Home > Rights > Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 17 Sep 2018 | 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

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Too - Your Question:
I have tall trees bordering my garden.On one side is a single track road with my neighbour's property alongside it.He wants me to cut down or severely reduce these trees as leaves block his gutters and gather in his yard. He says there are overhanging branches but I 've not noticed these. We have been here for 30 years and our neighbour only 4. We made it clear before they moved in that we love our trees and won't take any down unless they are dangerous. They do not block light. If he takes this further , has he a right to legal action?

Our Response:
There is no obligation to remove branches becayse of falling leaves etc. A neighbour is entitled to remove any overhanging branches him/herself. If the trees are evergreen the neighbour may use high hedges legislation
ProblemNeighbours - 18-Sep-18 @ 3:34 PM
I have tall trees bordering my garden.On one side is a single track road with my neighbour's property alongside it.He wants me to cut down or severely reduce these trees as leaves block his gutters and gather in his yard. He says there are overhanging branches but I 've not noticed these. We have been here for 30 years and our neighbour only 4. We made it clear before they moved in that we love our trees and won't take any down unless they are dangerous. They do not block light. If he takes this further , has he a right to legal action?
Too - 17-Sep-18 @ 8:32 AM
My neighbour moans as us when the bin men leave our bins by her garage before we have the chance to move them . She is a barrister so will understand the law better than us but she has vegetation encroaching rapidly into our garden and a rapidly growing fig tree that is taking over her garden . My concern is she doesn’t keep the garden maintained , what am I able to ask her do before they become a problem ?
Milo2016 - 15-Sep-18 @ 11:32 AM
We have an established holly tree ( which is beautiful and full of wildlife) that is planted in our garden but over the years (prob about 30) the trunk has bended and drifts over our neighbours boundary and then back into our garden. The current fence has been erected to account for the tree trunk.As the fence is wearing the neighbours would like to replace with a higher fence and want all the tree cutting right back to the boundary And have sent us a copy of some legal advice they have been given saying we are trepassing by the tree being across the boundary and going to court if we don't cut it back will cost circa (20k!).( we know the email has come from a lawyer friend of there's so is by no means official) I'am reading lots about common law and that neighbours can cut Back branches and trunk back to the boundary but as the tree owners, do we have to do it if requested?We have tried to be amicable with them but it's turning nasty.We are also in a conservation area so aware we will need permission to prune anyway.Any immediate advice or comments would be welcome please.
Archie - 11-Sep-18 @ 10:11 PM
I have a tree on the other side of my garden wall which is the responsibility of the Highways department of our county council. Around 3 years ago we requested they cut the tree back, which they did for us and we were surprised at how much light we had gained!We have recently asked them to cut it back again as it is wider than our house and is over half way over our garden. The leaves have started dropping and we only have a small garden so it will get completely covered. We also have a drain in our garden. And I'm worried about my gutters. They have refused to do anything about it stating they only cut dangerous or dying trees. If we were to get it done ourselves, can we bill the council, or if we get blocked gutters from the leaves, can we bill the council? I am really annoyed as, I love the tree but it really is too big and out of control. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you in advance
Niki - 10-Sep-18 @ 12:29 PM
Debs - Your Question:
If my neighbours fig tree hangs about 4 foot over my fence can I cut it in my side and give them the branches back

Our Response:
You have a common law right to cut back tree branches that overhang onto your property. 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.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-Sep-18 @ 11:23 AM
We have our neighbours Apple tree branches hanging over over our chalet they are hanging over about 5ft on the roof causing damp when it rains . We have been told by a housing officer we have to pay a tree surgeon to cut the branches our side and and pay them to take them away .We live in a privately owned property .
Bramble - 6-Sep-18 @ 8:02 PM
A neighbour's fir/conifer tree (about 30 ft tall) is planted right on the boundary with our property. The tree's trunk is pushing over the fence and its roots are lifting up the patio slabs. The overhanging branches are halfway across the patio and the mess (from the branches and the nesting pigeons) is incessant. The lowest branches are over 10 ft tall and are not easily reached to lop. We have approached the neighbor about this on more than one occasion and he is not interested in dealing with the tree at all. Offers to 'go halves' on removing it have resulted in the door being slammed in our faces.It seems to me that the laws regarding this sort of thing favour irresponsible tree owners and do little to protect those whose property is materially damaged through no fault of their own. What can we do?
LS - 5-Sep-18 @ 9:46 AM
If my neighbours fig tree hangs about 4 foot over my fence can I cut it in my side and give them the branches back
Debs - 3-Sep-18 @ 11:07 AM
I have an ash tree close to my boundary with a neighbour. The neighbour claims that 'droppings' from the tree (presumably leaves and 'spinners') are blocking his drains and damaging his car. He wants me to cut the tree down. I am not willing to do the but am happy for any overhanging branches to be removed. Who does the removing and who pays?
Rosie - 31-Aug-18 @ 4:22 PM
There are two giant conifer trees at the end of neighbours garden and one of the conifer tree is over into my garden. I would say it covers quarter of my garden. The mess it makes in my garden is harendous, every week I am sweeping my garden and it’s tiering. Is it neighbours right to cut the tree-down or the branches that are coming into my garden.
Daks - 30-Aug-18 @ 3:20 PM
My neighbour pulled up trees on our boundary to put up a new fence, he then copped one down which is on our property. Where do we stand legally?? Thanks
Zahne - 28-Aug-18 @ 11:47 AM
I have bougt a house but the neighnours tree has large branches over my garden which are very very high and small grown bushes over my fence can i get these cut off right to top as long as theyr leve with the fencing upto where my garden ends
Simmy - 25-Aug-18 @ 8:56 PM
15 years ago when I moved here my (then ) next door neighbour had a summer house at the bottom of the garden. The fence ended two or three feet short of this point. The previous occupiers of my property had set five various conifer trees, two yew and three leylandi to screen the summer house. We kept them trimmed. Looking along the line the trees were well within my property. My late partner was deteriorating in health and he was not able to cut the trees for a couple of years. Eventually new neighbours moved in and when a friend came to cut the trees down for us both he and my late partner were shouted off. The neighbour claimed they were his. The trees looked odd as all the side branches had been removed ready for felling. After my partner died the fence rotted away and I mentioned several times to the neighbour that I would appreciate it if he replaced the fence. This went on for four years until the fence panels were flat to the ground. He denied it was his fence and I had to show him my deeds to prove it was his. I offered to pay and get a firm in but he said he would do it. Whilst I was away he replaced the fence moving it over and incorporating the trees in the line. Over the years whenever I have tried to talk to both him and his wife I have had a verbal blasting and complete refusal to discuss the matter. Measurements from the boundary marker the other side of my property prove the trees are on my land and a chartered surveyor has examined my documentation and confirmed this. I requested to discuss the matter again but received the same objectionable response, a ‘signed for’ letter was sent stating that I was disappointed that they would not discuss the matter ,that I was going to remove the trees and that The fence should be realigned. I gave them two weeks to remove the bird boxes and detach the existing fence from the trees. After several weeks and no response I had the trees felled. The fence has not been moved and of course they did respond when the trees were gone but by blasting me and now a complete wall of silence. If I went to court it would cost me a lot of money which I can I’ll fford . Is there an inexpensive way for me to resolve this matter?
Muffet - 20-Aug-18 @ 7:28 AM
Row - Your Question:
There are conifer trees at the bottom of my garden that belong to the factory. They are taller than my house hang over my garden so shades all my patio area. Sheds it's pins everywhere and also hangs all over my shed. Previously in a storm one of the branches wenthe right through my shed roof. Didn't claim as was oled anyway. Now I have a different shed and trees are growing over it. Who is responsible for cutting these?

Our Response:
You are responsible for cutting back any branches that overhang your side of the boundary. If the tree causes damage again you can claim off the tree owner. If you think the tree is dangerous, here is the advice from our guide:
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.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-Aug-18 @ 10:22 AM
Lil - Your Question:
My neighbours trees are now growing over my summerhouse and new fence. I have telephoned twice to ask when the tree surgeon is coming back to finish the job the neighbour asked to do but no reply. I have now written a letter to the property owner to ask for them to ask for completion of the job as they left all loose branches over my garden and didn't cut my side of the fence. I have ivy growing in between slats of my new fence and I now also have berries on my patio which are black and stain everything if trodden on, Is their anything else I can do/ as when another neighbour moved in and cut about 4 foot off the conifers the neighbour in question had them up for criminal damage and I don't wish to get into that situation. Please help with next steps.

Our Response:
You are entitled to cut back any growth that overhangs your side of the boundary, the tree owner does not have to do this.Falling leaves, berries etc are annoying, but they are not legally a 'nuisance', which has a very specific meaning.As for the ivy, your neighbour should not "attach" anything to your fence if it belongs to you, so you can request that the ivy is removed. You can also cut it back yourself as long as you do not "trespass" into your neighbour's property in doing so.
ProblemNeighbours - 8-Aug-18 @ 3:19 PM
There are conifer trees at the bottom of my garden that belong to the factory. They are taller than my house hang over my garden so shades all my patio area. Sheds it's pins everywhere and also hangs all over my shed. Previously in a storm one of the branches wenthe right through my shed roof. Didn't claim as was oled anyway. Now I have a different shed and trees are growing over it. Who is responsible for cutting these?
Row - 8-Aug-18 @ 6:37 AM
My neighbours trees are now growing over my summerhouse and new fence. I have telephoned twice to ask when the tree surgeon is coming back to finish the job the neighbour asked to do but no reply. I have now written a letter to the property owner to ask for them to ask for completion of the job as they left all loosebranches over my garden and didn't cut my side of the fence. I have ivy growing in between slats of my new fence and I now also have berries on my patio which are black and stain everything if trodden on, Is their anything else I can do/ as when another neighbour moved in and cut about 4 foot off the conifers the neighbour in question had them up for criminal damage and I don't wish to get into that situation. Please help with next steps.
Lil - 7-Aug-18 @ 5:34 PM
Sorry but a lot of this article is providing inaccurate information . A neighbour only becomes liable for damage fromtree roots or overhanging branches once they become aware that their tree is causing damage and thenonly become liable for future damage not for any damage which occurred prior to them being made aware Also the natural dropping of leaves,sap and seeds is not considered to be an actionable nuisance and any clean up or remedial work cannot be charged to the tree owner.
UKMICKY - 29-Jul-18 @ 10:52 PM
'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.' For someone to sue and gain compensation they need to show the ownerknew damage was occurring and also need to show a case for an actionable nuisance which seasonal leaf fall is not Tree Roots 'You are entitled to dig up and remove any roots that have encroached upon your land. ' However should you remove a large rootwhich causes the tree to fall your actions could be deemed to be reckless and could find your self in court if harm or damage occur. '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.' No it is not . You may be able to force them to remove the tree if an experts report positively identifies the tree as the cause of the subsidence but you need to show they knew the trees were causing damage and then failed to act . Even them they would only be liable for future damage.
ukmicky - 29-Jul-18 @ 10:42 PM
We live in a apartment overlooking the sea our ground floor neighbour has a tree in there garden which blocks our view every summerI have to ask them every year to cut this tree back I don't want to fall out with them but it seems if I don't ask them to cut it they wouldn't bother this problem has now been going on for the past ,9 years the trunk of this tree is getting higher every year with the result the Only answer is to remove it R
Ray - 27-Jul-18 @ 9:10 PM
A neighbour (2doors down) wants to have the walnut tree in my garden cut down, it does not over hang her garden and it does not cause her any issues (she claims the birds are dropping walnuts in to her garden that can poison her dogs) is there anything she can do or shall I just ignore her
Rere - 25-Jul-18 @ 3:05 PM
Tell - Your Question:
Ive a old acorn tree over 100 years old.The branches have overgrown and neibhour has cut them back ,Thats fine.Root of tree has grown into her side take in mind over 100 years old.Over the decades it cracked her path.She dug it up and wants me to foot the bill. Do I have to ? She can cut root

Our Response:
No. You do not have to pay for your neighbour to cut back the roots. If the neighbour feels the roots have damaged the path (i.e they have grown through since the path was put in place) he/she should refer to her home insurance policy.
ProblemNeighbours - 24-Jul-18 @ 12:16 PM
Ive a old acorn tree over 100 years old . The branches have overgrown and neibhour has cut them back , Thats fine . Root of tree has grown into her side take in mind over 100 years old . Over the decades it cracked her path . She dug it up and wants me to foot the bill .Do I have to ? She can cut root
Tell - 23-Jul-18 @ 5:53 PM
Hi is it okay to cut the tree and only leaving a tree stump in your rented property. I already rang the renter twice and two different people gave me two different answers. One said no and the the other said yes?
Mins - 18-Jul-18 @ 12:55 PM
My garden faces a football stadium. Their overgrown trees are causing a maintenance nuisance. Leaves regularly block my gutters causing water to penetrate my home. Can the council enforce the trees are cut and inspect the trees are safe.
Kaysan - 17-Jul-18 @ 9:22 AM
There are 5ft weeds growing between our and our neighbours drive.These weeds originate from their side.We cut any over-Hanging weeds that encroach over our drive and put them on their drive for them to clear away. They then come out and throw the cut weeds into our drive and seem to film the event.We then put the weeds back onto their drive.Needless to say they do not do any upkeep of their property.Are we entitled to put the weedsback onto their side???
Barney - 15-Jul-18 @ 3:00 PM
My garden backs onto a shelterbelt.There are 2 poplar trees within the belt.The poplar tree nearest me has sent out roots and suckers, 90 of which are appearing in my soil and lawn.There are 6 other properties having the same problem.The poplar has devasted my garden.The owner of the shelterbelt has refused my generous offer to pay for the removal of the poplar, now 30 metres tall.In fact they refuse to acknowledge that they are responsible for any damage.We have been informed, via an arborist, that no height reduction will be forthcoming and they intend to plant more trees.The tree line is between 12 metres and 25 metres from houses.What can we do?
Shrub - 13-Jul-18 @ 9:38 AM
Hi, I own an apple tree that hangs over the fence onto my neighbours garden. When apples fall off onto their garden, they throw/‘lob’ the apples anywhere which have been hitting my plants (which I have spent a lot of time and money on) and damaging them. The other day, he was using a cricket bat to hit them over and they were landing close to my patio windows! I know that they are allowed to cut the branches back and I have always been happy for them to do so. They have never asked if I want the apples back and are rude if I ask them not to throw them in such a way. Where do I stand with this...Is this something that I have to just put up with as the apples are my property or should they not be returning them in this way?
Country Girl - 10-Jul-18 @ 7:30 PM
Hi just a quick question i have a big tree out side my house and it's on the footpath it's over hanging on to my garden it's all on the phone wires its hanging over the road it's making all the cars dirty and the brunces are allways falling in to my garden and into the road i have to bend over every day when I come out my house I have asked the council to cut the tree down and they have blanked me over this wants the law can I pay someone to cut it down or can I cut it down my self because it is a health and safety now
Maka - 9-Jul-18 @ 4:49 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments