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Problems With Neighbouring Trees: Action Guide

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 20 Jul 2018 | 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 property backs onto a piece of woodland owned by the Parish Council. I have been in the property nearly 20 years. When we purchased the House one of the apappealing things was that it is straight south facing garden.Year after we moved in the Parish council planted trees (?ash &silver birch). Some years ago we purchased Solar Panels & all initially for 3years have performed well.At the end of last summer it was very obvious that the canopy had grown & was blocking out the sunlight & in winds the television signal making it impossible to watch.I wrote asking the PC to reduce the height of the trees, their reaction was to apply for a Tree Preservation Order.
Liteupmylife:-) - 20-Jul-18 @ 9:51 PM
Our neighbour has a 6ft fence and running along the fence he has conifers. These conifers are now 50ft in height they also impact our neighbours property of the same height. They are out of control and the mess they make is unreal. Due to the height we don't get any sunlight in the afternoon. When we speak to the owner of the conifers he is rather dismissive and says the trees have always been there which is fine but not at this height. He also refuses to have any trimming done or to have them at a manageable height. We are prepared to pay towards the cost of the tree cutting as is our neighbour who else it impacts on.Can we have them cut to manageable and safe height without his permission?
Problemconifers - 20-Jul-18 @ 7:48 PM
We have a big tree, I think it's a cypress with arched branches, that we rather like.Last year we hired a tree surgeon to trim the tree which involved him going into our neighbours' garden as the branches of the tree overhung the boundary hedge.Our neighbours allowed access.Today we have been approached by our same neighbours requesting that all of the overhanging branches of the tree be cut back to the boundary.My husband explained that the tree surgeon who initially trimmed the tree advised us not to cut back too much as the inside of the tree is virtually bald.Our neighbours say they are happy for the tree to be bald at their side.We are happy to pay for the tree being pruned but not to have one whole side chopped off.Our neighbours' garden is very big and the tree causes no danger in any way.Neither does it cause any loss of light to their property.We feel that they are being very unreasonable and we don't know what rights, if any, we have.Please advise and thanks.
Oldgirl - 18-Jul-18 @ 5:24 PM
The boundary fence between our house and our neighbour's house has long since collapsed. It is (essentially) woodland between us. It is our neighbour's responsibility to erect a boundary fence as per the deeds. However, there are two huge Lime trees, the trunks of which seem to lie exactly in the middle of the boundary. Ideally, I would like these taken down as we would enjoy more light in the garden. If the trunk of the tree spans a boundary line, what can either maintenance or removal be agreed?
Bill - 16-Jul-18 @ 5:54 PM
On the 29 May 2018 I posted a letter through my neighbours door asking them to please do something about an overhanging branch of an extremely overgrown large tree that is protruding at a 90o angle over their fence into my garden. I also offered my help should they need it. At the end of all of our gardens is a brick wall separating our properties from those on Steve Beko Way. As the tree is unkept the weeds from the other side of this wall has crept onto the overhanging branch and is hanging over my garden shed (causing the wood to rot) and in the area in front of my back gate which givers me access to a shared alleyway onto the street. As I am the middle of 3 terrace houses this is my only way of moving rubbish without going through my house and I also feel in an emergency my getaway from fire or other dangers. They have not replied to my letter or attempted any contact. Can Environmental Health please intervene on my behalf?
N/A - 10-Jul-18 @ 12:11 PM
My neighbour has a large tree in their garden, which is up against the dividing fence of our properties. I have recently noticed that shoots from this tree, have begun to surface in my lawn in a number of places, and would obviously like tofind a solution to this problem. I would also like to know what my legal rights are as regards, any action which may be taken.
TONTO - 9-Jul-18 @ 2:08 PM
My neighbour has two very tall Sycamore trees in his garden. We paid for the overhanging branches to be cut back, with his permission. The rest of the tree is over 30ft high and not at all attractive. Is there a ‘legal’ height for trees in a small residential garden?
Barbara - 8-Jul-18 @ 11:20 AM
Hi, I own an apple tree that hangs over the fence onto my neighbours garden. When apples fall off onto their garden, they throw/‘lob’ the apples anywhere which have been hitting my plants and damaging them. They have never asked if I want them back and are rude if I ask them not to. Where do I stand with this...Is this something that I have to just put up with as the apples are my property or should they not be returning them in this way?
Country girl - 7-Jul-18 @ 9:36 PM
The neighbour at the back of our garden has a huge evergreen tree. It overhangs but the real issue is that the trunk is slightly leaning and it is over our boundary to the point that the fence is broken in parts and leaning in others with a need to prop it up from my side. I contacted the managing agent and they told me that the freeholder had a tree consultant round who declared the tree healthy and said if I want to trim it down it would be at my cost but gave their permission. They agreed to repair the fence. A trim would be useful but the real issue here is that the trunk is leaning over our boundary so that even if they were to replace the fence it would need a gap to allow this tree to lean.What is the best course of action and if the trunk is over our land should they fund the cost to remove?
Woktum - 6-Jul-18 @ 6:27 PM
Our neighbour informed us recently that a tree growing out of the wall between our two properties is causing damage to their garden walls. The trunk of the tree is growing up from a wall that lies between both our back gardens (we live in a terrace property and land title deeds do not show if the wall is ours or theirs, although the neighbours have previously claimed ownership of the same wall out in the front).Its roots have spread both sides.. The neighbours hired loss adjusters, who wrote a report stating that ownership of the tree is ours, at the same time stating that the tree is growing out of the wall (that the loss adjuster also declared was probably jointly owned) Given the tree is growing out of a jointly owned wall, is ownership and responsibility for removing it jointly owned?
confused - 5-Jul-18 @ 1:04 PM
Mass - Your Question:
My neighbours rent their property, but they have several trees close to the boundary line, in the past I have contacted the Managing Agent, but they always state that they have to seek permission of the Landlord, who always says no. I have had no choice but to cut back on their trees and give them back to them - via the tenants. At the moment, there is a huge Fir tree and several other trees close to the boundary line, and the tenants stated that a Surveyor attended of late and he had concerns about how close the trees were to the boundary, as they are moving, which shows even move as their fence is uneven and like being held up at one end by string and a stick. The tenants have contacted the managing agent on numerous occasions but the Landlord chooses to do nothing. My fear is, if there is a high wind and the tree falls, my property will be seriously damaged! What can I do, as a Freeholder??

Our Response:
If the trees have been show your Environmental Health Office which may be able to invoke the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 if the tree poses an immediate risk to Property or people.They can serve anotice on the land owner (the landlord) to make the tree safe. If they fail to do so, the Environmental Health Office may undertake this work themselves and recharge the landlord.
ProblemNeighbours - 4-Jul-18 @ 12:57 PM
Mateka- Your Question:
My beautiful non evergreen tree - 8m - high, is blocking my neighbours view of distant woods. I understand they have no right to a view. I understand they have no right for this tree to be trimmed back? My tree does not block sunlight into their property, but due to their shortish gardens, does loom large. They have no right for this tree to be trimmed back? A previous owner of my property, trimmed any branches that hung over their property. For good neighbourliness, I will do the same. But, I don’t have to? The tree is sadly flat on their side and beautifully rounded on mine. Finally. An evergreen hedge of mine is slowly growing. I plan to take it to 2m for privacy. Their garden is flat and the land abruptly slopes down on my property. Is it 2m high from the base of the hedge , or 2m from their garden that overlooks me. Many, many thanks for your reply.

Our Response:
No your neighbours can trim back any overhanging branches on their side of the boundary but cannot demand you cut it down etc. The hedge/fence height is measured from its base.
ProblemNeighbours - 4-Jul-18 @ 11:40 AM
My neighbours rent their property, but they have several trees close to the boundary line, in the past I have contacted the Managing Agent, but they always state that they have to seek permission of the Landlord, who always says no.I have had no choice but to cut back on their trees and give them back to them - via the tenants.At the moment, there is a huge Fir tree and several other trees close to the boundary line, and the tenants stated that a Surveyor attended of late and he had concerns about how close the trees were to the boundary, as they are moving, which shows even move as their fence is uneven and like being held up at one end by string and a stick.The tenants have contacted the managing agent on numerous occasions but the Landlord chooses to do nothing.My fear is, if there is a high wind and the tree falls, my property will be seriously damaged! What can I do, as a Freeholder??
Mass - 3-Jul-18 @ 1:48 PM
Petula - Your Question:
I have a tree with a couple of branches over my neighbours garden near the roof of his house. I know that if they fell and caused damage I am responsible. Is he responsible for protecting his roof by chopping them before they cause damage or am I.

Our Response:
The branches may not fall. You should have the tree inspected regularly to ensure that you know it's healthy. If you do this and a branch falls, the neighbour may try to claim (possibly via their insurer) but may be unsuccessful if you can prove you've had the tree's health inspected (and were therefore unaware of any potential danger). Your neighbour is of course able to cut back the branches if he/she is worried.
ProblemNeighbours - 3-Jul-18 @ 12:56 PM
My beautiful non evergreen tree - 8m - high, is blocking my neighbours view of distant woods. I understand they have no right to a view. I understand they have no right for this tree to be trimmed back? My tree does not block sunlight into their property, but due to their shortish gardens, does loom large. They have no right for this tree to be trimmed back? A previous owner of my property, trimmed any branches that hung over their property. For good neighbourliness, I will do the same. But, I don’t have to? The tree is sadly flat on their side and beautifully rounded on mine. Finally. An evergreen hedge of mine is slowly growing. I plan to take it to 2m for privacy. Their garden is flat and the land abruptly slopes down on my property. Is it 2m high from the base of the hedge , or 2m from their garden that overlooks me. Many, many thanks for your reply.
Mateka - 3-Jul-18 @ 8:17 AM
I have a tree with a couple of branches over my neighbours garden near the roof of his house. I know that if they fell and caused damage I am responsible. Is he responsible for protecting his roof by chopping them before they cause damage or am I.
Petula - 30-Jun-18 @ 1:42 AM
jrkal - Your Question:
Hi ,i have just been told by my local council that I am responsible for any branches that I cut off the tree that over hangs my garden , I have to offer the branches back to the trees owner because it their property but if they dont want them its up to me get rid of their tree branches,i think thats unfair its their property the trees invading my garden ,,,,please help jeanette

Our Response:
This is true it's part of English common law that responsibility for trimming overhanging branches lies with the owner of the property over which the hang and not the tree owner.
ProblemNeighbours - 29-Jun-18 @ 3:33 PM
Bumbles - Your Question:
We have beautiful views. There is a A piece of scrub land behind our house that is used by dog walkers. The council mow 2 paths thro it and the rest is overgrown. We have had to cut down heavy weeds and undergrowth that was pushing thro our garden fence. Now we have weed trees and huge bushes growing which will block our views. What can we do.

Our Response:
There is no right to a view unfortunately. Have you tried talking to the council about this?
ProblemNeighbours - 29-Jun-18 @ 2:35 PM
Hollie - Your Question:
HelloWe have a tree in our garden it does not over hang our neighbours at all but it’s large and they say it’s blocks most of their afternoon sun and asked us to get it chopped back. This cost is about £200. Do we have to do this?

Our Response:
No. The neighbour can cut back any overhanging branches as far as your boundary but you cannot be forced to cut it because it blocks out sunlight. There is no right to sunlight in a garden. If you are willing to have it cut back a little for their benefit, ask them to pay.
ProblemNeighbours - 29-Jun-18 @ 10:59 AM
Hello We have a tree in our garden it does not over hang our neighbours at all but it’s large and they say it’s blocks most of their afternoon sun and asked us to get it chopped back. This cost is about £200. Do we have to do this?
Hollie - 28-Jun-18 @ 9:16 PM
hi ,i have just been told by my local council that i am responsible for any branches that i cut off the tree that over hangs my garden , i have to offer the branches back to the trees owner because it their property but if they dont want them its up to me get rid of their tree branches,i think thats unfair its their property the trees invading my garden ,,,,please help jeanette
jrkal - 28-Jun-18 @ 11:56 AM
We have beautiful views.There is a A piece of scrub land behind our house that is used by dog walkers. The council mow 2 paths thro it and the rest is overgrown. We have had to cut down heavy weeds and undergrowth that was pushing thro our garden fence. Now we have weed trees and huge bushes growing which will block our views. What can we do.
Bumbles - 27-Jun-18 @ 8:43 PM
Our neighbours have a yew tree with large branches overhanging on our fences. Furthermore they have planted to the level of the gravel board and the bottom of our fences is now rotten. It's now reached a point where we can't replace the fences because of the yew tree being in the wayand even if we managed to, the bottom would get rotten quickly. We don't speak. I'm thinking of writing to them but what if they don't take notice and don't do anything?
Toocool - 27-Jun-18 @ 7:38 PM
SB - Your Question:
We have a party garden wall with a neighbour. Their wisteria is damaging the wall to the point it is dangerous. We do not have a good relationship with them & they just walk away when we try to discuss it. They admitted noticing the damage 3 years ago but havent done anything to rectify it. As it is a party wall we have joint responsibility for it but it is clearly their tree causing the damage. Can we expect them to pay in full for repairs?

Our Response:
You can appoint a Party Wall Surveyor to determine the cause of the damaged Party Fence Wall and to assess the cost of repair to whom it can be attributed. As the other owner's plants are causing the damage to the wall in theory the neighbour should be responsible for a greater share, or the entire share (plus the surveyor's fee).
ProblemNeighbours - 27-Jun-18 @ 11:32 AM
Mumlife - Your Question:
We bought a new home last year and realised the neighbours Lombardy poplars were of a concerning height. We had a discussion with the homeowner about whether our insurance company needs to be involved (she worked in insurance) she advised not as it would only involve hers as they were her trees. Fast forward to putting the washing out one windy dry day and one of these trees fell on me causing injury. Tree professionals confirmed the trees were dead following root rot. The homeowners claim they never knew therefore are not liable but if that's the case then who is to know? Are homeowners required by law to have large trees professionally maintained?

Our Response:
Tree owners should really get regular inspections of their trees by a professional (arboriculturalist etc).
ProblemNeighbours - 27-Jun-18 @ 10:49 AM
Robbo - Your Question:
Hi our next-door neighbour has a tree wich is about 100 feet tall, we have a swimming pool in our back garden and it doesn't get any sun because of the tree my kids can't go in the pool because it's too cold we have asked about cutting back abit he just laughed at me said no, him and his family are in there pool all the time please can you tell me if I have any rights many thanks

Our Response:
No unfortunately there is no real right to sunlight in a garden. There is not much you can do here unless there is more than one tree and they are evergreen, in which case you might be able to use the High Hedges legislation. There is more information here
ProblemNeighbours - 26-Jun-18 @ 1:57 PM
We have a party garden wall with a neighbour. Their wisteria is damaging the wall to the point it is dangerous. We do not have a good relationship with them & they just walk away when we try to discuss it. They admitted noticing the damage 3 years ago but havent done anything to rectify it. As it is a party wall we have joint responsibility for it but it is clearly their tree causing the damage. Can we expect them to pay in full for repairs?
SB - 26-Jun-18 @ 1:45 PM
We bought a new home last year and realised the neighbours Lombardy poplars were of a concerning height. We had a discussion with the homeowner about whether our insurance company needs to be involved (she worked in insurance) she advised not as it would only involve hers as they were her trees. Fast forward to putting the washing out one windy dry day and one of these trees fell on me causing injury. Tree professionals confirmed the trees were dead following root rot. The homeowners claim they never knew therefore are not liable but if that's the case then who is to know? Are homeowners required by law to have large trees professionally maintained?
Mumlife - 26-Jun-18 @ 9:48 AM
Hi our next-door neighbour has a tree wich is about 100 feet tall, we have a swimming pool in our back garden and it doesn't get any sun because of the tree my kids can't go in the pool because it's too cold we have asked about cutting back abit he just laughed at me said no, him and his family are in there pool all the time please can you tell me if I have any rights many thanks
Robbo - 25-Jun-18 @ 5:05 PM
We have a neighbourthat’s tree is blocking the lightout my daughters bedroom with this overgrown tree
Shaz - 25-Jun-18 @ 4:10 PM
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