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Problems With Neighbouring Trees: Action Guide

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 16 Oct 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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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
I moved here last August, the garden backs on to school fields with large trefes
Flossie - 13-Oct-18 @ 11:36 AM
Moved here last August, the house backs on to a school field with path between my back garden and their field.The large trees on the school land concealed the school buildings, a mash mash of prefabricated buildings and a car park.One was blown down in recent high winds, the school had it removed.Now they have removed the other without consultation to those backing on to the land.I just heard them sawing the tree down this morning and the tree cutters tell me the tree is diseased.However, the view from the back of my house has changed dramatically and the school can see directly into my bedroom window.One of the reasons I brought the house was because of the lovely trees & the privacy they gave from their many windows and there was no indication of any issues with them.Is there anything I can do about this?
Ros - 13-Oct-18 @ 11:32 AM
My tree at the end of the garden is causing concern to my neighbours.They have had got a tree reportwhich states there is no immediate concern for structural damage but a high risk in the future. They have offered to have the tree cut down but I really don't want to as I like that tree and it was probably there befor our houses were it als gives me privacy. If I have to cut down this tree should I be asking for some sort of compensation? And so how much?
Treetoppat - 9-Oct-18 @ 4:32 PM
my neighbour of 4 years has entered our property without permission to trim his hedge, and has removed his fence panel to access our property to fix his fence, also without consent. Now that we have told him several times he can’t do this, he finally has stopped. However he now leans over onto our property to cut his hedge, throwing his trimmings on our drive/garden, and has also cut our tree branches well into our boundary line. We have tried to tell him this is not acceptable, but have been met with verbal aggression. I fear now we may have to venture down a legal route, but need advice on the best course of action.
Lady - 8-Oct-18 @ 7:14 PM
Moved in to my house in Feb this year. My neighbors at the end of my garden have two massive conifers and an Ash between. Totally blocking my light. However one of the conifers has completely taken out fence panels and the base and trunk are on my land. I did not realize this was my land at first as there is a small walkway between my garden fence and my neighbours garden fence and it was only when I looked at my house deeds that I realized the end of my land is at the neighbours fence and not my smaller fence. The destroyed fence is a party fence so we are both responsible for it. The roots from the trees are lifting the brickwork base of the party fence so in summary there tree is half on my land. their tree has destroyed the sharedfence and there tree is lifting the base of the shared fence. Lastly they dont own the house they are tennants. The house is held in trust by a firm of accountants in bolton. How do I manage this?
Lesley - 28-Sep-18 @ 10:44 PM
My palm tree overhangs my neighbours garden but it is few inches off their fence although it is leaning their way. She has asked me to cut down the trees as it has been damaging her fence when it’s windy and potentially could fall on her house. I understand it overhangs her property and from her garden although it may seem that the tree is pushing into their fence, it is actually few inches off her fence. Would I have a reasonable ground to keep my trees as it doesn’t seem to have caused any damage in my opinion?
Sudip - 28-Sep-18 @ 10:13 PM
Our neighbours let an Ash seedling continue to grow at the corner of their garden... Just under 1 foot from the side of our house. They agreed to keep it trimmed but haven't. It is now taller than our house and has several large branches from the ground which bang against our first floor window, the guttering, the wall, drain pipe and roofing... It can be extremely noisy at times. When it stands still its all on their property so we can't trim it. We've asked the to remove it as it's within 1ft of our house and is likely to cause damage... They say they might trim it... But it grows fast and historically they haven't bothered when asked to do so... In your option would this come under the Council department in the article to apply the act mentioned.
Su - 21-Sep-18 @ 5:46 PM
I want to cut back to my boundary a tree. The tree surgeon told me that to do would unbalance the tree and it should becut back from my neighbours side as well He refuses to do this. If I go ahead just on my side and my neighbours side loses branches or causesdamage by coming down in a stormor high wind I could be held responsible. Can I do anything to get my neighbour to act. .
Georgieporgie - 17-Sep-18 @ 11:13 AM
Hi - I have a neighbour who has large trees at the bottom of their garden, which overhang our property and shed lots of leaves every year.I intend to send them a letter (talking has ceased) to advise that I will be trimming the overhanging branches of trees my side - do you have any template letter that I could use?
SSCookham - 7-Sep-18 @ 5:01 PM
Our neighbours have a eucalyptus tree which is about 40ft by now. They hardly ever have the tree cut back.The trunk has expanded &broken through our fence which has concrete supports. The tree also has a variegated ivy going around it. This too has gone through our fence. Who is responsible for replacing our fence? The roots of the tree have cracked the concrete on our side. The neighbour said concrete will crack anyway? My husband & I are concerned about our drain which is only a few feet away from the tree can also get damaged.
Brownowl - 25-Aug-18 @ 6:28 PM
We have lived at our property for almost 20 years. When we arrived, I guess a squirrel/bird dropped a seed which has now grown into a huge tree both in height and width. The tree which is located at the bottom of our garden is approximately 1/3rd (perhaps less) in our garden and a good 2/3 rd's in the neighbours garden. A reasonably strong feather-board fence separates the 2 properties (there is no alleyway between them. The tree which is excessively wide as it is tall, not only blocks the light from that portion of the garden (back left hand side if looking at the garden from the house), has large, tall wide branches and over hangs - the tree is a good proportion now over-hanging into our garden - shedding its leaves each year and would make it very difficult should we need to access the property's main sewage drain which is directly beneath the branches on our property. The weight of the trees' trunk is pushing onto our fence, there is already a gap between some slats that have been forced apart and a couple of broken bits too. We invited the neighbour to come and take a look, explaining that ideally, we wanted to cut the tree back hard or cut down. The neighbour advised that he wanted it to remain as it offered him privacy. We verbally discussed that so long a s he maintained the tree and kept it cut back hard- and away from our fence, for the time being we could live with that, however, he confidently assured us and agreed to do this prior to the end of July. It has not been done yet and I have just sent a third letter from the onset of the issue, asking him whether he will do it, when and if he now won't, that we can make alternative arrangements ourselves. Does anyone know if the council will get involved with this, i.e, asking the neighbour to maintain a tree that is growing erratically and needs to be maintained for various reasons? or will it be something that we need to deal with ourselves? The tree really doesn't belong to the neighbour as when we moved in the tree had only just begun to grow....from a seed! I am awaiting the neighbour's response but just feel he will promise executing the work again, then do nothing, dragging this on. Any ideas as to what else we can do? Thanks.
Peyton1 - 24-Aug-18 @ 5:26 PM
Moxie - Your Question:
Our garden is next to the local High School. There is a row of very large oak trees which are very close to our boundary fence. All of the branches of the trees over hang the gardens of the eight houses on the boundary. Several years ago we wrote to the headmaster asking for the trees to be pruned back and some work was done to reduce the overhang. There is now an even greater problem with the branches as the trees have grown over the years. The council are responsible for the trees and, although they have taken a large number of branches off one tree, they have said to take the branches off other trees would upset the balance of the trees. I have asked for a review of this decision. What else can I do?

Our Response:
There is not much you can do - the tree owner is not responsible for removing branches that overhang a neighbouring property as the above article explains.
ProblemNeighbours - 24-Aug-18 @ 2:54 PM
Our garden is next to the local High School. There is a row of very large oak trees which are very close to our boundary fence. All of the branches of the trees over hang the gardens of the eight houses on the boundary. Several years ago we wrote to the headmaster asking for the trees to be pruned back and some work was done to reduce the overhang. There is now an even greater problem with the branches as the treeshave grown over the years. The council are responsible for the trees and, although they have taken a large number of branches off one tree, they have said to take the branches off other trees would upset the balance of the trees. I have asked for a review of this decision. What else can I do?
Moxie - 23-Aug-18 @ 9:27 AM
My neighbour has a large back garden which they are determined to sell to a builder for the purposes of building a large house. Several applications and appeals have been refused but I have a feeling the current scheme will be approved. As they are on a corner plot, access to the new property will be from the road which currently runs along the side of this garden. Along the fence between me and the proposed house are several medium size trees, mainly holly and willow. However, toward the end of my garden (which is about 100ft long) and just my side of the fence is a very large and mature beech tree. After some effort I managed to get the local authority to grant a Tree Preservation Order to this tree. The proposed house is at 90 degrees to mine and is only viable by virtue of the fact the neighbours garden is on a corner. So the front of the house will front onto this side lane. Although the existing garden is relatively long, the resulting depth of the plot of the new plot ( from front to rear) is quite small. My concern going forward will be continuous pressure from the occupants of the new house to have this tree pruned. I would imagine the tree would block a substantial amount of light, may still grow further into their garden and be subject to constant requests for pruning. Ultimately Idoubt the tree would survive. What can i do and what are my rights should planning permission be granted. Many thanks
Flyer320 - 16-Aug-18 @ 9:55 AM
My neighbour has a large back garden which they are determined to sell to a builder for the purposes of building a large house. Several applications and appeals have been refused but I have a feeling the current scheme will be approved. As they are on a corner plot, access to the new property will be from the road which currently runs along the side of this garden. Along the fence between me and the proposed house are several medium size trees, mainly holly and willow. However, toward the end of my garden (which is about 100ft long) and just my side of the fence is a very large and mature beech tree. After some effort I managed to get the local authority to grant a Tree Preservation Order to this tree. The proposed house is at 90 degrees to mine and is only viable by virtue of the fact the neighbours garden is on a corner. So the front of the house will front onto this side lane. Although the existing garden is relatively long, the resulting depth of the plot of the new plot ( from front to rear) is quite small. My concern going forward will be continuous pressure from the occupants of the new house to have this tree pruned. I would imagine the tree would block a substantial amount of light, may still grow further into their garden and be subject to constant requests for pruning. Ultimately Idoubt the tree would survive. What can i do and what are my rights should planning permission be granted. Many thanks
Flyer320 - 16-Aug-18 @ 9:55 AM
Hi, I have several large shrubs/small trees that are in my garden and sit in front of the fence (which I own) bordering a neighbour.The shrubs/small trees are regularly cut and trimmed at varying stages of the year.All growth now sits at least 1 foot away from the fence so nothing ever overhangs.Height wise I would say 7-8 foot, all drop their leaves and none are dense like conifers.Regardless of this my neighbour regularly cuts into the trees which is thinning them out very slowly, and always does this when we are not at home.Another neighbour experiences the same thing.What can we do?
Nuthouse100 - 15-Aug-18 @ 5:00 PM
Shepo - Your Question:
My neigbours conifirs are 12ft from the corner of my property and I have significant cracking occurred the bricks have cracked straight through and looks like it's about to come apart please help Mrs P Sheppard

Our Response:
Have you talked to the neighbour? Have you had a survey done to find out whether the cracking is a direct result of the conifers? You might also want to talk to your buildings insurer for advice.
ProblemNeighbours - 15-Aug-18 @ 11:17 AM
My neigbours conifirs are 12ft from the corner of my property and I have significant cracking occurred the bricks have cracked straight through and looks like it's about to come apart please help Mrs P Sheppard
Shepo - 14-Aug-18 @ 4:24 PM
Hello, I'm moving to my new house next week but I've notice that my neighbors garden is like a Jungle, he doesn't have access to the garden because is impossible, is full of brambles and ivy plants. Unfortunately from that garden comes mices and other animals because is completely abandoned, so im pretty sure that my house will receive visits from mice very soon. My question is what can i do? I have to contact the council or there is nothing that they can do in that case? Thank you
mary85 - 14-Aug-18 @ 11:31 AM
Furious - Your Question:
Can a new neighbour cut down all trees that are at the bottom of mine and their properties.these are conifers I have lived in my home 10 years and they have caused no issues.they actually belong to another house at the back whose previous tenant put a fence up in front of them so they are now basically on no man's land.the new neighbour came in 6 weeks ago and has cut down 8 trees so far is this legal?

Our Response:
A neighbour is entitled to cut back branches that overhang their property. As it's not clear who the trees belong to, we can't really comment.
ProblemNeighbours - 14-Aug-18 @ 11:16 AM
Can a new neighbour cut down all trees that are at the bottom of mine and their properties...these are conifers I have lived in my home 10 years and they have caused no issues ..they actually belong to another house at the back whose previous tenant put a fence up in front of them so they are now basically on no man's land ..the new neighbour came in 6 weeks ago and has cut down 8 trees so far is this legal?
Furious - 13-Aug-18 @ 8:02 PM
YMW - Your Question:
My neighbour has significantly cut at his side of our fur trees and thrown all of the cut branches into our garden. On further inspection of our trees he has taken them back to almost their trunks on our side of the garden. He has previously complained to no avail to our council about the trees being reduced in size or removed. The trees are well maintained and the council discouraged him from complaining. As he has cut our trees across the boarder who do I approach about trespassing and what do I do about the high volume of branches thrown into my garden?

Our Response:
This is a civil matter so you would need to take any action via the civil courts.
ProblemNeighbours - 8-Aug-18 @ 3:28 PM
pires999 - Your Question:
My neighbours ( well not even my neighbours I would say) keep on sending letters through their insurance asking for our insurance details regarding our conifers. They want us to cut our tree branches which they saying is damaging their brick shed/room which is built right behind our back fence( not the side ones). I have told them that they can cut the over hanging branches themselves as I dont mind. but they are adament and want me to have them cut which I cannot afford atm. Now their insurance company is threatening me to take to the court. Can they actually take me to the court?

Our Response:
As you say, the neighbour is perfectly entitled to cut back any branches. If the tree is dangerous and you are aware of this and the tree subsequently causes damage, you could be held liable for the damage. Please see the section about Dangerour Trees in the above article.
ProblemNeighbours - 8-Aug-18 @ 3:15 PM
Bob - Your Question:
Our neighbour claims our tree roots are damaging her patio and wants us to remove the tree or cit the roots on her side do we have to obey this nb there is no real evidence of root damage shown yet on her property

Our Response:
Your neighbour can cut back any roots on her side of the boundary (assuming this does not de-stabilize your tree). If the roots are causing real damage, your neighbour should obtain advice from an independent expert (surveyor and arboriculturalist etc) and make a claim via her insurance or the courts.
ProblemNeighbours - 8-Aug-18 @ 2:21 PM
My neighbour has significantly cut at his side of our fur trees and thrown all of the cut branches into our garden. On further inspection of our trees he has taken them back to almost their trunks on our side of the garden. He has previously complained to no avail to our council about the trees being reduced in size or removed. The trees are well maintained and the council discouraged him from complaining. As he has cut our trees across the boarder who do I approach about trespassing and what do I do about the high volume of branches thrown into my garden?
YMW - 7-Aug-18 @ 9:28 PM
my neighbours ( well not even my neighbours i would say) keep on sending letters through their insurance asking for our insurance details regarding our conifers. They want us to cut our tree branches which they saying is damaging their brick shed/room which is built right behind our back fence( not the side ones). I have told them that they can cut the over hanging branches themselves as i dont mind. but they are adament and want me to have them cut which I cannot afford atm. Now their insurance company is threatening me to take to the court. Can they actually take me to the court?
pires999 - 7-Aug-18 @ 4:49 PM
Our neighbour claims our tree roots are damaging her patio and wants us to remove the tree or cit the roots on her side do we have to obey this nb there is no real evidence of root damage shown yet on her property
Bob - 7-Aug-18 @ 11:32 AM
Norman - Your Question:
Can you please advise we are going to cut down our tree on our property and have asked the neibours to move their cars when we do it but are saying it’s all right just let it fall on them their cars hardly move which is making it worse but neigbour has come to door to say it has to be cut down

Our Response:
Sorry it's not clear from your comment what the situation is. The neighbours insist the tree is cut down and are happy for you to allow the tree to fall on their cars?
ProblemNeighbours - 7-Aug-18 @ 10:29 AM
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