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Problems With Neighbouring Trees: Action Guide

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 22 Feb 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 next door neighbourstree as grown so big it as pushed our joining fences over and O have to use stuff to prop it up and it now over hangers almost all of my very large patio/BBQ eating area, can I not have the council make them cut it back?
Andy - 22-Feb-20 @ 9:00 AM
Hello, we have a nice size garden with a 3 year old new-ish fence put up. Buy use when we moved in. The neighbor has a tree in there garden which is very high about 15 meters high and at about 3 meters high ( due to me cutting the highest I can ) overhangs into our garden buy up to 3 / 3.5 meters. This does block any sunlight going into our back garden with where the sun comes round over their roof and being this tree. Our Garden does not get any direct sunlight and destroying our garden lawn. The Neighbor rents through an estate agent. What can I do?
Nick - 9-Feb-20 @ 9:14 AM
The trunk of my neighbours massive sycamore tree has increased so much over the years that the party fence has been shoved completely out of alignment. When the panelled fence was replaced some years ago it was made to deviate into my garden to get around the tree, (well in advance of the tree) and then doesn’t return to the party boundary line. Part of the fence recently failed, and my neighbour organised the repair, I explained I would like it to be straightened back into alignment, which would have meant further posts and panels to be replaced, but my neighbour was having none of it. So I’m still in the same situation. About 4 years ago we had a tree surgeon in to remove the overhanging branches on my garden, and reduce the canopy. My neighbour changed her mind when he started cutting the tree, so only the overhanging branches were removed, which did leave it looking lob sided. My neighbour has since accused me of ruining the tree The tree’s canopy is so large my garden gets very little sunlight, though my neighbours isn’t affected. My greenhouse is now in shade so I’m limited to what can be grown in it. Any advice? -other than move?
Shoved over - 17-Jan-20 @ 8:28 PM
If overhangingbranches are causing shade and preventing rainfrom reaching expensive plants, May I use?
Exasperated - 15-Jan-20 @ 10:56 AM
Our neighbours have decided to put up what I can only assume is a derelict tree house on their Tree, However, half of it over hangs in our garden and as hideous as it looks, we just want our side of the tree cut away so we can upgrade our garden.... This is very stressful and we just want the best way to approach this with out starting WW3... Any Ideas??
Thedoc21 - 8-Jan-20 @ 11:29 AM
My neighbour intends to plant a confer hedge at the front of his property on the boundary line between us. 1) How close can he plant to my house 2) He will be planting next to my block drive and am sure the roots will affect it 3) Does he have to maintain the hedge on both sides as I am disabled and cannot do the work. 4) Should he tell me he intends to plant the hedge before he does so 5) He will be planting the hedge approx 30cm above the underground drains/sewerage system
Yorkie6354 - 6-Jan-20 @ 9:51 AM
I wrote on here for advice a week ago. But have had no response. Do you in fact give advice or do you not maintain this website any longer?
mish - 17-Nov-19 @ 11:20 AM
A large Thuga conifer overhanging branches has destroyed my shed as water coming off branches has rotted and destroyed the shed. Do I have a claim for compensation from the owner?RR
Tc - 5-Nov-19 @ 6:03 PM
Our neighbour's huge date palm tree frond during a particularly windy day, smashed into our house and smashed a window.In this instance, who is responsible for repairs to the window?
Desperately seeking - 30-Oct-19 @ 3:38 AM
A palmtree which they grow on your land is on our side of wire fence. Our neighbors cut their trees down but cut mine down too..n bent and ruined our wire fence dividing our property line.. Know what. They are nosey must be in their view of us so cut our tree down its 4 or 5 inches from fence but ruined our fence and cut our paln. What do we do?
Elizabeth woods - 29-Oct-19 @ 5:32 AM
This is from your website: "Recoup costs from neighbour If the problem you’re experiencing lies within the tree’s roots, you are also entitled to remove any roots which are invading your property. If they are very deep, you could decide to get a professional to come in and remove them for you, and then recoup your costs by claiming on the tree owner’s household insurance policy." Our problem is the tree belongs to the council, and their representative who confirmed that the roots of the tree outside my property, which they are responsible for, have encroached on my front garden and are heading towards the front of the house. However, they say that though I am at liberty to remove the roots, this will be at MY COST, which is in contrast to the item above in inverted commas. Please advise how we may proceed. Thank you.
Novice - 15-Oct-19 @ 1:22 PM
My neighbor put a preservation order on her Scotts Pine. We applied to the County Council to remove two lower branches that have grown over and beyond our drive preventing larger vehicles being able to park without risk of damage. We had to apply because she refused to allow us to pay and complete the works by engaging a qualified Tree Surgeon. We were granted permission from the Council but when we were reading the guidelines it states we still have to get the permission of the Land Owner. We know she will refuse as she wont speak to us. Any ideas how we can proceed? There is also a risk of the branches causing personal injury.
Cindy - 8-Oct-19 @ 9:50 PM
Last year my next door neighbour obliterated my poplar tree.He came into my garden and destroyed my side too. He dumped all the branches, leaves and other debris in my garden. Which ruined my plants and pots. New growth has appeared and I cannot use my back gate asit cant be opened because a lot growth is on the trunk of the tree. Again he has cut my tree and put the refuse in my garden. Someone draw me to establishing if this can be classed as Criminal damage? Fly tipping has been suggested!? please help.
Anniep - 23-Sep-19 @ 11:01 AM
@Duckling. This problem sounds serious. At the rate you have described, the tree will reach the moon in the next 239,000 years! You must act now! I recommend you ask Rick Moranis to borrow his shrinking ray to shrink the tree down to approximately 10” at which point you should be able to pull the tree out by hand. Or, to enlarge yourself to about 240 feet... and do the same thing. Good luck, and Godspeed.
Charlie - 14-Sep-19 @ 3:38 AM
Our neighbour planted an Indian Bean tree in their small front garden approx 15-20yrs ago, it's the fastest growing tree in the world apparently? The tree is 12-15m high and still growing, it's only 10ft away from our external wall and kitchen window. The roots are already pushing up through block paving and we're concerned they're also under our house which an arbouroculturist has said ate highly likely. Branches hang over our roof, tv aerial etc.... He has it pruned every 2yrs. Recently large branches have crashed to the ground, twice landing on his property and once across the neighbour on the other side hedge and garden. Why are people allowed to plant such a ridiculously large tree and why can't we have it removed due to being dangerous??? As we all own our property there appears very little we can do? Can anyone help please?
Duckling - 11-Sep-19 @ 5:22 PM
I love how nobody has actually responded to any of the comments but that hasn't deterred people from continuing to post questions! Which proves that none of the people posting have actually read through the previous posts to see if their query has been answered already! Or, they believe that their question will finally be the only that gets answered! Narcissist much?! I joke, I joke, these are very, very serious 1st world problems.
Bazza - 7-Sep-19 @ 11:24 PM
My neighbour has a massive tree in his side garden and it hanging over our side garden taken up a lot of the garden and the roots have started to damage our wall at bottom of the garden is their anything we can do L
Lainy - 2-Sep-19 @ 9:03 PM
My neighbor keeps cutting down my trees on the boundary wall without permission. She has been doing this for 15 years and has ruined my trees.They are horrible people.I don’t seem to b able to stand up to her. for 15 years and she has ruined my trees but I
Olly - 15-Aug-19 @ 6:14 PM
Our neighbour has two large, high trees to the side of our house. Their branches hit the side of our house in high winds.Can we force them to prune the branches on our side or even have them cut down? We also havehigh trees in front of our house on council land. These have grown so high and dense that the light to our front rooms is low, and our TV signal has been obstructed so we can now get no TV. Can we do anything about this?
Peeto - 8-Aug-19 @ 4:14 PM
Hi 4 years ago we bought a house. There was a huge oak tree outside my boundaries of house. Now suddenly my neighbour’s insurer send me a latter to cut off that tree because that is making problem to my neighbour’s house. They said that the tree is in my land. But honestly speaking We had no idea of owning that land. And to cut off that tree will cost £1500. Which is impossible for me to bear. We even requested to my neighbour to consider 50% of cutting cost. But they keep forcing us to cut the tree by their insurer. We are feeling so helpless! It is a matter of money as well as mental harassment.Can you please suggest us what to do?
Kaniz - 5-Aug-19 @ 6:31 PM
Hello I have a 20ft plus tree at the end off my garden ..& it’s half in the gardens house behind me so we both thought it needs a trim back ..then the neighbour from the right said we can’t cut that tree we need the council to say we can trim it .. well we stop not sure what to do .. as the tree is really dangerous in high winds ????? Thanks
Annie - 28-Jul-19 @ 8:14 AM
Hi, my neighbour has chopped/butchered all 12 of the leyandii trees that border and provide privacy to our gardens, they have been here over 50 years, yes they were high but they are also full of nesting birds, squirrels etc; not that I had a problem with them being cut back slightly. However, to return home to find the trees decimated was extremely upsetting. The trees gave us and my other neighbours privacy which they have now taken away. I have read that... If the base of a tree sits on the boundary line between two properties it is jointly owned by both of them (they are classed as tenants in common). If one owner fells the whole tree without permission from the other owner, that would make them liable (as this amounts to trespass). Consent should also be sought from the other owner before work is undertaken on the tree. Is this correct? Can I take action or are we on a losing battle?Thank you
Gus - 25-Jul-19 @ 4:22 PM
My neighbour claims that his title deeds allow him to cut down the tree at the bottom of my garden. Is this likely and can I get a copy of his deeds? My neighbour lives in a newly converted farm building which was probably only registered as a residential property within the last 12 months.
Jago - 20-Jul-19 @ 9:34 PM
My mother lives in a council warden bungalow that has trees by her property. They are never cared fro and I have established that they are not the responsibility of highways but that of council housing maintenance as they are on their plot. They shut out her daylight and cut off her TV signal including her neighbours either side also . This is distressing her so much. Example middle of summer she has her lights on from 12pm every day. Is there anything I can do . I am not getting anywhere with council
Buster - 13-Jul-19 @ 5:06 PM
My neighbor has trees hanging over our garden 5 plus mtrs they're 20ft off the ground so can't reach to cut back, he's had quote £1200 wants me to pay half, £600 to cut back his trees ,am I right or wrong to pay or not to pay ,I offered £300
Sensual - 11-Jul-19 @ 1:05 PM
My neighbour has a tree which has grown under the fence onto my property, annoying but nothing to get worked up about until a few years ago when they decided to cut the tree down their side, leaving what had spread to my side to continue to grow, since then they have cut back branches which have regrown and overhanging their garden, not a problem except the cut branches were left on my side of the fence, again annoying but nothing to get upset about until today. While I was not at home they decided it was a good time to cut the tree back but this time they have cut so much back they must have been on my property (without permission) as they could not have reached some of what has been cut from their side and again they have left all the mess on my garden. I am so annoyed by what they have done I am looking for advice on where I stand before deciding what to do, we are not on speaking terms so that is not an option.
Jasryle - 6-Jul-19 @ 9:02 PM
We have a common patio with our neighbours. Their branches are hanging over the patio which makes it very tricky to walk (fruit plants, similar to an allotment). Am I right to cut them? I know I have the right of cutting overhanging branches in my property but what about overhanging branches in a common patio? Shall I consult them first or legally I can just chop them off? Thanks in advance.
Silvia - 6-Jul-19 @ 11:13 AM
We have just moved into a rental property; the rear garden has a fence, with a small gap, with another fence thereafter. This separates the new development which has been built there (appox 5 few years ago). The tree in question is on that side of the fence but has grown vastly in size and is now 75% overhanging our back garden, and is within a foot (or so) of touching our roof and rear bedroom windows. Whilst we appreciate this is something the landlord should look into, we thought we would be proactive and try and sort out ourselves. The issue we have is the tree is not in anyone's back garden and is on the road/side road of the development. We are writing letters to all the houses that form part of this road but are unsure who in fact would be responsible for maintaining this as part of their freehold land or, leasehold obligations?
Lou - 5-Jul-19 @ 1:01 PM
My neighbors cuts my lilac tree and doesn’t even ask the banana shaped flowers are hanging 30cm on the boundary line, He doesn’t ask, just thinks he has a right to do it. Even a leaf and petals off flowers he cuts. There must be something I can do, Can you help.
gardener - 5-Jul-19 @ 12:52 PM
Why would they need to get your permission? A good neighbour would keep them cut to the boundary line,why should someone else be responsible for your trees
Chopper - 2-Jul-19 @ 4:20 PM
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