heard would be at the discretion of the procurator fiscal (prosecutor) and would depend on the seriousness of the offence.

Fly-posting, that is displaying posters or similar items to advertise on buildings and street furniture, contrary to the regulatory framework for advertisement control and without prior consent from the owner, is also illegal in Scotland.

It is illegal to fly-post and benefit from the advertising under:

  • Town & Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997
  • Control of Adverts (Scotland) Regulations 1984
  • Roads (Scotland) Act 1984

In addition, action can be taken under:

  • Antisocial Behaviour etc. Scotland Act 2004
  • Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982
  • Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976

Graffiti and fly-posting in Northern Ireland

Local councils can remove or obliterate any graffiti, which in their opinion is detrimental to the amenity of any land in its district, in terms of Article 18 of the Provisions of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 1985. Councils can remove any placard or poster which is displayed in its district and which, in its opinion, is displayed in contravention of the advertisement regulations. The council can serve a notice to the responsible person (for the graffiti or fly-posting) under this article, requiring graffiti and posters to be removed within 14 days of the notice being served. If, after the 14 day notice has expired, the graffiti and fly-posting has not been removed, the council can authorise a person to remove or obliterate the graffiti or fly-posting and recover the costs from the 'responsible person'. In this article the 'responsible person' refers to the landowners on which the graffiti/fly-posting is placed, and the goods, trade, business or other concern being publicised.

Only the Department of Environment (Planning Services) has powers to fine people guilty of an offence under Article 18 of the Local Government Order.

Copyright © 2024 Epoq Group Ltd. All trademarks acknowledged, all rights reserved

This website is operated by Epoq Legal Ltd, registered in England and Wales, company number 3707955, whose registered office is at 2 Imperial Place, Maxwell Road, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, WD6 1JN. Epoq Legal Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA number 645296).

Our use of cookies

We use necessary cookies to make our site work. We would also like to set some optional cookies. We won't set these optional cookies unless you enable them. Please choose whether this site may use optional cookies by selecting 'On' or 'Off' for each category below. Using this tool will set a cookie on your device to remember your preferences.

For more detailed information about the cookies we use, see our Cookie notice.

Necessary cookies

Necessary cookies enable core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility. You may disable these by changing your browser settings, but this may affect how the website functions.

Functionality cookies

We'd like to set cookies to provide you with a better customer experience. For more information on these cookies, please see our cookie notice.