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Problems With Neighbouring Trees: Action Guide

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 2 Jun 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]
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
New owners bought house directly behind our house.For 2 years she has been cutting our trees randomly so she could have light for the clippings shes collecting and planting.Our trees have been there for about 20 years now.They were there when they purchased.Reasonable they would be there permanently.There would be no issue if she stopped at trimming the tree for the overhanging branches.She has gone OVER the fence line and onto OUR side of OUR property and has cut EVERY tree on OUR SIDE of the property line - including to the major limbs and down to the trunk repeatedly.TOur trees are not touching anything in their yard and do no encroach or propose any type of hazard(s).This is just a neighbor that has yelled "this is my house" when she was asked to stop cutting down our trees.She hasnt even tried to be neighborly and ask us permission.Everyday there is a new cutting and it has been going on for two years.The trees structure is compromised and we believe she has made the cuts so that the tree will eventually break or fall over so she can get full sun no matter what it does to what was there when they purchased the house.What can be done to stop her from compromising the structure of our trees and the privacy they were intended?
SS - 19-May-20 @ 12:27 AM
Hi, our neighbour has a 70ft tall conifer tree which covers the whole of our back garden. It blocks 80% of the sun in our garden and the amount of bird poo is worrying for me with two young children. What can I do?
Carp - 18-May-20 @ 2:04 PM
Alongside our house is a public footpath. Then the other side of the path is the bottom of adjacent houses gardens. These gardens have very large trees aligning the footpath. The trees overhang, across the footpath and over my property.At this time of year one of the trees sheds loads of buds and sap , completely ruining our enjoyment of our garden. Also the trees are now touching our house. Who is responsible for the treesas they go over the footpath before reaching our house ?
Andyhinch - 18-May-20 @ 10:43 AM
I have started a petition for right to light, into our homes and gardens and to make the owners of trees be responsible for the maintenance of these trees so that they do not impact the neighbouring houses or gardens
Ele2710 - 16-May-20 @ 3:20 PM
The bottom of or garden is lined with trees, these are very high and the trunks are in the neighbours garde so belong to them, there property is set lower that us and they are taking the trees out and putting in a fence, do they need to notify us that the trees are being removed and does the fence have to be a certain height
Dubbers - 11-May-20 @ 8:19 AM
my neighbour has sawn all the branches of my tree half through so that they when break fall into my property some of the ones sawn half through were not affecting his property only mine eventually with wind they are going to completely snap hence may damage my fence and garden furniture he has not spoken to us just creeps out after dark and saws one branch halfway through do i have a case as he has made it very dangerous in our garden?
karry - 10-May-20 @ 12:33 PM
Since our house was built 1880there was sun and light into the kitchen at the back.A few yesrs ago the neighbour behind planted an oaktree which now reached a hugh height and still growing removing light and sun from our small backgarden and our kitchen. What rights do we have to ask to have this tree removed? To note is when asking for permission to build an extension planning permission may not be granted if it would remove light from a neighbour. Regulations for planting trees in a congested built up area appear out of date Please respond as this is a frequently occurring problem that often causes serious stress.
Mike - 7-May-20 @ 4:01 PM
My neighbour objected to our tree which is near the shared fence, because leaves would drop into her garden in autumn.She told me she has a legal right to cut off overhanging branches on her side of the fence and she wanted to get a man in to do this, so I said okay.When he came, I looked out and he was actually climbing our tree and cut back the branches right to the top.Now my tree looks ridiculous.It looks like half a tree.Were they within their rights to do this?Because if not, and she wants to send a man climbing my tree to cut it back again in the future, I will not let them do it.
Tree Fan - 5-May-20 @ 3:19 PM
My neighbour planted a couple of saplings two years ago right next to our joining fence. He’s property is set further back than mine, so for him they are approximately 6meters away from his actual house. For me however the first is literally 1.5m from the corner of my house and the second one, 2.5m I had no idea what saplings they were. Only now after 2 years can I see what trees they are as they’ve grown unbelievably. The trees are Corkscrew/Curly/Twisted Willows. When a friend who knows something about gardening saw them, he warned me that these plants are notoriously problematic and WILL attack the drains and foundations of my home. My neighbour doesn’t want to remove them for sentimental reasons. What can I do?
Misterhyde - 3-May-20 @ 11:19 PM
We have trees grown on our side of the border with a neighbour, and although we have trimmed them right back as they are by a path, our neighbours have chosen to let them become overgrown without any pruning or maintenance.They are very tall and recently a very large branch fell into their garden.Are we liable for payment for its removal?
Peg - 1-May-20 @ 1:12 PM
My Neighbourhas totally destroyed a beautiful lilac tree that has been in my garden for 27 years.The thing being is it was in full bloom znd the Gardeners dhe employed have completely butchered the tree and also has to lean across the boundary to pull the likac through.Her reason was she needed daylight but the light has not changed apart from us hzving mire daylight and no gorgeous lilac to look at.Can anyone let me know who to contact to mske a complaint about the Landscapers lack of care. And my neighbour who has shown no remorse for the distress this caused me, and is still very upsetting.
Liz - 1-May-20 @ 11:39 AM
We bought our house for the view of the country side off the people who own the stables behind they have now planted apple trees 6ft from the boundary hedge all the way along our back garden these will eventually block our view even though they sold us a house with a view. Do I have a leg to stand on
Apple - 30-Apr-20 @ 2:03 PM
So today my grandparents woke up to find their back yard scenery destroyed. They have huge trees in the backyard that “Gave” them total privacy from the back neighbors. The neighbors are on a slope an have different level ground as their land is a bit higher than my grandparents yard so they can basically look into each others yard perfectly. They seemed to have chopped the trees as you can clear as day see the huge brick wall and top of the neighbors heads in the view now. No more beautiful green luscious trees all they have now is a huge hole an a mess of all the branches they chopped off, laying in the my grandparents backyard. Mind you they never asked to chop the trees and branches are cut from my grandparents side of the wall. They cut more than an overhang. Should we say anything? Or can we do anything about this?
FO - 22-Apr-20 @ 4:50 AM
I have a problem with my neighbours blossom tree it sits right on the boundary fence hanging over our side, I know I can cut the overhanging branches but the problem is the major clean up everyday Its pretty yes but I hate it now as my garden is a total mess and our dog carries the mess all through our house I would be mortified if my tree was causing such a headache but there not the most pleasent people so here lies the problem. Please help my o.c.d is major stressing me out. Thanks david
Dash - 21-Apr-20 @ 4:55 PM
My neighbours tree was neglected to the poor it has grown underneath our fence and weakened several of the posts. The recent storms has finished off one of the panels but the fence line is decidedly wonky and with the tree root underneath it has also altered the levels. The root has grown into the garden ruining part of the lawn. The tree was removed to stump level some time ago but when I approached the neighbour about the stump/roots he had no interest. I’m stuck in the position where I can’t replace the fence without knowing where I stand with the root damage. I’m not even sure I should be responsible for the cost of the partial fence/ post replacement and now a considerable amount of ‘ground work’ would need to happen first. I’ve also noticed that in another position some possible subsidence on the neighbours side is also causing the fence to be pushed over. I’m happy to write a letter if I do indeed have a case but what thereafter?
MrP - 20-Apr-20 @ 12:58 PM
My neighbours tree which his late mother planted years ago is around 50ft high and 20ft wide. The roots are causing problems lifting up my shed and they have pushed up fence panels that have now fell down which belong to my neighbour. So I now have access I don't want around the back of my shed into my garden. The tree sheds branches all year round killing my plants and lawn. One fell out of the tree and hit me on the head which could of taken out my eye. The branches are covered in spikes so my grandchildren get cuts from them when they play in my garden. I cannot possibly cut down the tree branches hanging on my garden as they are far too high and I cannot afford to pay someone to cut down branches off my neighbours tree.I find it really difficult to get all the branches off the ground as with the spikes they get caught in my plants and lawn. Surely the law needs changing if the tree belongs to a neighbour then they should maintain the tree on all sides or remove it altogether. Why are they allowed to damage neighbours property and get away with it? I have written and spoken to my neighbour on numerous occasions over the past 14 years regarding this but he has never once cut it back or down. No maintenance has been done to this tree in over 20 years.
Lizy - 13-Apr-20 @ 9:47 PM
My neighbour has a 80ft conifer 16ft from my house, in the daylight Ihave to put my kitchen light on as it is so dark. He has another 60ft conifer at the bottom of there garden and the roots are cracking my concrete base. They have also told me they cannot get house insurance because of the tree. I am worried what damage the roots are doing to my property. Regards Pete
Pete - 10-Apr-20 @ 3:44 PM
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