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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 21 Jun 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Rights On Trees Rights On Overhanging

Trees can add a great deal of splendour to a garden. They could be fruit bearing trees, a place in which to retreat to the shade and they can also add a great deal of colour to a garden. However, they can also cause a nuisance to a next door neighbour when they start encroaching onto your side of the fence, with problems ranging from attracting unwanted insects like bees and wasps, blocking out your light and shedding their leaves all over your garden. Therefore, it’s important to know what your rights are and what you can and cannot do.

Establishing Ownership of Trees

The tree belongs to the person upon whose land it has originally grown. Even if its branches or, worse still, its roots have begun to grow over or into a neighbour’s territory, it belongs to the landowner where the tree was originally planted. Even if the tree bears fruit or flowers on branches which overhang into your land, it’s an offence under the Theft Act 1968 to keep them or to take cuttings of flowers, for example.

Obviously, many neighbours will not tend to worry about that too much but should a neighbour, for example, see you collecting apples from their tree even though the branches have grown onto your side, they are legally entitled to ask you to return them.

Overhanging Branches

If the branches of a neighbour’s tree start to grow over to your side, you can cut them back to the boundary point between you and your neighbour’s property, as long as the tree is not under a tree preservation order. If it is, you’ll need to seek further clarification. However, the branches and any fruit on them which you may have cut down on your side still belong to the tree owner so they can ask you to return them.

It's a bit of an anomaly really, as while you are obliged to offer the branches back, if any leaves from your neighbour’s tree fall into your garden in autumn, you have no right to ask them to come around and sweep them up.

On the other hand, should the trees be causing SIGNIFICANT damage to your gutters (not just blocking them) you can ask your neighbour to pay to have them cleared or to pay for the cost of any damage they might have caused. If they refuse to do so, you can legally sue them and force them into paying. If you lop off any branches on your neighbour’s (the tree owner) side of the fence, you are not entitled to Gain Access To Their Property to cut off some more. This is trespassing and you could be prosecuted.

Tree Roots

You are entitled to dig up and remove any roots that have encroached upon your land. Roots can cause a lot of problems and if they’re deep and/or causing subsidence or any other form of damage to your side of the property, you might need to get a tree surgeon or some other kind of structural engineer to deal with the problem.

It’s always better to discuss this with your neighbour first but if an expert does have to be called in, it’s the tree owner’s responsibility to foot the bill. They can then choose to pay up front or by claiming it against their own home insurance policy.

Take Action

You may also be interested in our neighbour's trees action guide - written by a barrister

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[Add a Comment]
Our next door neighbour has sold off the bottom 50% of his garden to a developer who has applied for planning permission to build two houses. The scheme includes the removal of a beech tree that sits on the boundary between our gardens (there is an old boundary wire passing mid-way through the trunk).Has the developer the legal right to remove the tree without our consent?
Jon - 21-Jun-17 @ 9:50 PM
Jonny - Your Question:
I have a dead 20ft high tree and many of the branches overhang a neighbour. Whose responsibility is it to remove that part on his side of the fence? The branches are up to 3 inches diameter. I don't know him (next road). His side is totally overgrown, I am 77 and unable to do the work.Thanks

Our Response:
In general if a neighbour wants to remove any branches overhanging their side of the boundary, they can choose to do so. If the tree is dead, it is the responsibility of the tree owner to have it removed or to make it safe. The tree owner may be held liable for any damage done to neighbouring property if they are aware that the tree is dead/dying and haven't taken the necessary to make it safe.
ProblemNeighbours - 19-Jun-17 @ 12:03 PM
At the side of my house trees grow in a garage site belonging to a Housing Association. I asked them to cut them back, as they were blocking out the light to my house, also they were overhanging my boundary by about 6 Feet, Also they were causing problems with the gutters and one branch was nearly about to bring down the Telephone wire, I asked them to do it, They said they will only cut what is on their land, as to come on my land, they are not insured, I said what then happens, They said, Cut it yourself, Which I then tried, But unfortunatly I fell and broke my Back. Can I now sue them?
derekchristian - 16-Jun-17 @ 3:24 PM
Tom - Your Question:
The law is an ass. The two neighbours to the back of my house have two leylandii trees each entwined to make one massive tree over sixty feet high. The tree has encroached across the back service road and into my garden due to the lack of mai tainance over the years. I have even asked them to trim them but I have constantly been ignored. These trees cause a mess and block out light. It needs a tree surgeon to sort it out but why do I have to pay to get the encroaching brances trimmed? Which could cost over £1000!! It's their fault the trees have got too big not mine!!

Our Response:
The high hedges legislation might just be useable - see our guide here
ProblemNeighbours - 15-Jun-17 @ 12:58 PM
I have a dead 20ft high tree andmany of the branches overhang a neighbour. Whose responsibility is it to remove that part on his side of the fence? The branches are up to 3 inches diameter. I don't know him (next road). His side is totally overgrown, I am 77 and unable to do the work. Thanks
Jonny - 15-Jun-17 @ 12:29 PM
We have a neighbour next to where I work, who has a thorny hedge which grows over our car park wall. The neighbour has a gardener and I have asked him to come onto our side of the wall to cut the hedge back as the branches where reaching my bosses car. Whilst he does do this, he leaves the cuttings in our car park. Being a business and having no trees ourselves, we do not have a garden waste bin and the only way we can get rid of the cuttings is to take them to the recycling centre, nearest one being a twenty minute drive. Can we make the gardener dispose of the cuttings ? Thanks
ABUDDY26 - 14-Jun-17 @ 9:07 PM
The law is an ass. The two neighbours to the back of my house have two leylandii trees each entwined to make one massive tree over sixty feet high. The tree has encroached across the back service road and into my garden due to the lack of mai tainance over the years. I have even asked them to trim them butI have constantly been ignored. These trees cause a mess and block out light. It needs a tree surgeon to sort it out but why do I have to pay to get the encroaching brances trimmed? Which could cost over £1000!! It's their fault the trees have got too big not mine!!
Tom - 12-Jun-17 @ 3:06 PM
I live in a housing association property, surrounded by 3 neighbours' gardens. The neighbour who joins the end of my garden has trees & huge bushes almost 20 ft high, which are now largely overgrown & encroaching into my property. I have young children who can't utilise our garden properly because if this. I have gone round & knocked at the neighbours on a few occasions - they don't answer. I have written polite notes - leaving all my contact details. Am I allowed to get these HUGE over-hangs cut & put them into this neighbours garden?
Squidgy - 31-May-17 @ 3:12 PM
A few years ago our neighbour planted some trees on the border of his drive, which runs past the front of our bungalow, and an adjoining paddock, which we previously had a clear view.These trees have grown quite rapidly and are now up to 15 feet high and particularly when in full leaf, as now, block our view and in the late afternoon and evening, cut out the sun. Before we approach the neighbour, with whom we are not on the best of terms, what if any are our rights?
Harv. - 29-May-17 @ 1:44 PM
Hi There, Thanks for this. My neighbour has cut my tree to the boundary, though without consent or conversation thats fine. However, who is responsible for clear up? Are they allowed to throw the branches into my garden? Thanks J
J - 26-May-17 @ 3:52 PM
Mamgwyllt - Your Question:
We have three large copper beach trees in our back garden. The property on the other side of the boundary, a small close of bungalows belongs to a Housing Association. They are concerned about potential damage from overhanging branches and a lack of light. The trees were well established when we bought the house nearly 40 years ago and the bungalows were built around 20 years ago. Today the Housing Association requested permission to cut the tree down. Surely they can't do that?

Our Response:
No they can't. They can cut back any branches that overhang their side of the boundary (unless the trees are subject to a Tree Preservation Order), but they can't cut them down.
ProblemNeighbours - 22-May-17 @ 12:04 PM
We have three large copper beach trees in our back garden. The property on the other side of the boundary, a small close of bungalows belongs to a Housing Association. They are concerned about potential damage from overhanging branches and a lack of light. The trees were well established when we bought the house nearly 40 years agoand the bungalows were built around 20 years ago. Today the Housing Association requested permission to cut the tree down. Surely they can't do that?
Mamgwyllt - 19-May-17 @ 4:58 PM
My neighbour has a tree that has grown extremely large and tall since I moved in 4 years ago,I have politely asked them to have the tree cut back as it is blocking light into my house and also covers over half the width of my garden. Im happy to cut it as they have refused, even though it is part of the tenancy, but do not think I should be responsible for the cost of clearing it. If I bag the cuttings and place over the fence is that allowed?
Lea - 12-May-17 @ 4:08 PM
Chappie - Your Question:
Hello. My neighbour's tree roots have encroached into our garden. We only noticed once the decking was removed- the roots are on the surface and are considerable. Are we within our rights to remove them (on our side) even if there is a possibility it damages the tree or then causes the tree to become unstable? And should something like this happen , who would be liable?

Our Response:
You are entitled to remove roots (note if they're not doing any harm, leave them there) as far as the boundary. Yes, if this causes damage to the tree you can be held liable. It's usually a good idea to get a tree surgeon to do the work or at least offer advice.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-May-17 @ 12:43 PM
Hello. My neighbour's tree roots have encroached into our garden. We only noticed once the decking was removed- the roots are on the surface and are considerable. Are we within our rights to remove them (on our side) even if there is a possibility it damages the tree or then causes the tree to become unstable? And should something like this happen , who would be liable?
Chappie - 9-May-17 @ 2:24 PM
Dave - Your Question:
Three 40 foot trees form part of the boundary between myself and my neighbour (their boundary). They block light and cause an awful mess in the autumn. I have offered to pay to have the trees removed but my neighbour refuses. As the trees lean towards my property the majority of the canopy and trunk overhang my boundary. Are their any limits to what I am entitled to cut back as at least the top half of the main trunk over hangs onto my property, am I within my rights to cut this part down? Thanks, Dave

Our Response:
You can't cut into the trunk as that would damage the tree. You can cut back all over hanging branches as far as the boundary line.
ProblemNeighbours - 8-May-17 @ 1:52 PM
Three 40 foot trees form part of the boundary between myself and my neighbour (their boundary). They block light and cause an awful mess in the autumn. I have offered to pay to have the trees removed but my neighbour refuses. As the trees lean towards my property the majority of the canopy and trunk overhang my boundary. Are their any limits to what I am entitled to cut back as at least the top half of the main trunk over hangs onto my property, am I within my rights to cut this part down? Thanks, Dave
Dave - 6-May-17 @ 10:40 PM
GymBoy - Your Question:
Neighbours tree has grown over my fence and over hangs my garage. A branch fell off the tree and damaged my vehicle which was parked in front of my garage. I requested the neighbour to cut the tree and to compensate for the replacement windscreen. Neighbour refuses to discuss the matter or reimbursement for the replacement windscreen as I'm only the tenant and not the owner of the property and will only discuss with my landlord as they claim the situation contains sensitive information which I'm not privy to and my landlord will then convey what he feels can be disseminated to me. My tenancy states that I'm responsible for the maintenance of all trees, hedges and plants within my property.The neighbour claims there is a covenant covering the trees, but the only covenants pertain to the right of access to my property and to the use of the well. The neighbour is also claiming that title deeds and covenants mentioned in the title deeds is not in the public domain.Do I have to negotiate thru my landlord, if so this will take ages as my landlord is an offshore investment company.What rights do I have please? I'm wanting the overhanging trees to be pruned back to the boundary line and to be compensated for the damage to my vehicle, caused by the neighbours tree. The neighbour informs that as a tenant I have no rights in these matters. I've checked with the LPA and there are no preservation orders in place on the tree.

Our Response:
You are within your rights to cut back the tree to your boundary line - your neighbour does not have to do this or pay for it. If the tree is dangerous and the neighbour knows about this, they can be held liable for any damage. Your car insurer or home contents insurer might be able to advise you what to do about the immediate problem.
ProblemNeighbours - 3-May-17 @ 12:33 PM
Neighbours tree has grown over my fence and over hangs my garage. A branch fell off the tree and damaged my vehicle which was parked in front of my garage. I requested the neighbour to cut the tree and to compensate for the replacement windscreen. Neighbour refuses to discuss the matter or reimbursement for the replacement windscreen as I'm only the tenant and not the owner of the property and will only discuss with my landlord as they claim the situation contains sensitive information which I'm not privy to and my landlord will then convey what he feels can be disseminated to me. My tenancy states that I'm responsible for the maintenance of all trees, hedges and plants within my property. The neighbour claims there is a covenant covering the trees, but the only covenants pertain to the right of access to my property and to the use of the well. The neighbour is also claiming that title deeds and covenants mentioned in the title deeds is not in the public domain. Do I have to negotiate thru my landlord, if so this will take ages as my landlord is an offshore investment company. What rights do I have please?. I'm wanting the overhanging trees to be pruned back to the boundary line and to be compensated for the damage to my vehicle, caused by the neighbours tree. The neighbour informs that as a tenant I have no rights in these matters. I've checked with the LPA and there are no preservation orders in place on the tree.
GymBoy - 2-May-17 @ 9:00 PM
I have a tree in my front garden that was planted well before we moved in. Our neighbors (who have lived here longer than we have) have threaten us to get it removed. We trim it every 2 years and keep it in a reasonable shape. Are they allowed to get us to remove it knowing that the tree is not nowhere near the boundaries ?
Ricou - 30-Apr-17 @ 8:50 AM
My neighbors trees and bushes are growing next to our property wall, it's not overhanging our boundaries as it's the side of our house but it's touching and rubbing on the wall... Can I cut back what is touching my property?
Mason7 - 20-Apr-17 @ 4:11 PM
My neighbour has a Eucalyptus tree right next to our fence. This tree is around 80 foot high around 50 foot from my house and overhands around 25 foot into my garden. It block out light into our garden and also sheds leaves and twigs and makes our lawn mossy. When we have windy weather the tree sways dramatically and looks as though it has the potential to fall. I have previously asked them whether the tree can be cut back and have offered to pay for ithowever they are being obstructive and state that they do not see it as a danger and state that should it fall it would go in the other direction away from my house. Should I just cut any branches of the Eucalyptus tree that overhand my garden the tree would look very odd due to its size. I also have outbuildings in my garden including a cage where we keep are rabbits and also a children play den for my kids. I previously asked him to cut back his large conifer trees which are on the opposing boundary line as they were blocking out sunlight into my garden. He refused and during storm Doris one of them was blown over and severed my phone lines. His house has been up for sale for around 9 months and I believe that he is turning a blind eye to any potential neighbour dispute to avoid any complications should he get a buyer for the property. Since storm Doris we have asked him again whether we can pay to do 'something' with the tree however he refuses t see it as a problem. Your comments would be appreciated.
wadlock - 14-Apr-17 @ 8:27 AM
My neighbour has 2 Leylandii trees at the bottom of their garden at least 50/60 foot and about 15 feet from my house, completely blocks out the light and i'm also very worried in the event of bad weather that the tree could damage my property. I have left many messages to no avail and have since found out the house is rented.What rights do I have as I'd like to have the trees cut down?
Irritated - 12-Apr-17 @ 1:00 PM
Deb - Your Question:
HELP! My neighbour has grown a hedge now 12 foot high. It grows over a path, is about 4 foot wide.I used to look out on to the Grand Union Canal, and could watch the boats in the summer. I have lost my view, and all I see is bush.His wife died, and now last week he died too. How do I get my view back and gain the value of my house?

Our Response:
If the owner is no longer there to discuss this with, it may be more difficult to deal with. You can either discuss it with whoever is dealing with his estate or is due to inherit. The high hedges aspect of the AntiSocial Behaviour Act - our guide -can be useful but is relevant only if you have someone with whom to negotiate which at the moment.
ProblemNeighbours - 12-Apr-17 @ 11:55 AM
HELP! My neighbour has grown a hedge now 12 foot high. It grows over a path, is about 4 foot wide. I used to look out on to the Grand Union Canal, and could watch the boats in the summer. I have lost my view, and all I see is bush. His wife died, and now last week he died too. How do I get my view back and gain the value of my house?
Deb - 10-Apr-17 @ 3:29 PM
My neighbour has a huge lime tree in their garden, 2/3 of it over hangs my drive, between the end of May and August it drips all over our cars and the drive making everywhere sticky along with a constant fall of buds. I have approach them asking if they would get it cut back, the arrogance from them was appalling. The tree is under a preservation order but creates so many problems and it is very costly cleaning up after it constantly. As the tree belongs to them should they not be responsible for the management of the tree. I have given them back a lot of branches and leaves, but been told that is fly tipping by someone from the council, is that true. This tree is a constant menace with our cars being constantly sticky and they have to be washed every time we take a car our. Your advise would be welcomed. Very best regards Edward McCarthy
Edwardmac - 8-Apr-17 @ 5:12 PM
Dalton - Your Question:
Hi my neighbours tree branches hang over our garden however I am confused it says cut back to boundary? Confusing part is can I rest a ladder onto tree from my garden and climb into the tree to cut off the branches I will be in the tree not on there floor or in there property what is the law on this

Our Response:
No, the tree is their property so in theory cannot rest a ladder against it as the trunk is on their property so would be trespass. We guess there might not be an issue with leaning a ladder against any branches that overhang your property (just be sure not to cut the ones your ladder is leaning against!)
ProblemNeighbours - 7-Apr-17 @ 1:58 PM
fatboyonabycycle - Your Question:
My Neighbours when in their early50s engineered a row with us retaliated with 2metre fence and 3metre shrubs,blocking out our light ,laced them with brambles,we have to constantly cut them back from our side,we bag up the cuttings and return them to their back gate,however they are now in their 80s and still have the hates for us,and when they find their cuttings returned this couple hurl all sorts of profanities over the fence to us the 'c' word is a favourite,the moral of the story is,just because their old and have big bushes they might not be nice.

Our Response:
The problem is that they have not done anything wrong in constructing a 2 metre fence, nor in growing shrubs in their own garden. If you cut back overhanging branches you should "offer" them back to the owner (they can refuse to take them), not simply dump them at the owner's property. It doesn't excuse rudeness or bad language obviously.
ProblemNeighbours - 6-Apr-17 @ 10:51 AM
Gladys - Your Question:
Hi my neighbour at the bottom of my garden has a protected tree it does say so in our deeds that it is there's,but it has grown so much it hangs over my fence covering half my grassed garden Iv been round and spoke to the owner who say that we are not allowed to cut it back, he wants it cut back as well,he says I have to get in contact with the council please help I think it's dangerous now the tree branches look dead Iv got grandchildren playing in my garden and we have had some already come off Thankyou

Our Response:
Contact your local council's Tree Preservation Officer. They will be able to advise you about what can and can't be done to the tree.
ProblemNeighbours - 5-Apr-17 @ 2:34 PM
My Neighbours when in their early50s engineered a row with us retaliated with 2metre fence and 3metre shrubs,blocking out our light ,laced them with brambles,we have to constantly cut them back from our side,we bag up the cuttings and return them to their back gate,however they are now in their 80s and still have the hates for us,and when they find their cuttings returned this couple hurl all sorts of profanities over the fence to us the 'c' word is a favourite,the moral of the story is,just because their old and have big bushes they might not be nice.
fatboyonabycycle - 4-Apr-17 @ 4:17 PM
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