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Problems With Neighbouring Trees: Action Guide

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 24 Jan 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Neighbours Trees Neighbour Branches

If your property shares a boundary with a neighbour's property, there are a few aspects of the law (and good neighbourliness) that you need to bear in mind when growing trees/hedges. This guide covers what you need to know and also what you can do if you are having problems with your neighbour's trees.

Cutting back trees

You have a common law right to cut back tree branches that overhang onto your property. It is however always best to discuss with your neighbour about any trees / hedges you wish to cut back before doing so.
  • The law states that any branches cut off belong to the person on whose land the tree originally grew, so you should ask your neighbour if they want them back, or if they are happy for you to dispose of them.
  • Do not just throw trimmings back over the boundary - this could constitute 'fly tipping'. Ask your neighbour whether they would like any trimmings back.
  • Equally any fruit on trees, even if they are growing on branches which overhang your property, still belongs to your neighbour. You are therefore stealing if you pick these for yourself without your neighbours' permission.

Neighbour cut my trees right back

My neighbour recently contacted me to say she was going to get the overhanging branches from the large tree in my garden removed and that some branches may end up in my garden. I said I didn't have a problem with her removing any overhanging branches.

I got up this morning to find that my trees had been basically chopped down. The overhanging branches were indeed removed but right down to the tree trunk! I now have a line of bare tree on my side. I understand that they have a right to cut back to the boundary line but these trees are not on the boundary line - do I have any rights regarding this situation?

  • If you are pruning a neighbours' tree, be careful that you do not damage the tree further back than your boundary.
  • If you damage the tree on their side, they may claim against you for the replacement cost of the tree.
  • Be careful to check if any trees are subject to a preservation order - your local authority will be able to tell you this. If you cut down a tree with a preservation order, you will be guilty of an offence under section 210 or 211 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

Can we invoice neighbour for tree cutting?

There is a 20 metre long fence between us and our neighbour with a wall of fir trees growing on the neighbour's side of the fence. We hired a gardener to trim the fir tree branches back to the border of the fence. Can we send the Invoice received from the gardener to the neighbour?

If you choose to cut down overhanging branches, or trim trees, you will have to pay for the cost of doing so yourself. Try speaking to your neighbour however as you may be able to reach some sort of agreement in relation to any gardening work required, though they are not obliged to contribute to this cost. Note that you are not entitled to access to your neighbour's property to enable you trim the branches on your side of the boundary without their permission.

Ownership of trees

Sometimes you may be unsure who owns the trees causing you concerns or the trees may be part of a shared boundary and you are unsure who is responsible for their maintenance:

Trees that do not belong to anyone?

We have several very large trees surrounding our garden who we have been told do not belong to any one we want them cut down just a small amount who can we get to do this. We have phoned the council but they've not been much help.

Trees that form part of a boundary

The boundary line between our house and our neighbour's is clear and undisputed. It presently consists of a wire fence. However, there are some very tall cedar trees planted many years ago on our neighbour's side of the boundary, but close to it.

These trees are essentially on our neighbour's land so we do not feel we have a responsibility to maintain them. Our neighbour, however, feels they are our responsibility as they form part of the "hedge" line to the left our property when viewed from the front. Who is right?

A tree belongs to whoever owns the property upon which the tree trunk originally grows, even if the branches or roots have begun to spread onto another property. The owner has a duty to maintain this tree so that it does not cause a hazard. Therefore if branches are broken and hanging precariously, the owner should remove these.

If a tree is planted on the border line between properties, you should check your Property Title Documents to see if these give ownership to one property. If not, you both share the duty to maintain the trees, and these should not be cut down without prior consent from both owners. To check your title deeds visit the land registry website or call them on 0844 892 1111.

  • There is no such thing as 'no man's land'. All land and therefore all trees are owned by somebody.
  • If you can't decide by looking at the original Property Deeds who owns a tree, a court will be able to decide for you. However this is an expensive resolution and so it may be better to simply agree ownership between you and your neighbour.

Damage caused by overhanging trees

Council owned trees damaging my property

Adjacent to my house is some green belt land owned by local council. On this land there are some large trees, 3 of which run adjacent to my property. Last year the council agreed to prune back the lower branches of the trees but only up to 20 ft in height. As a result, the branches at the higher level have continued to grow and some of the branches now virtually touch my property.

There are a large number of leaves coming off these trees and causing blockage to guttering etc. I am also concerned about the potential damage if one of these trees fell in the high winds. What legal position do I have?

You cannot force your neighbour to remove overhanging branches or fallen leaves on your property. However if these cause excessive damage, you can sue them for the cost of repair. It is however always better to try to amicably resolve any disputes with your neighbours before resorting to the courts, which is often a long and potentially expensive process - remember you still have to live next to this person, so an amicable solution will often lead to a more comfortable living environment.

If any damage was caused by a tree from your neighbours' property but this was due to 'an Act of God', such as a thunderstorm, any damage was not foreseeable. Your neighbour will not therefore be responsible for this. If any damage caused to your property is severe, you may wish to contact your Buildings Insurance company about this.

  • Falling leaves, fruit, flowers, and pollen are annoying, but you cannot legally ask your neighbour to prevent this or remove any fallen debris.
  • Liability to remove any fallen leaves etc lies with the owner of the Property affected (or the Tenants if they have maintenance obligations which include gardening).
  • Whilst falling leaves etc are annoying, they are not legally a 'nuisance', which has a very specific meaning.

Right to Light

Neighbouring trees blocking our light

A property we are thinking of purchasing has quite a few trees in the back garden which completely block any sunlight. Some could possibly have preservation orders on them. Is there any way we can have these thinned or removed. Does our right to sunlight override that of a preservation order?

The Rights of Light Act 1959 states that if a Property has received daylight for the last 20 years (the minimum prescribed period), they may be entitled to continue to receive that light. This means that if your neighbour builds a large fence or there are large trees which restrict the daylight your Property receives (for example by blocking daylight reaching a window), you may be able to apply to the courts for your daylight to be restored, or for any injunction to prevent a proposed fence being built.

If trees have a Preservation Order, this suggests that the Property does not have a Right to Light, as it will not have had a continuous period of daylight for at least 20 years. Usually the only way you can prune a tree with a Preservation Order is if it has become dangerous.

  • There is no right to direct sunlight, only daylight.
  • Even if you have a right to light, the amount of light is restricted to approximately equivalent to one foot of candlelight - more than most people receive anyway.
  • You do not have any right to a view which is obscured by trees. Equally you have no right to not have a view if trees previously covered an undesirable feature such as a brick wall.

Dangerous Trees

If you are concerned that a tree is diseased or damaged and poses a danger due to having fallen, or being at risk of falling, you should contact the owner of the land on which the tree is growing. If the land belongs to the local council, contact them to request that the tree is cut down or pruned.

If you are unable to contact the land owner or they refuse to take action, contact your local council's Environmental Health Office. The owner is not under any legal duty to take action, but will be liable if a tree they knew to be damaged caused damage to Property or injury to a person.

As prevention is often better than waiting for damage or injury to occur however, the Environmental Health Office may be able to invoke the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 if the tree poses an immediate risk to Property or people. This allows them to serve notice on the land owner to make the tree safe. If they fail to do so, the Environmental Health Office may undertake this work themselves. The land owner would then usually be charged for any gardening required.

More of interest

Sometimes you might need to access a neighbour's property to do essential maintenance on your own...what's allowed and what's not? Read Your rights to access neighbouring land.

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[Add a Comment]
Our neighbours moved in behind us a few years ago and wanted to put in a vegies garden. As a show of good will we had the overgrown conifer hedges removed to give him more light.We have an ancient oak tree in our garden and now the neighbour is suggesting that it's blocking his light. Can he make us remove it.It was there before either of our houses were built and his garden had in effect no light when he brought it. That tree is home to a squirrel family and supports all all sorts of wildlife. I am so worried for the tree and want to know our rights.
May - 24-Jan-17 @ 6:26 AM
Peaved - Your Question:
My neighbour has trees all along our border that must be over 10 feet the house is unoccupied but he pops in ever few weeks. I have asked him twice if he will cut them down as it's stopping the light getting into my garden but he has just ignored me. Can I cut them down to 6 foot and leave him to dispose of it all.

Our Response:
No. You can't cut them down in height. You can trim back any branches that are overhanging your property. Your garden does not have an automatic right to light. If the trees are blocking light into your home (significantly), there's a vague chance you can act. If the trees are evergreen, they may constitute a hedge, in which case you might be able to take action under the High Hedges legislation
ProblemNeighbours - 18-Jan-17 @ 11:56 AM
My neighbour has trees all along our borderthat must be over 10 feet the house is unoccupied but he pops in ever few weeks. I have asked him twice if he will cut them down as it's stopping the light getting into my garden but he has just ignored me. Can I cut them down to 6 foot and leave him to dispose of it all.
Peaved - 17-Jan-17 @ 5:16 AM
RichP - Your Question:
My neighbour has a very large tree on his property which overhangs ours. It has a TPO in place. Over the years it has grown very large and now interferes with my TV reception. I recently lost all channels had to have a booster fitted to get more channels, the engineer confirmed that the tree was significantly weakening the signal especially when the leaves were wet, its branches are very close to my aerial. I have spoke to the neighbour on and off over the last 2 years as this problem has got worse and worse. He initially promised to get it loped (and I understand the council will allow up-to 30% to be removed) but whenever I ask him he repeatedly says he is 'working on it', but nothing happens. He is simply fobbing me off. Can I force him to act on this?

Our Response:
He is under no obligation to cut back the tree. Contact the tree preservation officer and see if they will allow trimming back of any branches that overgrow your side of the boundary - you can do this without the neighbour's permission.
ProblemNeighbours - 16-Jan-17 @ 12:31 PM
Fifi - Your Question:
I live in a rented flat and my neighbour's tree plus various weeds are growing over the wall into 'my' garden. I am not a gardener and would prefer to leave it all alone and concentrate just on keeping my garden neat and tidy. Does anyone know if I bear any responsibility for cutting back the neighbour's tree/weeds etc. that are growing over the wall?Many thanks in advance.

Our Response:
If you can keep your garden neat enough without trimming back the weeds, then you can leave them. If they are affecting the appearance of your garden, then you should trim them back. Your neighbour is not responsible for doing this. Your landlord may have specific conditions in place relating to this, so check your tenancy agreement etc.
ProblemNeighbours - 16-Jan-17 @ 12:06 PM
My neighbour has a very large tree on his property which overhangs ours.It has a TPO in place.Over the years it has grown very large and now interferes with my TV reception. I recently lost all channels had to have a booster fitted to get more channels, the engineer confirmed that the tree was significantly weakening the signal especially when the leaves were wet, its branches are very close to my aerial.I have spoke to the neighbour on and off over the last 2 years as this problem has got worse and worse. He initially promised to get it loped (and I understand the council will allow up-to 30% to be removed) but whenever I ask him he repeatedly says he is 'working on it', but nothing happens.He is simply fobbing me off. Can I force him to act on this?
RichP - 15-Jan-17 @ 5:37 PM
I live in a rented flat and my neighbour's tree plus various weeds are growing over the wall into 'my' garden.I am not a gardener and would prefer to leave it all alone and concentrate just on keeping my garden neat and tidy.Does anyone know if I bear any responsibility for cutting back the neighbour's tree/weeds etc. that are growing over the wall? Many thanks in advance.
Fifi - 15-Jan-17 @ 3:10 PM
Hi We live in a semi detached house behind a very old house, obviously been built many years before the surrounding house. My concern is they have very tall pine trees at the end or their garden by dividing fences of our house and neighbors, Which if fall will no doubt hit ours and neighboring houses as they are so tall. I've lived here nearly 25 years and know they weren't that tall back then, not sure what our rights are ?
Cat - 11-Jan-17 @ 1:45 PM
My neighbour has four shrubs which have grown to 5m in height to our front border. The legal height I believe is 2m. I have advised them of this but they will not reduce the height. It will cost me over £300 to get the council involved,is there another diy legal way of resolving this ?
Eddie - 11-Jan-17 @ 10:37 AM
We border a stud farm and have had uniterrupted views of the forest beyond these fields. It was this view that sold us the house in July of last year. The owner of the land has decided to plant various already mature trees 2m away from our property. These are a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees. We now have 3 scot pine trees, holly bushes and 2 deciduous trees that I'm not sure what type. These trees completely obscure our view and is going to have a massive effect on the value of our house. What rights do we have??
Essexwife! - 6-Jan-17 @ 4:14 PM
FoxyRacer - Your Question:
There are several cupressus and leylandi trees in my neighbour's garden approx. 0.3m from the boundary fence and 1.5m from my utility room. They were planted after we bought our house but before our current neighbour moved in. Our utility room and adjacent concrete pathway has been cracked by the tree roots in the past but this has improved since they were halved in height at my request about 10 years ago and they have been maintained at about 3.5m high since. We now want to demolish our utility room and replace it with a new utility room, kitchen extension and dining room/sun lounge. We have been told we will need expensive "engineered foundations" and might not be able to build at all with the trees being so close. How do we stand? Can we force our neighbours to remove the trees? Who is liable for the additional cost of the foundations if that solution is possible?

Our Response:
It's unlikely the neighbours will be liable for the additional costs of foundations or compelled to remove the trees on this basis. It's probably worth asking them and seeing if they're willing to remove them out of goodwill. It would be courteous to offer to pay for the removal and/or towards a new fence/hedge.
ProblemNeighbours - 5-Jan-17 @ 12:23 PM
There are several cupressus and leylandi trees in my neighbour's garden approx. 0.3m from the boundary fence and 1.5m from my utility room.They were planted after we bought our house but before our current neighbour moved in.Our utility room and adjacent concrete pathway has been cracked by the tree roots in the past but this has improved since they were halved in height at my request about 10 years ago and they have been maintained at about 3.5m high since.We now want to demolish our utility room and replace it with a new utility room, kitchen extension and dining room/sun lounge.We have been told we will need expensive "engineered foundations" and might not be able to build at all with the trees being so close.How do we stand?Can we force our neighbours to remove the trees?Who is liable for the additional cost of the foundations if that solution is possible?
FoxyRacer - 4-Jan-17 @ 5:47 PM
Our neighbour has a 30+ ft eucalyptus tree virtually against our boundary fence. It has never been pruned or coppiced. Last summer it shed its leaves daily over our garden. However, the worry is that the prevailing wind would cause it to fall on our garden and also affect three other neighbours' gardens. We have tried speaking to our neighbours but to no avail. "Our tree, our decision" is the only response. Is there anything we can do as the tree keeps growing.
Mhcd - 18-Dec-16 @ 12:05 PM
Jas - Your Question:
We are having lots of fallen leaves and tree debris on to my elderly parents garden which causing 3 inches of wet leaves, preventing them from moving around the garden and patio safely. My mother is disabled and uses a walker - this prevents her from moving and safely.They cannot afford to or do the clearing themselves, and the neighbouring property is run and maintained by an agent (Block of 4 flats).They are unsympathetic, and say they are not responsible and are saying that we will have get the trees trimmed and they say we can not throw the trimmed branch back to the neighbouring property. Where is the justice in two pensioner paying a tree surgeon to cut high level branches and remove all the crap from trees that they don't own!Can we approach the council or get any help or have some financial or gardening help for them? PLEASE ANYTHING INFORMATION as this is SOOOOOOO unfair.

Our Response:
This is correct in that your neighbour is not responsible for the leaves etc. Your parents may be able to get help from the council or from a local voluntary organisation though.
ProblemNeighbours - 16-Dec-16 @ 11:05 AM
We are having lots of fallen leaves and tree debris on to my elderly parents garden which causing 3 inches of wet leaves, preventing them from moving around the garden and patio safely. My mother is disabled and uses a walker - this prevents her from moving and safely. They cannot afford to or do the clearing themselves, and the neighbouring property is run and maintained by an agent (Block of 4 flats). They are unsympathetic, and say they are not responsible and are saying that we will have get the trees trimmed and they say we can not throw the trimmed branch back to the neighbouring property. Where is the justice in two pensioner paying a tree surgeon to cut high level branches and remove all the crap from trees that they don't own! Can we approach the council or get any help or have some financial or gardening help for them? PLEASE ANYTHING INFORMATION as this is SOOOOOOO unfair.
Jas - 15-Dec-16 @ 1:52 PM
We have three medium sized trees in our garden near the boundary with our neighbour's garden.I have over the years pruned the trees, so that they do not overhang her boundary.The neighbour regularly snaps off any small branches she think are encroaching over her boundary and throws them over into our garden.This autumn she swept up leaves that had blown into her garden and threw them over a fence into our garden.Whilst I accept most of the leaves would have come from our tree, not all would have.I don't mind her pruning the trees back to the boundary, but I do resent her throwing the cuttings into our garden and doing the same with leaves.The boundary and trees are about 40 from her house with her lawn in between.Is she allowed to throw cuttings and leaves into our garden, especially as we have made every effort to prune the trees.
Tim - 6-Dec-16 @ 8:16 PM
George - Your Question:
While we were out for the day, my neighbour came onto our land and chopped down six trees, in doing so our large stable block has a lot of damage to the roof and guttering. It's going to cost about £300 to repair the damage to the building! Can we bill our neighbour for the repairs and is this 'criminal damage'?

Our Response:
First speak with your home insurer, they may be able to pursue this on your behalf. Yes it is both trespass and criminal damage so you could try and seek compensation via a civil action.
ProblemNeighbours - 22-Nov-16 @ 12:50 PM
While we were out for the day, my neighbour came onto our land and chopped down six trees, in doing so our large stable block has a lot of damage to the roof and guttering.It's going to cost about £300 to repair the damage to the building!Can we bill our neighbour for the repairs and is this 'criminal damage'?
George - 21-Nov-16 @ 8:15 PM
Eddie'sMum - Your Question:
There is a large cherry tree on my side of my driveway but now it has overgrown the line of the boundary between myself and my neighbour. I wish to establish the boundary line (which is agreed but unmarked) but the tree prevents the full boundary being marked. I wish to cut the tree down as the roots are very high and the tree is now very large. However I have been contacted by the local tree officer who wants to discuss my trees. I suspect that my neighbour has called the local council. Can I cut down this tree before a TPO is placed on it, as I suspect that this is what will happen? I haven't met the tree officer yet. The removal of this tree would also mean that my driveway would comply to the 5m that planning for new property requires

Our Response:
If there is no TPO in place you can usually do as you like with the tree. However it's advisable to speak to the council first in this instance since they have already contacted you about the tree.
ProblemNeighbours - 15-Nov-16 @ 2:15 PM
There is a large cherry tree on my side of my driveway but now it has overgrown the line of the boundary between myself and my neighbour. I wish to establish the boundary line (which is agreed but unmarked) but the tree prevents the full boundary being marked. I wish to cut the tree down as the roots are very high and the tree is now very large. However I have been contacted by the local tree officer who wants to discuss my trees. I suspect that my neighbour has called the local council. Can I cut down this tree before a TPO is placed on it, as I suspect that this is what will happen? I haven't met the tree officer yet. The removal of this tree would also mean that my driveway would comply to the 5m that planning for new property requires
Eddie'sMum - 14-Nov-16 @ 12:14 PM
We moved into a housing association house 20yr ago, there was 2 giant beech tree's in the garden which we asked if they would remove or if we could get them removed, at the time we were told no as they were protected...(we found this not to be true when checked)...this year we received a letter saying they are too big and need maintaining as the neighbours in private houses behind us were complaining i told them that the lowest branch was higher than our house and it would be impossible for us to maintain them, they arranged to cut them down, 5 days on and work is still ongoing, the problem is our neighbour has asked for the logs which is'nt a big deal as there is a hell of lot of wood, we asked for a few for our sons log burner and the neighbour has gone mad saying that it was all promised to her, if the tree's are in our garden which belongs to the housing association who does thetree's/wood belong too? (such a stupid argument)
Jenny - 12-Nov-16 @ 11:46 PM
My neighbor has a large tree that hangs on to our property and it has foul smelling fruit that drops all over the yard.I have grandchildren and dogs. Two.of my dogs have been getting I'll since the fruit started falling. The neighbor was going to trim the tree a couple of yrs ago and failed to do so. We are no longer on speaking terms and I don't know what to do about this awful smelling possibly poisonous fruit.
tracy - 7-Nov-16 @ 6:51 PM
Hi My neighbour has a bush that was planted over 16yrs ago when house was built and is now a very large tree.I have to reverse past tree from my driveway to access road & due to height & width I have to actually be on pavement to see traffic or pedestrians.Bush has grown bigger than area that it was originally planted.Have asked neighbour if they will cut it down they refuse.It is an accident waiting to happen.Is there anything I can do to get this cut down?
Mitzy - 19-Oct-16 @ 5:58 PM
Hi We have inherited fathers house with tiny back yard that borders an old churchyard that is a conservation area.There is a huge ash tree on the churchyard side but about 10 ft away from the house..its at least 50 ft high and we areworried about possible root damage to our foundations. The tarmac in the yard isn't flat indicating underground movement, possibly caused by roots.I don't think we can claim 'right to light' issue as the tree has probably been there for some time.We are trying to sell the house so wondered can we ask the church to lop the tree or do we have to pay?
Trotty - 16-Oct-16 @ 8:59 PM
My housing association neighbour has a very large Great Western cedar tree growing on its land but right next to the boundary of my property.They have reduced its height after my complaints and after another identical tree nearby blew down in a storm.However it is still causing two problems.Firstly it is very thirsty and two small trees that I have planted in my garden to try and shield my decking from the second problem have died due to a lack of water despite me having installed an automatic ground soaking system.Secondly birds roost in the branches that overhang my garden and my decking and walls are constantly covered in a disgusting layer of bird mess. Is there anything I can do as my neighbour refuses to acknowledge either problem. Many thanks.
NY - 15-Oct-16 @ 5:24 PM
I have a tree at the bottom of my garden that has branches that grow over into my neighbours garden by about 18ft. They have asked me to arrange for someone to cut these back as they can't access it due to their greenhouse. They say the tree is dropping pines and cones onto the greenhouse and they are worried about damage to the glass. Am I legally responsible to have this done as I cannot afford it
Scarlet - 12-Oct-16 @ 5:44 PM
Eddie1965 - Your Question:
My neighbour has put up a oil tank next to my boundary where there are large trees. The planning officers at the council have confirmed it needed planning permission but it can not be enforced because it was longer than 4 years since it was put up (before we moved in).My tree overhangs it. If my tree fell on the oil tank, would I be held liable for damage to the tank and would the fact that it was put up without required planning permission make a difference?

Our Response:
You are only liable for damage if you are aware that a tree is dangerous. If you have your tree health-checked every couple of years this will be sufficient. Your neighbour would generally have to pursue an insurance claim for his oil tank.
ProblemNeighbours - 7-Oct-16 @ 12:40 PM
My neighbour has put up a oil tank next to my boundary where there are large trees. The planning officers at the council have confirmed it needed planning permission but it can not be enforced because it was longer than 4 years since it was put up (before we moved in). My tree overhangs it. If my tree fell on the oil tank, would I be held liable for damage to the tank and would the fact that it was put up without required planning permission make a difference?
Eddie1965 - 6-Oct-16 @ 6:24 PM
Skip - Your Question:
A neighbours tree is approximately 36 feet tall and over hangs into tmyhe bottom of my back garden which is 24ft long.I am having a large summer house erected in 6 weeks and the front of it is mostly glass.I am concerned about the over hanging branches and one of the smaller trunks of which there are about 6.I know I can deal with the branches but what about the trunkthat also over hangs

Our Response:
Unless the tree is in danger of falling (and only a tree surgeon or aboriculturalist will be able to tell you this),there isn't a great deal you can do. Have you had a word with the neighbour about cutting the tree down completely? Because that will be the only solution for the trunk being in the "wrong" position really.
ProblemNeighbours - 29-Sep-16 @ 12:52 PM
A neighbours tree is approximately 36 feet tall and over hangs into tmyhe bottom of my back garden which is 24ft long. I am having a large summer house erected in 6 weeks and the front of it is mostly glass. I am concerned about the over hanging branches and one of the smaller trunks of which there are about 6.I know I can deal with the branches but what about the trunkthat also over hangs
Skip - 28-Sep-16 @ 5:33 PM
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