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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 16 Dec 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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My neighbour has a tree which overhangs a shared private roadway which is all our responsibility to maintain My neighbours tree branches overhang his boundary and causes scratches on the top of my van Can I trim these branches back that overhang his boundary
Waterbaby - 16-Dec-17 @ 2:21 PM
tree-mendous - Your Question:
My neighbour claims to have planted a tree which sits exactly on property boundaries. This tree blocks out sunlight, drips sap on my car and driveway and causes almost a full brown bin of leaves to fall on my property.Am I entitled to remove branches on my side as neat as to the trunk? I would also like to trim back branches on my side which hangover pavement as debris (sap like fluid) is covering my car in summer months.

Our Response:
You can trim any overhanging branches back to where your boundary begins. The tree owner is actually responsible for trimming back any branches that overhang the pavement or highway.
ProblemNeighbours - 15-Dec-17 @ 3:16 PM
My neighbour claims to have planted a tree which sits exactly on property boundaries. This tree blocks out sunlight, drips sap on my car and driveway and causes almost a full brown bin of leaves to fall on my property. Am I entitled to remove branches on my side as neat as to the trunk? I would also like to trim back branches on my side which hangover pavement as debris (sap like fluid) is covering my car in summer months.
tree-mendous - 13-Dec-17 @ 10:52 AM
Our neighbour has cut the overhanging branches of our holly bush, that were on his side and then proceeded to throw them back in our front garden, making a mess and then us having to tidy it up in the dark, as I have a small child to look after it can't be tidied up in the day, where do we stand with this? do we have any rights to give them back? and he may have cut down to the trunk.
jojo - 17-Nov-17 @ 10:36 AM
Sid - Your Question:
Hi, we have a long high Lorrel hedge which has its roots on our side of the boundary. It’s so wide that it does overhang onto their property significantly. As it is very high it was out of control so we had it cut lower which the neighbour didn’t like however the privacy for both of us wasn’t changed at the reduced height. They want it to continue to grow, we don’t.I today trimmed the top all the way across and the neighbour came around kicking off telling me to ‘leave their side’. As I understand it’s our hedge so I have a right to maintain it even on the top where it goes over the boundary???They just leave it to grow. Long story but they won’t let me round to clear up cuttings either.Ultimately it’s rooted in our side so I think if I chose to I could cut it down as low as I want?I simply want to maintain the current height all across the width of the hedge including the part over the boundary.

Our Response:
If the hedge is definitely yours, yes you can do what you like with it. You should check your title deeds to see which (if either) party is responsible for maintaining a boundary fence.
ProblemNeighbours - 14-Nov-17 @ 3:02 PM
Stinky - Your Question:
I have a sycamore, and a cherry tree that overhangs my neighbours garden, they say that the sycamore branches are knocking against their window and keeping them awake and they want me to pay for them to be removed. The have been there a while and the tree has grown during their tenancy. They also say the branches of the cherry are making their shed damp. and want me to pay for that to be cut too.DO I have to do this, I can't really afford it. Also if I volunterred to cut some of them on their proerty would I be making myself liable for any perceived damage?Thank you

Our Response:
You don't have to cut them back. It's definitely worth having your trees inspected for healthiness by an arboriculturalist or tree surgeon; if the trees are diseased, you can then take action to avoid damage.You can't be held liable for damage if you've had the tree regularly inspected and it's been pronounced healthy. Your neighbour or their landlord can cut back any branches as far as the boundary.
ProblemNeighbours - 14-Nov-17 @ 2:36 PM
Dik - Your Question:
Hi can a dim of a neighbour cut my tree and part of its trunk who doi report it to

Our Response:
Your neighbour is entitled to cut back any overhanging branches on their side of the boundary only. They cannot cut anything from the trunk or reduce the height of the tree. The remedy is a civil action via the courts, you can ask that they replace the tree or pay you damages/costs etc.
ProblemNeighbours - 14-Nov-17 @ 10:23 AM
My neighbours have a very tall eucalyptus tree in their garden. It is as tall as the roof of the house. In windy weather it sways dangerously and we have a clay soil. Last year a similar tree was uprooted in a storm. We have asked them to cut it back but they have not. What are our rights.
Jan - 13-Nov-17 @ 10:46 PM
Hello, my neighbour has 2 trees that are very close to my fence and the trunk has now grown through my fence at the bottom by about 6-8 inched. I am hoping to replace my fence and use concrete gravel boards at the bottom of the wooden fence panels. Are my neighbours liable to cut back their tree trunk to be within their own boundary? Even if this may damage their tree permanently?
NTW - 13-Nov-17 @ 3:02 PM
Hi, we have a long high Lorrel hedge which has its roots on our side of the boundary. It’s so wide that it does overhang onto their property significantly. As it is very high it was out of control so we had it cut lower which the neighbour didn’t like however the privacy for both of us wasn’t changed at the reduced height. They want it to continue to grow, we don’t. I today trimmed the top all the way across and the neighbour came around kicking off telling me to ‘leave their side’. As I understand it’s our hedge so I have a right to maintain it even on the top where it goes over the boundary??? They just leave it to grow. Long story but they won’t let me round to clear up cuttings either. Ultimately it’s rooted in our side so I think if I chose to I could cut it down as low as I want? I simply want to maintain the current height all across the width of the hedge including the part over the boundary.
Sid - 13-Nov-17 @ 7:52 AM
I have a sycamore, and a cherry tree that overhangs my neighbours garden, they say that the sycamore branches are knocking against their window and keeping them awake and they want me to pay for them to be removed. The have been there a while and the tree has grown during their tenancy. They also say the branches of the cherry are making their shed damp. and want me to pay for that to be cut too. DO I have to do this, I can't really afford it. Also if I volunterred to cut some of them on their proerty would I be making myself liable for any perceived damage? Thank you
Stinky - 13-Nov-17 @ 1:02 AM
Hi can a dim of a neighbour cut my tree and part of its trunk who doi report it to
Dik - 12-Nov-17 @ 12:27 AM
Sandy - Your Question:
But they have built a brick shed in their back garden and they saying that branches of our conifers are damaging their shed/room. They also sent a letter to us through a solicitor saying that if we dont get them sorted they will take us to court and we will have to pay all the cost ??

Our Response:
It's not your problem that they have built a shed under your trees though, it sounds as though they (and their solicitor) are simply trying to frighten you. A free consultation is often offered by solicitors so you might want to check this for yourself. It's worth having your tree looked at by a tree surgeon/arboriculturalist to confirm the tree is in a healthy state. If you have it checked regularly you can't easily be held responsible for any damage.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-Nov-17 @ 12:41 PM
But they have built a brick shed in their back garden and they saying that branches of our conifers are damaging their shed/room. They also sent a letter to us through a solicitor saying that if we dont get them sorted they will take us to court and we will have to pay all the cost ??
Sandy - 8-Nov-17 @ 12:52 PM
Sandy - Your Question:
Am I legally obliged to cut my trees overhanging branches into neighbors garden. Neighbors saying it’s damaging their property.

Our Response:
Please see response to @BobJ below.
ProblemNeighbours - 8-Nov-17 @ 12:37 PM
Am I legally obliged to cut my trees overhanging branches into neighbors garden. Neighbors saying it’s damaging their property .
Sandy - 7-Nov-17 @ 1:41 PM
Bob J - Your Question:
Am I liable to cut back the branches of my tree that overhangs onto a neighbours garden?The neighbour thinks that I have to cut the branches back, but I have asked around and I've been told the contrary.

Our Response:
No you're not responsible for this. Your neighbour can cut the branches back as far as the boundary (at their own expense) if they are not happy with them.
ProblemNeighbours - 7-Nov-17 @ 12:26 PM
Am i liable to cut back the branches of my tree that overhangs onto a neighbours garden? The neighbour thinks that I have to cut the branches back, but I have asked around and I've been told the contrary.
Bob J - 1-Nov-17 @ 3:47 PM
D - Your Question:
I have two sycamore trees approx 30ft high some limbs and branches over hang neighbour's shed (tiled roof! ) He claims they are the shed roof! I have said he is welcome to cut overhanging limbs (as is the law)off suggested as I don't want the trees down ! ( I've had a surgeon out to look he said they are not dangerous, and the work is not essential) but there are branches close to the roof!The neighbors say this is not a solution!What must I do?

Our Response:
If you've had a survey done which shows the tree is not dangerous then you needn't do anything. Your neighbour can cut the branches off himself. Show him this article if he needs more information/clarification.
ProblemNeighbours - 31-Oct-17 @ 12:40 PM
I have two sycamore trees approx 30ft high some limbs and branches over hang neighbour's shed (tiled roof! ) He claims they are the shed roof! I have said he is welcome to cut overhanging limbs (as is the law)off suggested as I don't want the trees down ! ( I've had a surgeon out to look he said they are not dangerous, and the work is not essential) but there are branches close to the roof!The neighbors say this is not a solution!What must I do?
D - 28-Oct-17 @ 6:52 PM
JDogg - Your Question:
When my next door neighbour moved in he planted a privet hedge flush up against my footpath (planting guidelines are that they be planted 3 feet away from the boundary), he also planted at least two different sgrubs alongside the wall that separates our properties, these are now 2.7 metres in height in parts. He has never trimmed any of this, instead leaving it to me to trim it back. What action can I take to get him to (A) reduce the height of his hedge alongside my wall to the legal height of two metres, and (B) get him to cut back the privet hedge to the boundary line, I am sure that I've read somewhere that as it is overgrowing my path, he is legally responsible for cutting it back and if he does not, I can hire someone to do it and send him the bill. I know that I can cut back the hedge that overgrows my wall into my garden, I am concerned about the issue that the privet hedge grows over my path as not only is it blocking access for the postman and other visitors to my house, it is now rubbing along the side of my car when I park in my driveway which is alongside the path.

Our Response:
The neighbour is not under any obligation to reduce the height of the hedge. You neighbour is not responsible for cutting back overhanging growth on your side of the boundary, you can however, cut it back yourself. You can cut the hedge back as far as your boundary (including roots) to keep your path clear. The highHigh hedges leglisation might help you if the problem with the height becomes too much.
ProblemNeighbours - 11-Oct-17 @ 12:36 PM
When my next door neighbour moved in he planted a privet hedge flush up against my footpath (planting guidelines are that they be planted 3 feet away from the boundary), he also planted at least two different sgrubs alongside the wall that separates our properties, these are now 2.7 metres in height in parts. He has never trimmed any of this, instead leaving it to me to trim it back. What action can I take to get him to (A) reduce the height of his hedge alongside my wall to the legal height of two metres, and (B) get him to cut back the privet hedge to the boundary line, I am sure that I've read somewhere that as it is overgrowing my path, he is legally responsible for cutting it back and if he does not, I can hire someone to do it and send him the bill. I know that I can cut back the hedge that overgrows my wall into my garden, I am concerned about the issue that the privet hedge grows over my path as not only is it blocking access for the postman and other visitors to my house, it is now rubbing along the side of my car when I park in my driveway which is alongside the path.
JDogg - 10-Oct-17 @ 12:10 PM
Carlos - Your Question:
We have council trees overhanging our garden and blocking sunlight any advice please on getting branches removed thanks

Our Response:
You can cut back any overhanging branches as far as the boundary. There is not much you can do about the lack of sunlight into your garden unfortunately. If the trees are evergreen, you may be able to take action under the high hedges act...see our guide here for more information.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-Oct-17 @ 10:52 AM
Scaley - Your Question:
Hi. We have a neighbours tree (not sure which type) that is overhanging our garden. I want to cut it back to my fence line. However, the majority of the tree is overhanging and I'm worried that cutting so much of it back may kill it.It blocks the sun in the evening and covers our garden with leaves.Please could you advise?

Our Response:
You can cut back branches but not the trunk. If you're worried that doing so might kill or damage the tree, it might be worth discussing it with the tree owner and also seeking advice from a tree surgeon or arboriculturalist.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-Oct-17 @ 10:28 AM
We have council trees overhanging our garden and blocking sunlight any advice please on getting branches removed thanks
Carlos - 7-Oct-17 @ 10:36 AM
Hi. We have a neighbours tree (not sure which type) that is overhanging our garden. I want to cut it back to my fence line. However, the majority of the tree is overhanging and I'm worried that cutting so much of it back may kill it. It blocks the sun in the evening and covers our garden with leaves. Please could you advise?
Scaley - 7-Oct-17 @ 9:19 AM
hi our neighbours tree is overhanging our side passage to our house and now the branches are pressing up against our house.what can i do about this?can i ask them to have it cut back due to it pressing up against the house?
missbossy - 5-Oct-17 @ 6:07 PM
Mo - Your Question:
My neighbour has four birch trees approx 80 ft high on our boundary. One of these trees leans right over our fence so the majority of the trunk and canopy are in our garden. We get no sun in our garden, when they have a lovely sunny garden. We would like to cut the tree down to the fence, do we have to inform them of our intentions. We have spoken to them in the past and they are not willing for us to cut any height of the trees even when we will be paying.

Our Response:
You can't cut down a tree that does not belong to you. You can only cut back overhanging branches (i.e not reduce the actual height of the tree) back as far as the boundary.
ProblemNeighbours - 29-Sep-17 @ 1:00 PM
My neighbour has four birch trees approx 80 ft high on our boundary.One of these trees leans right over our fence so the majority of the trunk and canopy are in our garden.We get no sun in our garden, when they have a lovely sunny garden.....We would like to cut the tree down to the fence, do we have to inform them of our intentions. We have spoken to them in the past and they are not willing for us to cut any height of the trees even when we will be paying.
Mo - 27-Sep-17 @ 7:38 PM
Perno - Your Question:
My small cherry tree overhangs into my neighbours garden, since they have been living there from 2005 we have told them that we are happy for them to cut the tree back on their side to the fence line without having to ask us, and indeed they have done this every year themselves or by engaging a gardener to do it for them. She is now asking us to arrange for this to be done at our expense! Does she have the right to do so?

Our Response:
No. A tree owner is under no obligation to cut back branches that overhang a neighbour's garden. If your neighbour doesn't want the branches overhanging her garden, she can arrange to cut them back at her own expense.
ProblemNeighbours - 19-Sep-17 @ 2:33 PM
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