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Problems With Neighbouring Trees: Action Guide

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 31 Dec 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]
the pub our house backstoohas 2 very large trees covered in vines and ivy . we have been told by the guy that actually cut back a low hanging branch for us that was hanging in our garden , that the tree was rotting from the inside. we have asked and sent letters to the landlord but it no avail this has been going on over 6yrs now .what more can we do please !
cath - 8-Dec-20 @ 4:31 AM
my neighbours trees are taller than the house i now do not get much sun in the garden witch is damaging the lawn and can no longer dry clothes i have asked them to reduce the height but they have refused
ceed - 1-Dec-20 @ 5:51 PM
Leaf gate now you know how your neighbour feels about having your leaves in his garden.pAT
MikeH - 16-Nov-20 @ 6:29 PM
Hiya in short my neighbour gathers all the leaves that drop into his garden and dump them over the fence. He’s even bought a leaf blower to blow the actual tree to make them drop off into my garden haha! It didn’t bother me until I spent all morning cleaning the leaves up and all down the side of my house he’d created one huge pile that buried some gym equipment out there and other things. So I cleaned it up and it was spotless to find 3 hours later he’s gone and dumped a new pile of leaves in the same spot. Where do I stand in this I don’t want to fall out, I may offer to put my bin there.
Leafgate - 10-Nov-20 @ 11:05 PM
Hello. I own a house that is rented out and managed by a letting agent. It seems like the owner of a neighbouring property has had a tree in "my" garden pruned quite heavily which I know he is entitled to do.I did not know anything about it until the tenant contacted the agent.It seems that the tree surgeon who carried out the work has just left all of the debris in "my" garden. He was allegedly paid £900 to prune (which I think should have covered complete removal which I still would not have minded) but is stating that he left the branches because if he took them it would be theft.My understanding these days is that they should offer them to the owner and if they don't want them (which I don't) they should remove them.He has left quite a mess and seems unwilling to return to finish the job. He has been paid quite a hefty sum and it somehow doesn't seem right that I now have to pay to have my tenant's garden cleared. Any advice? Many thanks.
ETB - 9-Nov-20 @ 2:56 PM
I share a hedge with the next door neighbour as a common boundary. She has erected a fence on her side of it. We have replaced some of the dead hedge plants with conifers out of our own pocket. She has taken to pruning the tops of them, which we are not too happy about. When we prevented her gardener from cutting them she said she didnt want a 60ft tree by her house. It was only about 6ft! Instead she waited till we were out and then chopped it down to 5ft herself. Is there anything we can do?
Jay - 6-Nov-20 @ 8:28 PM
My neighbour planted about fifteen cane trees close to my fence three years ago and it appears that I am going to have a major problem with those canes spreading and destroying my flower beds.what can I do?
Aussie K - 3-Nov-20 @ 11:09 PM
My neighbours trees have caused trouble us trouble for 20 years. Now the roots of a tree at the front have caused our wall (on our side of boundary) to crack from top to bottom and the block brick paving to lift. This will cost a lot of money. Is he liable for the damage. These tree roots have also caused us two amounts of £500 because of damage where roots have cracked our sewer pipe. Even shown a photo of the cracked sewer pipe, my neighbour still refuses to do anything! How can I be expected to pay for this damage continuously. It is very unfair and not at all neighbourly. We don’t speak any more. We don’t know what we can do.
Margiejoyce - 24-Oct-20 @ 5:14 PM
Hi, I have some tall firs to one side of my property. Recently a new housing estate has been built that abutts up to the fir trees. The trees are on my land but now they have a lot of branches that hang over a lot of the new houses gardens and they are stopping light to those houses. Can I be forced to chop the trees down ?
Pete - 21-Oct-20 @ 3:08 PM
We have just moved house into a lovely Victorian house with an established garden. A beautiful cherry tree grows on the edge of our garden giving us quite a bit of privacy from the neighbor. They have introduced themselves but also been very quick to request we chop the tree down as they claim it blocks light (the position of the tree and the movement of the sun throughout the day would contradict this). As the tree is approximately 30 feet high we are presuming it has been here for many years and so we are wondering what the neighbor could potential demand from us legally. They also claim the root system is travelling under their driveway but again given the potential age of the tree it would be well under their property. The neighbor has suggested that he will attempt to cut the roots and in his words "make the tree very poorly" don't know where we stand.
MrsO - 19-Oct-20 @ 3:14 PM
There are 2 lime trees (each approx 15m tall) growing close to my house and garage. They are situated on land belonging to a private care home on the far edge of their boundary. The previous owners of the land agreed to pollard them 13 years ago. However the trees have subsequently doubled in height and also had TPOs placed on them during this time. We applied to our county council to allow repollarding on the grounds that our PV solar panels are now shaded from sunlight during the most productive part of the day and also that the height of these trees poses safety risks to our property. Permission for the repollarding to no lower than the previous pollard points was given in May 2019. However despite repeated requests from us, including an offer to pay for repollarding, the owners have refused to engage in any discussion or action. Are we now forced to take legal action?
Jaco - 18-Oct-20 @ 6:07 PM
I have a fir tree close to my neighbour's backgarden fence which she says may have to come down to accommodate their new fence.It is a few inches away and does not obstruct anything.They have built a shed which sits right up to their existing fence and access would have to be from my garden. What do I do?
OAP - 13-Oct-20 @ 2:32 PM
My neighbour has a birch tree at least 30ft tall, planted less than 12 inches from a boundary fence. The branches hang over my garden between 6 and 8 feet, and dropped thousands of seeds on my patio, and in autumn I clear more of her leaves from my garden than from my own tree. I no longer get full sun in the garden during mid afternoon in the summer and the tree is blocking light from my downstairs room. My neighbour went crazy a few years ago who we fixed the fence, by kicking it and screaming and shouting at me. I don't have much to do with her. What can I do?
CC - 11-Oct-20 @ 10:56 AM
I am so upset my next door want me to cut down my tree ..l agreed to have them cut back ..but they want ytoo get rid of the root becsuse its throwing new seedlings on there side .....trees to me are life ..
True - 1-Oct-20 @ 8:52 PM
our neighbors who rent their property x2 have trees that have grown from falling seeds i assume as they were not there before nor intentionally planted just grew . now we have all the foliage stuff covering our garden that doe not have any trees in what should i do what can i do
mr tottenham fc - 26-Sep-20 @ 9:56 AM
We have 6 very tall poplar trees at the bottom of our garden. They are approx 50 years old. In the last 10 years there has been a new estate built at the back of us. We now have neighbours at the bottom of the garden who don’t like our trees and are threatening to take us to court to get us to cut the trees down. How can this be fair or right our trees have been there a lot longer than those houses! Has anybody got any advice on this please?
Dash - 24-Sep-20 @ 7:25 PM
My neighbour has 2 very, very tall pinetrees that were planted by their kids about 30 years ago.These trees are pushing over the fence between us and I'm told that is because the tap roots are under the fence post.The roots of these trees are emerging in my 2 raised veg. beds and my patio is lifting.Apart from that all the pine needles, branches and debris fall onto my gravel, raised beds, and gutters.When I water my veg. beds, I'm watering their trees! I have discussed this with the neighbours, but they don't seem to care too hoots.The fence is one that I organized someone to put up, debris taking away and paid for, but they did pay me back, so the fence belongs to us both.
jesvin - 22-Sep-20 @ 10:15 PM
Our next door neighbour grows lots of trees in his garden far too many one is up to the top Windows and practically in our bathroom window but my real concern is the roots from these trees that are breaking concrete and pavers in my garden . We have had this problem before with the same neighbours but they are not approachable and we don't know what to next.
Pooh - 20-Sep-20 @ 11:25 AM
My neighbours are elderly and have a big pine Tree in there garden When we moved into are property 5yrs ago The tree was no higher than there gutter Over the yrs we have asked them to prune the tree Which they never did Now it's above the height of the house It's now blocking out Sun light to are garden and we have roots from the tree basically on top of are lawn which by the way is now dead I know are neighbours will not do anything So how can I get this problem sorted we have talked to them and sent letters but no joy
Weeble - 20-Sep-20 @ 10:35 AM
My neighbor has a very large apple right next to my fence.The apples that fall from the tree are very large and I can't put anything in the area as pot plants etc are likely to be damaged.I have previously arranged for the branches to be cut back on my side but my neighbors had no interest in contributing to the costs.The problem is the branches are so high and when it's windy the apples constantly fall into my garden.Is there really nothing I can do about this?
Ihateapples - 19-Sep-20 @ 4:00 PM
So many of these comments and questions are exactly the same situation that we are in!
PamT - 28-Aug-20 @ 5:10 PM
Contacted neighbour 3 times regarding overhanging conifers. We now have squirrels in loft and £280 pest control bill. How can I make neighbours cut trees and can I reclaim my money?
AJ - 26-Aug-20 @ 4:06 PM
behind my house are five appartments owned by a housing association.Due to the extra storey on these houses and the close proximity; it is possible to see right into my house. There are trees dividing these properties but the housing association are now cutting them back despite complaints from me and my neighbours. The original design for these houses was build back sides forward and the trees were planted to afford privacy. Why at the time of looking to get planning permission for the back sides forward houses was privacy a consideration, but not now? If there anything can be done to prevent them doing this in the future? Many Thanks
Jac - 21-Aug-20 @ 10:46 AM
Our neighbour has a large tree which overhangs the rear of our garden and the pigeon population defecates directly into our children’s play area. We have to clean the swings and slides before the children use them and the trampoline (which is in the middle of the garden away from the tree) is also routinely covered in excrement due to the birds coming and going. The problem has got worse more recently and I’ve had to fence off a section of the play area due to a few incidents where the children have got excrement all over themselves. Frankly, it’s a health hazard. Despite all this, my neighbours are not interested in pruning their tree and don’t see it as their issue. They have said we are welcome to trim any branches on our side but they do not want any “boots on their land“ from tradesmen etc. However the tree is twice the size of the house and even the lowest branches aren’t accessible so I’m slightly stuck. Their other neighbours paid £400 a few years ago for a tree surgeon who managed to access the tree from their side but the specialist said he could only do so much as he didn’t want to imbalance the tree by trimming too much on one side. Also, I feel aggrieved at the prospect of paying to maintain someone else’s property. Do I have any ability to essentially force my neighbours to trim back their tree? Help!
Stoory - 16-Aug-20 @ 7:02 PM
Hi I am currently living in a housing association house my neighbour had brought the property her conifer trees are huge taking over the phone wires and now creeping around 4 or 5 foot Into my garden ? I reported this to environmental health to which they replyed I could cut them I’m a single women 5 ft the trees are about 15 to 20 foot tall Is this my responsibility? Or the neighbours i am on low wages why should I pay to have these cut ? Would appreciate some help here please
Shorty - 14-Aug-20 @ 8:22 AM
We have a large silver birch planted by our neighbours next to our fence In the autumn our garden is covered in withered leaves which I cannot clear up as I am 83 and have poly myalgia rheumatica. The roots are under our Lawn and flower bed. What can I do ?
John - 11-Aug-20 @ 6:16 PM
Sorry if this is long. There’s a tree in our next door neighbour’s front garden which grew from a weed several years ago and is now taller than our houses (semi-detached). We have asked our neighbour several times to contact her landlord about it, as well as asking her for her landlord’s details so we can contact him ourselves (they have had problems with him in the past re him not doing necessary repairs to the house) but to no avail, she just says she’ll contact him, but we have heard nothing for months. The tree overhangs most of our front garden and we cannot park on our front drive as debris from the tree and birds damages the car, not to mention what the branches may do to our house roof, windows, the roots undermining the house foundations etc. I plan to speak to the neighbour again and say if they don’t give us the landlord’s details we’ll have to ask land registry, but we’d rather not have to pay and tbh I find her a bit intimidating. What else can we do to get them to remove this tree as it’s quickly becoming extremely dangerous? Many thanks.
nsherlock - 10-Aug-20 @ 3:30 PM
My aunt's neighbour cut branches from his tree, and ivy growing from his garden onto both sides of the fence. He dumped the debris in my aunt's garden either on the day she died suddenly from a stroke or the day after, knowing she died. He is refusing to remove the waste. Whose responsibility is it?
Lin - 6-Aug-20 @ 9:29 AM
Rats that live under the raised wooden step next door by people buying their home continue to blame my property because I am a council tenant I have been harassed even though we have no rats and they come through from another property can the council stop us from being harassed by these people
Mags - 3-Aug-20 @ 11:54 PM
Hi, I wonder if you could help us, our back garden backs onto a pub garden. There is a brick boundary wall, behind this wall they have planted conifers which are less than a metre away from the wall. I have spoken with the owner of the premises to ensure the trees are cut before they grow above the wall. The trees were not there when I purchased my property. There are multiple trees to make a hedge border.I also raised the closeness of the trees to the wall and highlighted that the trees would push against the wall, which could result in the wall coming down. The trees are over two metres tall and they are hanging over the wall and there are now cracks in the wall too! I have a toddler who loves being in the garden. I have asked them repeatedly to cut the trees I feel like I am begging them to do it and what they are going to do with reinforcing the wall, the answer has been we will deal with it when it happens! I don’t want to run the risk of any of us getting hurt when the wall falls! What can I do? Thanks
Kin - 31-Jul-20 @ 4:49 PM
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