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Problems With Neighbouring Trees: Action Guide

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 6 Jul 2020 | 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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[Add a Comment]
I live in a terraced house and my Neighbour has rented out the house,she has a management team but they neglect everything the garden has bine weed growing all over it and now I have noticed a maple tree growing out of the ground by our party wall I am afraid that the roots will do considerable damage to the foundations i have asked that they do something about the bine weed to no avail. What can I do to make sure that the tree roots and bine weed are killed off.
Frustrated - 6-Jul-20 @ 6:40 PM
I'm so worried about the trees on our boundaries my property my neighbor's left and right. The nabour who owns these trees isnt willing to do anything. They are popular trees sucking water over 100 feet tall big branches fall all the time the bark falls off in bad condition.ive spoken to her many times even offerd to lend her monie to no avail. Council say it's a civil matter...
Zarena Rehman - 5-Jul-20 @ 5:56 PM
There are two 50ft high pear trees belonging to a neighbour right on our joint boundary.They are not subject to any tree orders. They do not overhang my property but produce pears the size and weight of hand grenades which drop onto my shed, pose a threat to my greenhouse which is close to the boundary, and a danger to anyone upon whom one should fall. The property is a block of privately owned flats which is managed by an agency which has failed to accede to requests to have the trees reduced in height.No pears fall on the owner's side of the boundary. How can I get these trees reduced in height and the problem thereby eliminated?
none - 1-Jul-20 @ 6:57 PM
I'm not sure as to why you don't have a wooden monkey.
Loopu - 29-Jun-20 @ 8:30 PM
My neighbour of the house that backs obto my garden has a couple of trees over hanging. Over the past few days some quite large branches have broken off and fallen into my garden. Can i ask him to cut these back as they are causing a danger due to the fallen branches or do i have to cut them back at my cost??
Steve - 29-Jun-20 @ 5:33 PM
My neighbor's tree is growing alongside the wall of my house. It has now crack through my roof. I showed her pictures and she does nothing about. I and another neighbor try to prevent it over growing. Now this is about to cost me money for all the repairs. What can I do?
None - 25-Jun-20 @ 11:19 PM
My Neighbour has planted a tree too close to my boundary and property. It's roots will soon be raising my property foundations and patio and causing havoc with the sewage pipes that runs near it. On top of this it drops bits of white fluff that makes it a nightmare to sit and enjoy the garden. What can I do about it? Was thinking about digging down and cutting the roots that are on my side to stop it spreading and hopefully make it lean and eventually fall over. Can I get a tree surgeon in for that? If so should I pay of should the neighbour pay. Not sure if he has insurance or not. I've asked his to take it down because of the issues that could arise but he says his garden gets water logged and they planted it to soak up the water. He allowed me to cut it right back last year but since then he has said he doesn't want it cut back anymore. Only gave me permission to trim the branches over my side. Any advice would be appreciated. Both properties are privately owned.
Rob - 24-Jun-20 @ 10:24 AM
There are 5 neighbours in our close that have an entry that belongs to us at the back. The house that backs onto this entry has large trees all along that block our light and cause leaves to shed into our gardens. These trees are so tall that they affect the light into our gardens and they reseed all in our flowerbeds ect. We have asked him to cut them down but instead of cutting the height he did the sides, thus making them grow even taller! Can you think of anyway that we can do to force him to lower them?
suem - 22-Jun-20 @ 10:58 AM
I have a paddock filled with silver birch.The boundary around the paddock is mine and lined with bushes and silver birch.One neighbour has erected a wooden fence at the bottom of her garden that backs on to my boundary.They have snapped off my trees, cut one low down on the trunk all the way through.I’m now scared they’ve left me this damage and that tree which is very tall is dangerous.What should I do?? If it falls it could kill someone I can’t believe they’ve done this.Didn’t even ask.
Jo1111 - 17-Jun-20 @ 9:45 PM
Hi there I have a fence parting me and my neighbour. On their side of the fence is a load of trees which was planted 4years ago by them when my house was built. I’ve noticed this year they have not cut these down in height and allowed them to grow wild without cutting them down. I have trimmed off the branches that are coming over into my garden. As my house is situated on a lower level to my neighbour, I therefore have a retaining wall which is 5 foot tall, the neighbours land starts at the same level as my wall. Then there’s about 5.4 foot of fence above that and then their trees which are 4-5 foot above the fence in height. My question is can I legally request for them to trim down their trees in height? As it’s also blocking my sunlight and my garden is losing 2 hours of light. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Kind regards Mr james
Ioan James - 16-Jun-20 @ 2:24 AM
My neighbour has a tree positioned adjacent to my property driveway. The tree over the years has naturally grown in such a way it leans largely over my driveway. This in itself has never been an issue. The tree is an oak tree and would estimate it to be between 15-20m tall. Unfortunately, the tree has died and now that approximately 3 years has passed since it died large 'scabs' of bark and some branches have started to detach themselves from the tree and falling onto my driveway. I mentioned this to my neighbour pointing out the possible danger, either to pedestrians or vehicles parked on my driveway but he has chosen to ignore the issue. I did speak to my local Council who said they would not be willing to get involved as the tree is on private land. I am genuinely worried that damage from falling parts of the tree will occur either to me or my property as I continue to use my driveway but unsure what I can do to force my neighbour to take action and make safe the tree. What would you recommend that I do next Regards
Timber - 13-Jun-20 @ 9:42 AM
My neighbour has a tree positioned adjacent to my property driveway. The tree over the years has naturally grown in such a way it leans largely over my driveway. This in itself has never been an issue. The tree is an oak tree and would estimate it to be between 15-20m tall. Unfortunately, the tree has died and now that approximately 3 years has passed since it died large 'scabs' of bark and some branches have started to detach themselves from the tree and falling onto my driveway. I mentioned this to my neighbour pointing out the possible danger, either to pedestrians or vehicles parked on my driveway but he has chosen to ignore the issue. I did speak to my local Council who said they would not be willing to get involved as the tree is on private land. I am genuinely worried that damage from falling parts of the tree will occur either to me or my property as I continue to use my driveway but unsure what I can do to force my neighbour to take action and make safe the tree. What would you recommend that I do next Regards
Timber - 12-Jun-20 @ 6:18 PM
My neighbour has a tree positioned adjacent to my property driveway. The tree over the years has naturally grown in such a way it leans largely over my driveway. This in itself has never been an issue. The tree is an oak tree and would estimate it to be between 15-20m tall. Unfortunately, the tree has died and now that approximately 3 years has passed since it died large 'scabs' of bark and some branches have started to detach themselves from the tree and falling onto my driveway. I mentioned this to my neighbour pointing out the possible danger, either to pedestrians or vehicles parked on my driveway but he has chosen to ignore the issue. I did speak to my local Council who said they would not be willing to get involved as the tree is on private land. I am genuinely worried that damage from falling parts of the tree will occur either to me or my property as I continue to use my driveway but unsure what I can do to force my neighbour to take action and make safe the tree. What would you recommend that I do next Regards
Timber - 12-Jun-20 @ 5:02 PM
My neighbour has a tree right next to my fence. This species can grow to 30 meters and is approximately 15 meters now. The roots have grown under my fence causing it to bow and have lifted my path. It also blocks most of the light from my garden and sheds hundreds of leaves all year round. I have spoken to the neighbour, as I want to contact the landlord directly, but the neighbour is evasive when asked for the landlord’s details. Do I have any rights regarding this problem? Thanks
Concerned - 12-Jun-20 @ 10:31 AM
I moved onto a brand new housing estate 18 months ago and within the legal documentation, I re-call it stating that tree planting wasn't allowed in gardens and I can't seem to locate this document. My back to back neighbour has decided to plant a Japanese maple tree up against our adjoining fence which can grow upto 25 ft. I've raised my concerns with this neighbour but it's fell on deaf ears! Is there anything I can do to get the tree removed before it starts to cause problems?
KJ - 8-Jun-20 @ 3:44 PM
Our neighbours but one have told us out tree is blocking their satellite dish reception which is not on the chimney but just under the guttering. We immediately pruned it so that you can clearly see it, and also pointed out, providing pictures, that our 2 neighbours the other side have as tall, and denser fruit and fir trees which donot block our light, bit could potentially be a culprit. Surely she should just get the engineers to raise her dish? What are the rules??
? - 7-Jun-20 @ 10:48 PM
Our neighbours tree has recently become sentient, it shouts obscenities at passers by and screams at the top of it's voice in the dead of night. It also seems to have developed the ability to produce foul smelling fruit which it sometimes hurls at people with considerable force. A friend suggested copper nails but we're uncertain if they would have any effect on cursed or possessed trees. Can anyone help?
Jayne - 7-Jun-20 @ 1:58 PM
My neighbour has a tree about 15 meters high and about 1 meter away from my fence. The roots have grown under the fence and lifted my patio and grass and also blocks most of the light from our garden. We have spoken to the neighbour but he refuses to do anything about it. Do we have any rights regarding this problem.
blueboy - 2-Jun-20 @ 1:49 PM
When we bought our property one of the borders had a lien of four intermittantsmall hawthorn trees (used to be part of an ancient hedgerow) with a fence running behind them on the neighbours property border.The neighbours agreed that the fence was theirs and the trees were ours. We have the hawthorns trimmed each year bytree surgeon to keep a pretty lollipop tree look.Lovely when the blossom comes out. Everything was fine until our neighbours sold their house. The new neighbours want to cut the hawthorns short and grow them back into a hedge. The new neighbours have been in the property for approx four years and are now disputing the ownership of the hawthorns, saying that the property borderline may run through the centre of the tree line.There is nothing on either of ourdeeds to indicate this. What should we do?
Hot Dog - 1-Jun-20 @ 8:46 PM
My neighbours tree overhangs Into our garden causing Mess and we are unable to use our swing seat as berries branches and leaves Fall onto us.We cannot cut back ourselves can we ask them to pay costs To maintain their trees?
Chelle - 1-Jun-20 @ 2:37 PM
Our neighbours has a 20ft conifer by the side of our house less than a metre away. We have just renewed our home insurance and it stated any trees less than a metre away will make the insurance void. I have asked the neighbours to previously to do something about it but they didn’t want to remove it. Any advice would be much appreciated.
Smcgin - 31-May-20 @ 11:10 AM
Neighbours elderflower blew over in wind into our garden (taking our plum tree with it!) Can we ask neighbour to take their elderflower or is it up to us to remove it?
GJ - 30-May-20 @ 11:53 PM
My tree has become very large and overhangs the neighbours fence. They are concerned with the lack of light caused by the tree and the shedding of leaves at the end of the season. We have discussed crowning the tree again at the right time for the tree, however our neighbours are insistent that we remove it completely. Any advise would be greatly appreciated.
JH - 30-May-20 @ 11:06 PM
Our neighbour's are applying to build an extension which would finish 8ft away from our 3m high conifer.The planning application states that we will cut down the conifer.Can they make us do this?
Al - 29-May-20 @ 3:47 PM
My daughter has purchased house, the council have given clearance to do the cutting of trees etc. The problem being the very thick roots have gone under her patio and all through the lawn. She has spoken to the neighbours who have not commented any further. She having an extension built very shortly and this needs addressing before going ahead.Who this s responsible for paying the costs?
Grasshopper - 26-May-20 @ 7:10 PM
Hi, our neighbour has a 70ft tall conifer tree which covers almost half of our back garden. It blocks 60% of the sun in our garden and the amount of bird poo is worrying for me with a young child. What can I do?
Pattylove - 24-May-20 @ 8:01 AM
In Feb 2014 the county council ruled in our favour and posted a remedial action against 4 leylandii trees of our neighbours at the back garden. As much as they were told to trim it down to a certain height, they decided to fall them. After 6 years now we can see various plants that have potential to grow from 4m-18metres in height. Pressed against the our fence (roots planted around a foot away the fence) we can see a Norway maple tree, European Beech, evergreen spindle, a conifer, common choke cherry, paradise apple. We are responsible for the fence, and the maple is pretty close to our patio. There’s no chance to talk to them as they are really unreasonable about the whole thing, even duringfor our first approach on the leylandii. hence, we had to go through the council.And 6 other neighbours backed us up on our petition as it also affected them. I’ve been doing research and found out that most of the new plants are deciduous and is their way of going around the remedial letter. The remedial letter clearly stated that they are ruling to cut back the leylandii as a way to remedy the adverse effect (on our reasonable enjoyment of the property)and preventing it’s recurrence. And here they are finding a way to establish giant trees at the border to serve as hedges. Please advise us on what we should do next. Thanks.
Mel - 23-May-20 @ 8:25 PM
Hi recently brought a new build. My neighbour has planted trees within a metre of my house . Im concerned once they establish the roots will go under my house causing foundation problems . Have looked and advise clearly states 15 foot from foundations?
Jay - 22-May-20 @ 8:27 AM
I have had a problem with finding out who owns the house next to mine that looks like a jungle. I don’t think I should pay to find out. This house is used for immigrants so none of them speak English. We have had to make our garden smaller as we had to put a fence in front of theirs as ivy was ruining my fence. We have spent a lot of money to make our garden nice but their trees are hanging over my side and the Leaves end up filling up our garden. What can I do ?
Jo - 20-May-20 @ 2:38 PM
The neighbors to the bottom of our property have a willow tree, 5 m from our house. It has been allowed to grow out of control and is now huge. Nothing overhangs our garden, but the garden is shielded from light and the mess from all the leaves is awful. There was an agreement drawn up between my neighbour and the previous owners, but they don't have a copy. Where do we stand requesting the tree is cut back to a reasonable height?
Frustrated - 20-May-20 @ 2:07 PM
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