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Problems With Neighbouring Trees: Action Guide

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 20 Jul 2019 | 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.
  • 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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My neighbour claims that his title deeds allow him to cut down the tree at the bottom of my garden. Is this likely and can I get a copy of his deeds? My neighbour lives in a newly converted farm building which was probably only registered as a residential property within the last 12 months.
Jago - 20-Jul-19 @ 9:34 PM
My mother lives in a council warden bungalow that has trees by her property. They are never cared fro and I have established that they are not the responsibility of highways but that of council housing maintenance as they are on their plot. They shut out her daylight and cut off her TV signal including her neighbours either side also . This is distressing her so much. Example middle of summer she has her lights on from 12pm every day. Is there anything I can do . I am not getting anywhere with council
Buster - 13-Jul-19 @ 5:06 PM
My neighbor has trees hanging over our garden 5 plus mtrs they're 20ft off the ground so can't reach to cut back, he's had quote £1200 wants me to pay half, £600 to cut back his trees ,am I right or wrong to pay or not to pay ,I offered £300
Sensual - 11-Jul-19 @ 1:05 PM
My neighbour has a tree which has grown under the fence onto my property, annoying but nothing to get worked up about until a few years ago when they decided to cut the tree down their side, leaving what had spread to my side to continue to grow, since then they have cut back branches which have regrown and overhanging their garden, not a problem except the cut branches were left on my side of the fence, again annoying but nothing to get upset about until today. While I was not at home they decided it was a good time to cut the tree back but this time they have cut so much back they must have been on my property (without permission) as they could not have reached some of what has been cut from their side and again they have left all the mess on my garden. I am so annoyed by what they have done I am looking for advice on where I stand before deciding what to do, we are not on speaking terms so that is not an option.
Jasryle - 6-Jul-19 @ 9:02 PM
We have a common patio with our neighbours. Their branches are hanging over the patio which makes it very tricky to walk (fruit plants, similar to an allotment). Am I right to cut them? I know I have the right of cutting overhanging branches in my property but what about overhanging branches in a common patio? Shall I consult them first or legally I can just chop them off? Thanks in advance.
Silvia - 6-Jul-19 @ 11:13 AM
We have just moved into a rental property; the rear garden has a fence, with a small gap, with another fence thereafter. This separates the new development which has been built there (appox 5 few years ago). The tree in question is on that side of the fence but has grown vastly in size and is now 75% overhanging our back garden, and is within a foot (or so) of touching our roof and rear bedroom windows. Whilst we appreciate this is something the landlord should look into, we thought we would be proactive and try and sort out ourselves. The issue we have is the tree is not in anyone's back garden and is on the road/side road of the development. We are writing letters to all the houses that form part of this road but are unsure who in fact would be responsible for maintaining this as part of their freehold land or, leasehold obligations?
Lou - 5-Jul-19 @ 1:01 PM
My neighbors cuts my lilac tree and doesn’t even ask the banana shaped flowers are hanging 30cm on the boundary line, He doesn’t ask, just thinks he has a right to do it. Even a leaf and petals off flowers he cuts. There must be something I can do, Can you help.
gardener - 5-Jul-19 @ 12:52 PM
Why would they need to get your permission? A good neighbour would keep them cut to the boundary line,why should someone else be responsible for your trees
Chopper - 2-Jul-19 @ 4:20 PM
My neighbours kill my garden as part of their ongoing harrassment to me. They spray weedkiller over the fence, they get on a ladder to reach over and have chopped off a branch from a lovely little birch sapling that wasn't even overhanging, they've cut ivy from their fence and over onto my side, then thrown all of it into my garden all over my plants. He's even turned the hose on full and sprayed it over the fence directly onto me, which soaked me, and didn't stop even when I called out. It's very hurtful, but I can never prove what they do. What can I do? I really need help. I'm elderly and have no family to turn to. I live alone in a bungalow and had a quiet life until they moved next door. I'm in Northumberland.
unhappylady - 26-Jun-19 @ 2:43 PM
I have a large conifer in my garden which at the weekend is being pollared on expert advice. This is at considerable cost but my responsibility. I now have one neighbour harassing me for risk assessments etc also stating that previous works to remove overhanging branches caused damage to her garden. She wants no leaves or debris falling into her garden whilst the tree surgeons reduce the tree....I'm paying for all the work....yet wonder if I'm being an unreasonable neighbour. The tree doesn't bother me but presents as a possible risk so I'm taking the correct action....
Troubled - 26-Jun-19 @ 2:12 AM
I was hoping you could point me to the statutes or regulations that reflect the language or law citing you used with regard to what a neighbor can do to do to an adjoining neighbor's tree and or roots. I'm in CT. Thank you.
John Fusco - 25-Jun-19 @ 10:31 PM
I own my property & live next door to rented property.years aga a line of 3 ash trees were planted adjacent to their boundary fence. they have now grown to full size forest trees. The fence between the properties kept blowing down as it wasnt properly maintained & i offered to replace it at te same time as i did my other fencing. My fencer had great difficulty putting in the posts as thr trunks were touching the existing fence, in fact the fence had to be bowed in some places & couldn't be level as the root branches were so high. That was 10yrs ago & the trees have almost doubled in height & the trunks have pushed the fence out of the holding posts. Previously i used to grow my own veg down that end of the garden but had to give up because i couldn't get the spade in because of the roots & i'm now reduced to half my garden being gravelled because the overhanging branches cover2/3 of my garden so i only get daylight in high summer for a few hours when the sun is high & nothing will grow. I used to lop the overhanging branches but the trees are now so high i can't reach & as I'm now a pensioner i can't afford to pay as i've been quoted £200/£300 .Also this spring i was down on my hands & knees picking ashkeys from my gravel & the rest of the garden & after 2dustbin bags full i still haven't finished. I have offered to go halfs with the owner of the property to lop them down but she refused even though she has never lived there.So i have a garden i cant take any pleasure in even though i love gardening, i have a greenhouse that doesn't get enough sun & the guttering on my shed gets blocked with ashkeys all the time. We have now got the problem that new ash trees are growing under the existing trees having self seeded so the problem is only going to get worse.I would like to point out i have a long narrow garden so it is a problem for me the fact that half my length is covered with ash branches.
ashkey picker - 25-Jun-19 @ 11:09 AM
I have a self-seeded Goat Willow in the corner of my garden that is 15 years old. Unfortunately, the trunk has expanded into the bottom of the party fence between me and my neighbour damaging it. There is also a root from the tree visible in their lawn. My neighbour wants to replace the fence and is insisting that I cut the tree down so that the new fence can run straight across our boundary. I do not want to lose the tree - it acts as a screen from the neighbouring flats and is teaming with wildlife. As the new fence is a party fence can I insist that this goes around the tree. Am I liable for damage to the fence and the garden?
Blackbird - 23-Jun-19 @ 5:40 PM
Some large tree roots from my neighbours garden have grown and spread through to my garden, damaging the bottom of the fence and preventing me from laying a slabbed area adjacent to the fence. These roots are from a very large tree. Am i legally allowed to dig them out and cut them off.
Bibbs - 22-Jun-19 @ 6:30 PM
I have just built a new extension to my house but thr niehbours tress got so high that you cannot see it I may sell it next year but I would love to see it as you drive into my estate totally blocked and leaving me with no view and room dark what can I do as I do not want bad feelings and what righteous have I
Tess - 22-Jun-19 @ 11:15 AM
There are some trees that have grown over the last couple of years at the back of my house. They never used to be there and there seems to be more every year.They are quite oppressive and tower over my garden. The land at the back looks like a jungle now. Apparently the owners of the land live in London. My local council have tried to contact them but have had no response. They won't give me the address. These trees ideally need removing or at the very least need maintaining. How do I get someone to do something. The roots have already caused a neighbours wall to fall down. But I can't get anyone to help. Where do I stand if the owners won't acknowledge any letters.
Jazzym - 19-Jun-19 @ 6:57 PM
Hello my Neighbor has a christmas tree in her garden which is over 20 ft in height. 2 years ago i asked if we could reduce the height of the trees in the garden (we both have fir trees and conifers) she said yes to the fir tree but not to the christmas tree. We paid for all the maintenance of the tree cutting. the christmas tree blocks sunlight in my garden from 4:30pm when we are getting home from work to enjoy our garden.I did say this at the time of our conversation and she said 'i dont want the tree cutting' I have looked at the council's web site which says i have to pay £500 for them to deal with the problem.I dont have £500 spare to pay and I am unable to get help as my husband and i both work. I am going to send her a letter to say we plan to cut the conifers/fir tree again next spring and we will pay but would like her to cut the christmas tree by half its size if she says no - what can i do? I do plan to cut the overhanging branches on my sideat the time of trimming other trees but this will not solve the problem of the height of the tree. can you give me any advice please
angie - 16-Jun-19 @ 1:38 PM
Hi, my neighbours have chopped/butchered all the trees that overhang into their garden, and 40ft worth, they didn't ask if it was ok, yes they are high but they are also full of nesting birds; there are several conifers, a large real Christmas tree and some laurels.not that I have a problem with them being cut back, it is however annoying that they didn't have thee courtesy to ask first, he smirked at me when I went out to see what he was doing, but now he has cut them up to 15ft at his side making them too heavy on our side and risk of falling over.They are not very nice anyway, and have wrecked our fence with kids hitting balls against it, always lifting the fence to enter our garden to retrieve balls etc.and they are not very approachable.we have these trees high to block the noise and the shouting that they do and to give us some privacy which they have now taken away. - any advise or are we on a losing battle?thank you
Marina - 16-Jun-19 @ 12:47 PM
Hi I’ve lived in my property for several years, it’s a relatively new build semi-detached. The attached neighbour planted a conifer in his garden on our back garden boundary. The conifer has grown tremendously, it is over 10m tall and approximately only 5m from my house. It’s big and getting bigger by the year. I’ve asked that he have it’s height reduced because it’s a safety risk. Also it’s starting to block light into the kitchen and my daughters bedroom. He didn’t agree with my safety concerns or reduction in light and the tree remains there. Is there any law or guidance on this subject?
Susan - 15-Jun-19 @ 7:06 AM
Hello, The boundary at the bottom of my garden has a line ofhazelnut bushes.. we have just purchased the house and the neighbour behind has also recently moved in. The hazelnut bushes have not been maintained for over 10yrs and are now encroaching significantly from the base of the trees over our boundary approx 2mtr from the broken fence. the Neighbour has erected a fence inside their garden to avoid the issue, I am left with the problem. The neighbour informs me they do not want them removed what can I do?
Peter Lancett - 6-Jun-19 @ 11:26 AM
My neighbour has cut the tops off a line of conifers trees which are on my side of the boundary. He never asked just did it,he no’s that I wanted to grow some height to them.is this a wrong doing?
Or8 - 3-Jun-19 @ 7:47 PM
hello i hope someone can help with a problem that has now been ongoing for 14 years. basically my neighbors to the rear of my property have some large willow type trees that always overhang into my garden and prevent my grass or plants from growing.We have always cut the trees back the best we could but over the last two years they have grown too big to reach the branches causing the problems. This year the trees have produced a ridiculous amount of fluffy (cotton wool like) flower????? this has caused my whole garden and plants to be covered in this mess and prevented us from sitting in the garden as the shedding of the flower ??? effected my asthma. my husband had enough and perched on ladders has cut the branches and we have put them over his fence.Unfortunately this has not gone well and he refuses to accept his mess !!! having disposed of his branches for 14 years we have simply had enough.i know we can legally cut his trees but whats the legal position on the branches if he doesn't want them.Thank you for any advice.note we have tried the please can you sort your trees approach that didn't work either
beth - 27-May-19 @ 2:37 PM
My neighbours cutting my trees and bushes beyond the boundary .. they own their house mine is council . . She's just said the council gave her permission to cut my side ... is this legal ... she's destroying my garden !!!! Please help .. i'my gonna have a breakdown if this antisocial behaviour continues !!!!!
Ckenny17 - 25-May-19 @ 10:26 AM
Hi my neighbours house is owned by the council but we have bought ours, she has a huge blossom tree that hangs right over my garden blocking my sun light. My garden , washing everything is constantly covered in bird muck. I have complained to the council 4 times via email and have not had one reply. I am at my wit's end.
Jan - 23-May-19 @ 4:00 PM
Hi My neighbors have a row of fir trees and when we bought the house 6 years ago they were fine but now they have grown tall and block all the evening sunlight and the view of the area. I’ve asked it they wouldn’t mind trimming them but they refuse as they aren’t causing an issue to them. Have you any advice?
Katewilson2111 - 21-May-19 @ 6:16 PM
Hi Lulu. I too have the same problem with my neighbours tree. It's a fir and brown bits and round seed podsend up being sprinkled over my garden every time it's windy. I'm absolutely sick to death of them. Also the tree is extremely tall and blocks sunlight from my garden after 4pm. The neighbours won't chop it down or make it slightly shorter. It's an absolute nuisance.
HRJ - 20-May-19 @ 7:34 PM
My next door neighbours back garden neighbour planted a Honey Locust behind their shed 46 years ago, the tree now is about 35ft high and 20 ft wide and overhangs half of our garden and we are not attached to their property. Half of my small 15ft garden is covered by the tree and surrounded in bird excrement. My Six year old daughter is unable to play that side due to the small thick branches that fall daily as well as the constant bird mess, i'm also now unable to hang my washing out on that side which leaves me limited for space. The house behind my neighbour gave us permission to cut back the branches in our gardens but on talking to a two tree surgeons they said its not possible due to leaving an unbalanced tree, plus none of us have rear entrances to our property to remove the tree. The owners son has admitted the garden is so over grown now he is unable to get near the tree but I don't think he will do anything about it and the size of the tree flags up safety issues for me now. I fear there is nothing we can do and may have to consider moving which I don't want to do as the tree in question is a field tree and not a small domestic garden. My neighbours and previous neighbours both paid for the tree to be pruned but the owner has never paid a penny and has allowed the tree to get out of hand. Help!!!
Flo - 20-May-19 @ 2:37 PM
A fir tree higher than my four level terraced house is blocking light, so that I have no sun for much if the morning. My kitchen is dark from it. The overhanging branches shed sharp needles over a large area of my garden. He says by law I am allowed to cut them down and return them to him. I am a low funded pensioner on pension credit and gave not funds to do this. His is a detached house and he is a businessman with a good income. Can you advise and help please?
Tinsey - 16-May-19 @ 8:36 AM
My neighbour has two large conifers, they are as tall as our house,hang over our garden around four feet & the roots are lifting our patio. They won’t do anything, what can I do?
Roddy - 12-May-19 @ 7:00 PM
My neighbours said they were going to plant a beech tree immediately on their side of the boundary and adjacent to our patio.They were asked not to plant it so close to the boundary but ignored that request We now have overhanging branches and debris on our patio and with some loss of light Can we charge them for maintenance and cleaning as they ignored our (reasonable ?) request ?
Flyer - 11-May-19 @ 12:59 PM
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