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Problems With Neighbouring Trees: Action Guide

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 20 Feb 2017 | 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 - more than most people receive anyway.
  • 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]
We have recently cut down a Copper Beech tree from our graden which is near the boundary with our neighbour. They have suggested that we should pay for the removal of any roots that have encroached on their property. Are we legally obliged to do so?
G - 20-Feb-17 @ 10:45 AM
davy - Your Question:
I have a number of trees growing in my garden forming a screen preventing my 3 neighbours overlooking my garden. The trees are on the southern boundary of my neighbours property and will cause shade within their garden. They have, without my knowledge, cut off overhanging branches (which I accept they are entitled to do) but have thrown the cuttings onto my property without my consent (which I think they are not entitled to do). I've now been asked to prune / remove the tops of the tree that they cannot access from their land. The branches are some distance from the house and do not risk damaging any roof / gutter and are not hazardous. Am I correct that I am not legally required to cut / prune trees at my neighbours request, that they cannot access my property i.e cut down anything on my side, and my liability is to prevent any hazard / damage to their property which I endeavour to do?

Our Response:
Yes you are correct. You are under no obligation to cut the tops of the trees and your neighbour cannot access your property to do so either. The neighbours should "offer" you any branches that they cut off on their side - not simply throw them back.
ProblemNeighbours - 17-Feb-17 @ 12:21 PM
Hi looking for some advice, my property is south facing and a few years ago the council planted a number of trees at the back of our property, I was told at the time they were slow growing & wouldn't be large trees, two of them are now away above the height of my house & are causing me a few problems, I recently replaced decking & built a new summerhouse last summer due to the damage caused by leaf fall & lack of light into my garden when the trees are fully leafed, my decking doesn't dry out which causes it to go black, the council have refused to top the trees, have only agreed to prune the lower branches, it's the height & width that's the problem!! Any advice on where I stand? I can't afford to re do my garden every year, thanks
Lynnes1980 - 16-Feb-17 @ 3:40 PM
Reg - Your Question:
My neighbour has a very large tree on his property which overhangs ours.It has a TPO in place. It is very large and whilst it appears sound it is a Monteray Pine which is not long lived. There is a slight lean towards our house and I am concerned that if a branch should fall there could be severe damage and if the whole tree should fall there could be catastrophic damage to life and property. What steps can I take to protect ourselves and our property; what are the responsibilities of the tree owner and the duties of the local council.

Our Response:
You should ask the tree owner and the council's tree preservation officer to inspect the tree for safety etc. If the tree owner is aware it poses a potential danger, they should take action (in this case with permission of the Tree Preservation Officer). If they are aware of any danger and do not take action, they can be held liable for damages.
ProblemNeighbours - 16-Feb-17 @ 12:22 PM
Keefer. - Your Question:
I've lived in my present house for nearly seven years. When we moved in the tree in the next door front garden was no more than ten feet tall. As you can imagine the tree is somewhat larger now and overhangs my property by approximately 1.5 metres and is 2 metres from my window. This blocks my view and light. My neighbour had a tree surgeon round to cut the top off the tree. When I suggested I'd like the tree cut back to the boundary I was told the tree was there before I moved in, I was being unneighbourly and they wanted to keep the shape of the tree, cutting back could possibly kill it. I know I'm within my rights to have the tree cut to the boundary, also Right to light Act 1959, but what would happen in the unlikely event it did die? Many thanks. K

Our Response:
The right to light probably wouldn't apply here. You are entitled to cut the branches back to the boundary. If you seek advice from a tree surgeon, they'll be able to tell you the chances of the tree actually dying. Your neighbour might hold you responsible for the damages but if you've sought professional advice, it will be more difficult for them to prove.
ProblemNeighbours - 16-Feb-17 @ 11:49 AM
Twokids - Your Question:
Our garden and house is currently protected (by large leilandi trees) from sound and light pollution, the source of this is a pertrol station. The trees also provide our garden and home with privacy. These trees are not on our boundary as another garden runs at right angles to the rear of ours and shares the boundary with the petrol station. Our neighbour is planning on taking the trees down by a third - approximately 1.5 metres which will means that lights from the garage will affect the rear of our house and people at the petrol station will be able to see into our home. Do we have any rights to prevent this happening?

Our Response:
Unfortunately not, a tree owner can do as he/she chooses with their own trees unless a TPO is place (unlikely if they are leylandii)
ProblemNeighbours - 16-Feb-17 @ 11:45 AM
I have a number of trees growing in my garden forming a screen preventing my 3 neighbours overlooking my garden. The trees are on the southern boundary of my neighbours property and will cause shade within their garden. They have, without my knowledge, cut off overhanging branches (which I accept they are entitled to do) but have thrown the cuttings onto my property without my consent (which I think they are not entitled to do). I've now been asked to prune / remove the tops of the tree that they cannot access from their land. The branches are some distance from the house and do not risk damaging any roof / gutter and are not hazardous. Am I correct that I am not legally required to cut / prune trees at my neighbours request, that they cannot access my property i.e cut down anything on my side, and my liability is to prevent any hazard / damage to their property which I endeavour to do?
davy - 16-Feb-17 @ 10:29 AM
My neighbour has a very large tree on his property which overhangs ours.It has a TPO in place. It is very large and whilst it appears sound it is a Monteray Pine which is not long lived.There is a slight lean towards our house and I am concerned that if a branch should fall there could be severe damage and if the whole tree should fall there could be catastrophic damage to life and property. What steps can I take to protect ourselves and our property; what are the responsibilities of the tree owner and the duties of the local council.
Reg - 15-Feb-17 @ 8:15 PM
I've lived in my present house for nearly seven years. When we moved in the tree in the next door front garden was no more than ten feet tall. As you can imagine the tree is somewhat larger now and overhangs my property by approximately 1.5 metres and is 2 metres from my window. This blocks my view and light. My neighbour had a tree surgeon round to cut the top off the tree. When I suggested I'd like the tree cut back to the boundary I was told the tree was there before I moved in, I was being unneighbourly and they wanted to keep the shape of the tree, cutting back could possibly kill it. I know I'm within my rights to have the tree cut to the boundary, also Right to light Act 1959,but what would happen in the unlikely event it did die? Many thanks. K
Keefer. - 15-Feb-17 @ 4:02 PM
Our garden and house is currently protected (by large leilandi trees) from sound and light pollution, the source of this is a pertrol station. The trees also provide our garden and home with privacy.These trees are not on our boundary as another garden runs at right angles to the rear of ours and shares the boundary with the petrol station. Our neighbour is planning on taking the trees down by a third - approximately 1.5 metres which will means that lights from the garage will affect the rear of our house and people at the petrol station will be able to see into our home. Do we have any rights to prevent this happening?
Twokids - 15-Feb-17 @ 3:34 PM
We have been away from home for a month now. Our gardener went to our house and noticed that the three thuja trees in front of our house that separated our drive way from our neighbour's and was planted on our land more than 20 years ago, have been cut down. We were not asked permission for this job to be carried out what so ever and came out of the blue. The two trees at the two sides of that row of thuja trees that went missing are still there looking out of place now. We are really shocked about this and would like to know what can we do.
Di - 9-Feb-17 @ 6:01 AM
Lin - Your Question:
We live in a conservation area & are obliged to notify the council before doing any tree works in our garden. Does this obligation extend to notifying the council before trimming back overhanging branches from our neighbour's trees?

Our Response:
It may do, especially if the trees in your own garden are subject to this condition. Speak to your neighbours and to the council's conservation officer before going ahead, just to be sure.
ProblemNeighbours - 8-Feb-17 @ 12:15 PM
We live in a conservation area & are obliged to notify the council before doing any tree works in our garden. Does this obligation extend to notifying the council before trimming back overhanging branches from our neighbour's trees?
Lin - 7-Feb-17 @ 8:49 AM
Bob - Your Question:
We own a road to which is shared access for our neighbour to enter their property. The neighbour has a tall fence but has large overgrown conifers which are getting wider encroaching on to the access road. What if I were to pay someone to cut them down / back before it really gets out of control?

Our Response:
You can't cut them down if they don't belong to you. If you own the road, you can trim back any branches that are growing over your side of the boundary.
ProblemNeighbours - 6-Feb-17 @ 12:23 PM
We own a road to which is shared access for our neighbour to enter their property. The neighbour has a tall fence but has large overgrown conifers which are getting wider encroaching on to the access road. What if I were to pay someone to cut them down / back before it really gets out of control?
Bob - 3-Feb-17 @ 9:51 PM
sally - Your Question:
Hi can anyone advise me if my neighbour can b instructed by local authority to fell his poplar trees or at least some of them. Both my children suffer from asthma and during the pollen season it's almost like it's snowing with poplar pollen it lays like s carpet across my garden and mu children cannot go outside due to the excessive amount of pollen. We are more than happy to replant with alternative trees by way of compensation. Is there any ruling or guidance from environmental health regarding this type of problem? Unfortunately our neighbours own vast amounts of ground locally and are nit receptive to our polite enquiries'. Looking forward to hearing from anyone with any ideas regarding this issue I desperately want my children to be able to go outside but atm the health risks are too great.

Our Response:
Unfortunately, it's very unlikely you can ask someone to remove trees on this basis. Poplar trees are quite beautiful and are often the subject of a Tree Preservation Order. There are very few circumstances under which you can "force" a neighbour to cut down/remove a tree.
ProblemNeighbours - 3-Feb-17 @ 2:51 PM
Hi can anyone advise me if my neighbour can b instructed by local authority to fell his poplar trees or at least some of them. Both my children suffer from asthma and during the pollen season it's almost like it's snowing with poplar pollen it lays like s carpet across my garden and mu children cannot go outside due to the excessive amount of pollen. We are more than happy to replant with alternative trees by way of compensation. Is there any ruling or guidance from environmental health regarding this type of problem? Unfortunately our neighbours own vast amounts of ground locally and are nit receptive to our polite enquiries'. Looking forward to hearing from anyone with any ideas regarding this issue I desperately want my children to be able to go outside but atm the health risks are too great.
sally - 2-Feb-17 @ 12:48 AM
I have lived in my house for 13 years , the view from my back is on to conservation land which is a lovely view , all wooded area which we see wild life such as deer , foxes an more , recently we have new neighbours who own the field now are going to plant laurels which will block are view are they allowed to do this , we feel that this will cause problems for us if we decide to sell , one of the reasons we bought this property was because of the view can any one please advise what we can do ?
Paul - 30-Jan-17 @ 8:28 PM
Hello, our neighbours have trees exceeding the height of our 2 storey house, which therefore block sunlight in the spring / summer - we plan on asking them politely to reduce the height of these trees, but fear they will decline (they haven't touched the trees since they bought the house 12+ years ago).If they do refuse, is there any height restrictions they should adhere to at all or if they decline, is there nothing we can do? Many thanks
Char - 28-Jan-17 @ 12:07 PM
My neighbouris asking mum to cut down her trees cause there blocking there lightcan they take mum to court
Sue - 25-Jan-17 @ 11:54 AM
Our neighbours moved in behind us a few years ago and wanted to put in a vegies garden. As a show of good will we had the overgrown conifer hedges removed to give him more light.We have an ancient oak tree in our garden and now the neighbour is suggesting that it's blocking his light. Can he make us remove it.It was there before either of our houses were built and his garden had in effect no light when he brought it. That tree is home to a squirrel family and supports all all sorts of wildlife. I am so worried for the tree and want to know our rights.
May - 24-Jan-17 @ 6:26 AM
Peaved - Your Question:
My neighbour has trees all along our border that must be over 10 feet the house is unoccupied but he pops in ever few weeks. I have asked him twice if he will cut them down as it's stopping the light getting into my garden but he has just ignored me. Can I cut them down to 6 foot and leave him to dispose of it all.

Our Response:
No. You can't cut them down in height. You can trim back any branches that are overhanging your property. Your garden does not have an automatic right to light. If the trees are blocking light into your home (significantly), there's a vague chance you can act. If the trees are evergreen, they may constitute a hedge, in which case you might be able to take action under the High Hedges legislation
ProblemNeighbours - 18-Jan-17 @ 11:56 AM
My neighbour has trees all along our borderthat must be over 10 feet the house is unoccupied but he pops in ever few weeks. I have asked him twice if he will cut them down as it's stopping the light getting into my garden but he has just ignored me. Can I cut them down to 6 foot and leave him to dispose of it all.
Peaved - 17-Jan-17 @ 5:16 AM
RichP - Your Question:
My neighbour has a very large tree on his property which overhangs ours. It has a TPO in place. Over the years it has grown very large and now interferes with my TV reception. I recently lost all channels had to have a booster fitted to get more channels, the engineer confirmed that the tree was significantly weakening the signal especially when the leaves were wet, its branches are very close to my aerial. I have spoke to the neighbour on and off over the last 2 years as this problem has got worse and worse. He initially promised to get it loped (and I understand the council will allow up-to 30% to be removed) but whenever I ask him he repeatedly says he is 'working on it', but nothing happens. He is simply fobbing me off. Can I force him to act on this?

Our Response:
He is under no obligation to cut back the tree. Contact the tree preservation officer and see if they will allow trimming back of any branches that overgrow your side of the boundary - you can do this without the neighbour's permission.
ProblemNeighbours - 16-Jan-17 @ 12:31 PM
Fifi - Your Question:
I live in a rented flat and my neighbour's tree plus various weeds are growing over the wall into 'my' garden. I am not a gardener and would prefer to leave it all alone and concentrate just on keeping my garden neat and tidy. Does anyone know if I bear any responsibility for cutting back the neighbour's tree/weeds etc. that are growing over the wall?Many thanks in advance.

Our Response:
If you can keep your garden neat enough without trimming back the weeds, then you can leave them. If they are affecting the appearance of your garden, then you should trim them back. Your neighbour is not responsible for doing this. Your landlord may have specific conditions in place relating to this, so check your tenancy agreement etc.
ProblemNeighbours - 16-Jan-17 @ 12:06 PM
My neighbour has a very large tree on his property which overhangs ours.It has a TPO in place.Over the years it has grown very large and now interferes with my TV reception. I recently lost all channels had to have a booster fitted to get more channels, the engineer confirmed that the tree was significantly weakening the signal especially when the leaves were wet, its branches are very close to my aerial.I have spoke to the neighbour on and off over the last 2 years as this problem has got worse and worse. He initially promised to get it loped (and I understand the council will allow up-to 30% to be removed) but whenever I ask him he repeatedly says he is 'working on it', but nothing happens.He is simply fobbing me off. Can I force him to act on this?
RichP - 15-Jan-17 @ 5:37 PM
I live in a rented flat and my neighbour's tree plus various weeds are growing over the wall into 'my' garden.I am not a gardener and would prefer to leave it all alone and concentrate just on keeping my garden neat and tidy.Does anyone know if I bear any responsibility for cutting back the neighbour's tree/weeds etc. that are growing over the wall? Many thanks in advance.
Fifi - 15-Jan-17 @ 3:10 PM
Hi We live in a semi detached house behind a very old house, obviously been built many years before the surrounding house. My concern is they have very tall pine trees at the end or their garden by dividing fences of our house and neighbors, Which if fall will no doubt hit ours and neighboring houses as they are so tall. I've lived here nearly 25 years and know they weren't that tall back then, not sure what our rights are ?
Cat - 11-Jan-17 @ 1:45 PM
My neighbour has four shrubs which have grown to 5m in height to our front border. The legal height I believe is 2m. I have advised them of this but they will not reduce the height. It will cost me over £300 to get the council involved,is there another diy legal way of resolving this ?
Eddie - 11-Jan-17 @ 10:37 AM
We border a stud farm and have had uniterrupted views of the forest beyond these fields. It was this view that sold us the house in July of last year. The owner of the land has decided to plant various already mature trees 2m away from our property. These are a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees. We now have 3 scot pine trees, holly bushes and 2 deciduous trees that I'm not sure what type. These trees completely obscure our view and is going to have a massive effect on the value of our house. What rights do we have??
Essexwife! - 6-Jan-17 @ 4:14 PM
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