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Problems With Neighbouring Trees: Action Guide

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 21 May 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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[Add a Comment]
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
My garden is overhung by two tall sycamore trees which shed their seeds far and wide,the garden is infested with seedlings,some of which grow in tiny spaces I can't get a fork into with which to try and loosen and remove them,even if they are accessible, if they get to a certain size the roots are impossible to get out.They also seed all over the lawn,and one of the trees is shading a roof that I would love to put solar panels on,I'm also concerned that their roots may damage the foundations of the house or damage the drains. I've googled the relative value of one sycamore versus a solar array in terms of benefit to the environment and the solar panels win hands down. The trees are owned by the local council who refuse to remove them or even to trim them properly,even though a branch fell off one of the trees a couple of months ago onto aforementioned roof,do I have any way of compelling them to get rid of these trees? I'm as aware of the benefits of trees as anyone but not when they're in the wrong place...
Pogle - 7-May-19 @ 7:14 PM
There's a conifer tree that overhangs our garden. It is actually now higher than the house by a good ten feet or more. It completely clogs up our lawn and blocks all sunlight to the point that our garden becomes waterlogged because there's no sun to dry it. The owners do nothing about it and it sways dangerously in strong winds.
Stumpy - 7-May-19 @ 12:46 PM
Hi we’re having the same problem with our neighbours tree. It was a small conifer type over 15 years ago and was originally on his side of fence. Since then it had got so big and trunk had pushed away fence so it’s half on our side and branches take over half our garden so that we no longer get as much sun as we used to and what with the needles constantly dropping we’ve had to take down our kids trampoline as it was constantly dropping in it and birds mess. We cut the overhanging branches years ago but as it has got bigger it has spread out even more the taller branches which we can’t access. We have spoken to neighbour many times for last 4 years and he just fobs us off saying yes he’ll do it. His property is privately owned ours is council. Our council have spoken to him too and even offered to cut it down for him at a reduced cost but he’s not agreeing.
Cazza - 2-May-19 @ 10:26 AM
Please help. Our neighbours of 15 years have several trees growing 12 ft away from the gable of our bungalow. He has let 1 of the trees grow above 50 foot. Last year another tree, which was growing alongside this tree, was taken down as it was found to be rotten.The pine needles from his tree constantly block our guttering and as the tree is in such close proximity to our home we’re petrified one day this tree will cause damage to either the foundations of our home or will fall onto it.Despite several requests to our neighbour to have the tree taken down to a reasonable height the tree remains to grow in size. Is there any legal action we can take?
Hally - 22-Apr-19 @ 3:08 PM
My neighbour has a conifer tree 18ft which blocks all the sun from 3pm onwardswe have fell out and don’t speak he did have 3 but he has it the other 2 down and just left this one up I am now getting really annoyed as all the fir leafs bit come on my propertypigeons and birds nest plus pigeon poo aswell what are my rights I have spoken to the council and they have said nothing as there is only one tree
Lulu - 21-Apr-19 @ 10:04 AM
Hi iv got the same proplum I have got 30feet trees in grunt of my house and I have lack of light ,,mold FCC won't do a thing they are disccussing
Alf - 18-Apr-19 @ 12:18 PM
my sister as an issue with a wall that is coming down due to her neighbours trees, they are Leylandii's and are approx 3ft away from the wall, it is my believe that it is the tree roots that is damaging the wall, does anybody know what she can do about this, what are her rights Thanks
stuart clarke - 12-Apr-19 @ 1:50 PM
I totally Rosha comment , Surely with all these on going complaints the law should change, the anti social effects have definitely effected my family. Our neighbours not only cut his trees after 3yrs of asking has only fly tipped all the branches between our boundary fence. If it is not one thing its another. PLEASE CHANGE the law
ENOUGH - 1-Apr-19 @ 8:04 AM
I totally Rosha comment , Surely with all these on going complaints the law should change, the anti social effects have definitely effected my family. Our neighbours not only cut his trees after 3yrs of asking has only fly tipped all the branches between our boundary fence. If it is not one thing its another. PLEASE CHANGE the law
ENOUGH - 1-Apr-19 @ 8:04 AM
My neighbour has for trees that’s over ten feet high and through the years they have grown through the border between our fence halve the tree trunks is in my halve of the border and other halve is in his. Completely grew through the fence and fence had to be removed. What can I do regarding his trees that’s been growing through the fence and being on my propert. I don’t want the trees as I’m losing gardening space.
Riaan - 26-Mar-19 @ 7:07 PM
We have a shared fence with our neighbor. They have recently planted trees along the fence without a lot of space between the two. As they grow and start to push into the fence, what happens if the trees start to damage the fence? It would be pushed towards my side.
TCarter - 16-Mar-19 @ 8:34 AM
Am very worried about the tree next door to me in there garden it is going to brack and when it does going to it two garden it is not safe could you give me some advice what to do the lady next door said she told the council about it they rent from them and they said its OK it is not its lifting out of the ground in there garden we live in private rented house could someone pleas help me
Bobby - 10-Mar-19 @ 8:19 PM
A huge branch about 20 foot long has fallen into our garden from my neighbour's tree after a storm. It will take a chain saw or a lot of ax work to cut it up. Are my neighbour's responsible for removing the branch or are we?
Azeel - 7-Mar-19 @ 2:20 PM
I think it’s about time the law is changed. The tree owner should be responsible & maintenance their trees so as not to cause problems to a Neighbour garden My neighbors goat willow tree causes sap to ruin by garden furniture it’s in a very small garden & affects three other gardens it is very costly to have the overhang cut back each year why should we have to pay ???
Rosha - 3-Mar-19 @ 2:13 PM
I have two big trees between in my boundrey fance so I 'm start to fixiing newfance neighbour those make me problemthem tree not mine .i would like to cut those trees .also need to make nice and straight nice fance . I am agreed with them cost half to halfif you cut off . What I do then
MANI - 25-Feb-19 @ 8:44 PM
At the back of our house is a railway embankment. Between our garden boundary and the embankment is a patch of land that doesn’t belong to either the railway or the local council. On that land there are several trees including a very large Christmas type tree which is almost overhanging our boundary at the lowest branches. It is approx 50ft tall and 20 ft wide and blocks considerable sunlight so much so that after 4pm the sun in our garden is gone and we are in a south facing aspect. I have tried to get someone to cut the top off or trim it down but no one will touch it as the the land owner is unknown. Has anybody got any suggestions please as this summer will be the fourth summer with this problem that gets worse every year of course.
Richy - 25-Feb-19 @ 3:11 PM
My husband had a verbal agreement with our neb to reduce the height of their tree which has grown excessively in the 14 years I have owned the house.They agreed. We have a witness to the original request and agreementbut not a witness to the 2nd conversation as to how much if the tree height could be reduced. The tree surgeon turned up at short notice to start.We couldn't get hold of the neb. After the job was done we found out neb was away. On their return they have said this was not what was agreed. Refused to discuss a solution with us and are taking legal action As the agreement was verbal and both parties have a different opinion as to what was agreed. What would the law say? Thus would be a civil dispute .as no crime has been committed .
Summer - 8-Feb-19 @ 12:43 PM
I have recently purchased a small barn-type property which was originally owned by the next door neighbour, who sold it to a builder who then converted it and sold it to me. I only have a small front courtyard which I have filled with pots. There is a low wooden boundary fence between the two front 'gardens'. When I viewed the property I am fairly sure there were no young trees up against the boundary fence, however when I moved in I saw that the neighbour has planted 5 trees RIGHT ON THE BOUNDARY!They still have the tags on them and at least 4 of these trees are going to grow to a large size. They are a Rowan,a James Grieve apple, a Braeburn apple and 2 others. On researching the height and spread it shows that these trees will grow tall and wide...the Braeburn can reach 30ft tall and 15ft wide (over time) The Rowan is even worse and can reach up to 40ft ! It is fairly obvious that these have deliberately been planted on the boundary! Should the neighbour want a reasonable 'screening' then they could have planted a hedge, or put up trellis to grow perhaps a clematis (fast growing). I know that if branches overhang I can legally cut them to the boundary line and offer the branches back. I have since found out from all the local neighbours (lovely folk) that this neighbour is known to be very difficult.(not something I would have known before I moved in!) This is going to be a problem with this neighbour's attitude, and talking to them I think will not solve the forthcoming problem as this was obviously done quite deliberately! I have to add that these neighbours have extensive grounds at the rear, acres in fact, so they could have planted these trees elsewhere on their property. Any advice welcomed !
Twiss - 14-Jan-19 @ 12:15 PM
There is a large tree reported by a tree surgeon .to be in a potentially dangerous condition about 10 feet from my garden wall. The top most branches overhang my garden. If it fell it would probably damage my house. The tree is the property of a large estate. I have written to the estate owner over the last three months by recorded mail but he has not answered.. I have tried to contact him by telephone but he doesn’t answer his house phone I’m told. Any suggestions as to what I can do other than knocking on his door!
Michael - 3-Jan-19 @ 4:21 PM
Our neighbours have just sawn off branches from our scented viburnum, some low down, some facing away from them some going sideways only one going over the boundary line.We have had a lot of trouble with the neighbours and their builders during the construction of a rear extension their side,this involved trespass, damage to our garden and patio, they are very selfish and not willing to discuss damage done to our property. How do we stop any further damage occurring without having to resort to expensive legal action.
sue - 22-Dec-18 @ 10:47 AM
The garden maintenance company of neighbouring flats has allowed tree fall (seeds from trees) to seed, root and grow new trees along my wooden garden fence.They have also been piling grass cuttings and other garden waste up against a significant proportion of my fence (along about 15metres) to 3feet in height for many years. They also allowed the ivy that covered their trees to grow into my fence, and despite me cutting the ivy back from my side there was nothing I could do to see the horror on the other side. At the beginning of this year their overhanging shrubs caused my fence to fall into my garden revealing the mess they had made. As such I have two issues: 1)Their poor approach to maintenance had added weight to my fence in such a way that I could not realise the extent weakened and ultimately destroyed my fence. 2) I've had to erect a more expensive composite wood fence to stop the ivy from clinging on and other shrubs from growing through. 3) I've had to concede about 35cm of my garden and bring my new fence further into my garden along the whole 23metre width of my garden, for which I feel aggrieved as I've lost that space and that area of land in London is worth £1000s The management agent no longer responds to me as they are concerned I may ask for compensation.
Grumpyoldman - 30-Nov-18 @ 12:49 PM
We have a line of tall conifers at the bottom of our garden-which shield us from the people who live there and afford our garden privacy. We agreed to share costs of lopping/tidyingthe conifers to be "neighbourly" but in future if they want to trim the trees must we share again the cost? Can neighbours demandwe shorten the trees? They say they want them out totally! We like the trees which have been there at least 25 years and existed long before the neighbour's house was ever built. Their garden is higher than ours, hence with just a 6 foot fence we would have no privacy at all , so we need to keep the trees but have told them they can trim branches overhanging if they wish , but not trim the height again .
sue - 24-Nov-18 @ 5:04 PM
We have a stand of aspen spreading across 4 gardens, each of which is jointly owned by 12 properties. The aspen roots are criss-crossing the gardens and it s impossible to decide which is the 'mother' tree. Some gardens have regularly felled their main trunks to manage the problem. However, new growth pops up all over the place and there is at least one huge sucker root heading under the building! We back onto a council-owned bus depot which my have been the original source of the trees but our Council do not want to know! Any suggestions please?
liz - 16-Oct-18 @ 11:06 AM
Hi .my neighbours have a paracanther hedge,real close to the boundary, they do not maintain it , The trunks are now coming over the boundary along with the branches,it is about 7 feet tall , Would i be within my rights to cut these ,the trunks are like an elbow shape, and the branches are real thorny
Fan - 15-Oct-18 @ 4:28 PM
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