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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 29 Sep 2016 | 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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Our house is access by a 200m road owned by the neighbour. We have full access rights to drive over the road. Directly outside our frontage is a very tall and wide shrub (2-3 metres tall and wide). The area underneath the shrub is owned by the neighbour and is marked by a set of stones on the ground. We have no access to this small area of land shrubbut we do have the right to drive over the road alongside the set of stones. However, the shrub overhangs the road over which we have access by 1-2 metresand the neighbour refuses to trim the shrub back to a line vertical to the stones marking the boundary. We therefore scrape our car on the shrub as we drive off our driveway. What can we do?
AD - 29-Sep-16 @ 1:33 PM
We have use of an access road to our house which is owned by a neighbour. Directly outside our frontage is a very tall and wide shrub. There is a set of stones around the shrub on the ground that marks the land owned by the neighbour but the shrub overhangs our right of access considerably (by 1 metre +). The neighbour refuses to trim the shrub to a line from the stones upwards in a vertical line so we scrape the side of our car on the overhanging shrub as we drive off our driveway. What rights do we have to trim the shrub?
AD - 29-Sep-16 @ 1:24 PM
claire - Your Question:
Hi we have large trees overhanging a large portion of our garden but don't know who the land belongs to. Can you advise how we would go about finding out and what we do once the owner has been discovered?

Our Response:
The Land Registry is the first place to try. You can search by postcode or by selecting on the aerial map. There is a small charge. If the land doesn't appear to be registered, your local council can sometimes help. Note, however that the landowner is under no obligation to cut the trees down. You can cut back any overhanging branches on your side of the boundary unless the trees are the subject of a preservation order (in which case, your council will have a record). If the trees are evergreen, you may have some recourse under the high hedges legislation.
ProblemNeighbours - 27-Sep-16 @ 9:57 AM
Dee - Your Question:
Our house and garden face south and that is why we bought the house 30 yrs ago. It backs on to an old people's home and there are about 3 large 60 - 70 ft or more sycamore trees on the border in their property. The previous owner of the home use to regularly lop the trees to keep them under 20 ft. She stopped doing this about 5 years before she sold the property which was about 4 years ago. The trees had grown really tall. I asked the new owner to trim them down and he agreed but somehow the council found out and suddenly put a TPO on the trees which was not there previously. I have spoken to the council who refuse to listen to either of us. The trees now block out all the sun from my garden for most of the day and my sky signal is non existent. Plants will not grow. A precedent was set for 20 years of regularly trimmed trees allowing the sun into my garden. It is depressing and oppressive to live there now as well as the trees being dangerously high. I do not know what to do. Even if tried to sell the house , no one would want to buy such a gloomy home.

Our Response:
It's unusual for Sycamore trees to be TPO'd. It might be worth contacting a legal professional (with a knowledge of neighbour law and tree preservation orders) to see if the previous behaviour can have any effect.
ProblemNeighbours - 26-Sep-16 @ 2:31 PM
Hi we have large trees overhanging a large portion of our garden but don't know who the land belongs to. Can you advise how we would go about finding out and what we do once the owner has been discovered?
claire - 25-Sep-16 @ 11:26 AM
Our house and garden face south and that is why we bought the house 30 yrs ago. It backs on to an old people's home and there are about 3 large 60 - 70 ft or more sycamore trees on the border in their property. The previous owner of the home use to regularly lop the trees to keep them under 20 ft. She stopped doing thisabout 5 years before she sold the property which was about 4 years ago. The trees had grown really tall. I asked the new owner to trim them down and he agreed but somehow the council found out and suddenly put a TPO on the trees which was not there previously.I have spoken to the council who refuse to listen to either of us. The trees now block out all the sun from my garden for most of the day and my sky signal is non existent.Plants will not grow. A precedent was set for 20 years of regularly trimmed trees allowing the sun into my garden. It is depressing and oppressive to live there now as well as the trees being dangerously high. I do not know what to do. Even if tried to sell the house , no one would want to buy such a gloomy home.
Dee - 25-Sep-16 @ 12:56 AM
Hannah - Your Question:
I've had trees at the bottom of my garden for over 20 years. I've had them cut a few times but my current neighbour is driving me mad. Do I have to keep her informed all the time. The neighbour interferes when the work is being undertaken. I don't want to be rude but, I may have to be.

Our Response:
If they're your trees and the work doesn't involve entering the neighbour's garden you have no obligation to inform her at all.
ProblemNeighbours - 23-Sep-16 @ 11:12 AM
Our neighbours Scottish pine tree overhangs across our electric gates, if any damage to the gates was caused by their tree who would be responsible?
Chrissy - 23-Sep-16 @ 9:21 AM
so i own a tree and my 11 year old sun enjoys climbing it but the man next door keeps telling him he cannot climb it what can he do about as he is not having much fun?
troublewithtrees77 - 21-Sep-16 @ 5:50 PM
I've had trees at the bottom of my garden for over 20 years. I've had them cut a few times but my current neighbour is driving me mad. Do I have to keep her informed all the time. The neighbour interferes when the work is being undertaken. I don't want to be rude but, I may have to be.
Hannah - 21-Sep-16 @ 8:29 AM
Fee - Your Question:
Approx 5 years ago I bought a puppy and ended up having to fence my garden in front of the beech hedge that forms my boundary line. Since doing this, new neighbours are living in the house that has the beech hedge at the end of their garden. The hedge is currently over 20ft high and I would like to cut it down to approx 3ft above the fence line to make it easier to maintain. I have as yet not informed the neighbours that I intend to do this. I have a feeling that it will be a difficult conversation. Could you advise me of my rights please? Many thanks.

Our Response:
Is it your hedge? Or shared? If it's yours you can do what you like with it. If it's shared responsibility...you will have to negotiate!
ProblemNeighbours - 20-Sep-16 @ 12:40 PM
Kate - Your Question:
My neighbours tree is hugely overgrown across my parking space and is damaging the paintwork on my car. I've asked him to have it cut back and he's now ignoring my communication as it's likely to cost close to £500. What can I do?

Our Response:
He does not have to cut it back (see the above article). You are allowed to cut back any branches that overhang your side of the boundary yourself though.
ProblemNeighbours - 20-Sep-16 @ 12:12 PM
Approx 5 years ago I bought a puppy and ended up having to fence my garden in front of the beech hedge that forms my boundary line. Since doing this, new neighbours are living in the house that has the beech hedge at the end of their garden. The hedge is currently over 20ft high and I would like to cut it down to approx 3ft above the fence line to make it easier to maintain. I have as yet not informed the neighbours that I intend to do this. I have a feeling that it will be a difficult conversation. Could you advise me of my rights please? Many thanks.
Fee - 18-Sep-16 @ 9:55 PM
My neighbours tree is hugely overgrown across my parking space and is damaging the paintwork on my car. I've asked him to have it cut back and he's now ignoring my communication as it's likely to cost close to £500. What can I do?
Kate - 18-Sep-16 @ 4:17 PM
Bert - Your Question:
My neighbours tree is required to be removed due to falling limbs and risk of damage, however, the removal process will affect my tree (in what way I'm still trying to find out). My tree has a TPO and I would therefore think that it has a priority of preservation over other non-TPO surrounding trees. I would assume that the priority treatment would be to treat the non-TPO tree to remove the risk without affecting the tree with the TPO.What happens in this instance and who is responsible?

Our Response:
You need to establish how it will affect your tree as you've not really explained this. Discuss with your neighbours how they are going to remove the tree without damaging your tree...the local Tree Preservation Officer will be happy to advise you.
ProblemNeighbours - 15-Sep-16 @ 11:06 AM
My problem is with a neighbour whos garden backs onto mine. He has a tree and bushes literally growing up on my rear garage into the tiled roof and up against most of the rear side of the garage. We have a gap of about half a foot behind my garage which has a fence and is owned by myself. The weight of the bushes pretty much caused the fence to collapse. What are my legal rights on cutting down the bushes and tree branches growing over and especially up on my garage roof and walls?? Hes always threatening me if i cut them he'll inform the council etc etc. Plz help with suggestions. Thanks
Trev - 14-Sep-16 @ 10:49 PM
Katie - Your Question:
I live in a rented house which is surrounded by 50 foot fur trees which I love! They bring lots of beautiful birds in the garden as well as shade for the children, dog and chickens! My neighbours have complained to the letting agent and I've been informed that they are all being cut down next week! I'm heart broken for all the wildlife and birds that will suffer, I still have birds nesting!Are they allowed to be cut down?!! I don't want to look out in to my garden and see the back of other houses, laundry lines etc etc

Our Response:
Yes they can be cut down. Can you ask that they are simply reduced in height rather than removed completely?
ProblemNeighbours - 14-Sep-16 @ 12:28 PM
My neighbours tree is required to be removed due to falling limbs and risk of damage, however, the removal process will affect my tree (in what way I'm still trying to find out). My tree has a TPO and I would therefore think that it has a priority of preservation over other non-TPO surrounding trees. I would assume that the priority treatment would be to treat the non-TPO tree to remove the risk without affecting the tree with the TPO. What happens in this instance and who is responsible?
Bert - 14-Sep-16 @ 8:12 AM
Our neighbours tree is hanging over the garden fence which is blocking light and also hanging over our children's trampoline..she doesn't bother cutting them and it is too high for us to reach.. Just wondered if theres a law against this?
Nobby - 13-Sep-16 @ 1:59 PM
Russell- Your Question:
We have an oak tree that is dying, it is on the boundary between ours and our neighbours property! Can we remove it without speaking to them? Can they object in any way?

Our Response:
You need to establish ownership of the tree. If it's shared then you will have to get their consent before removing it..if it's dead/dying, there should really be no argument.
ProblemNeighbours - 13-Sep-16 @ 1:51 PM
We have an oak tree that is dying, it is on the boundary between ours and our neighbours property! Can we remove it without speaking to them? Can they object in any way?
Russell - 13-Sep-16 @ 10:30 AM
Anyone know of a specialist prepared to take on the local council over their 130 year old Plane tree that can do no wrong. I have been plagued for 30 years with drainage and ground shrinkage issues and insurance claims. The council arborist agreed to destroy the tree when he saw it but the local tree hugger did what huggers do on removal day and everything came to a halt. All the NIMBY's came out of the woodwork and the council found it easier to agree with them than me. These NIMBY's don't have to live with the damage the tree causes. The complete story is huge and you wouldn't be interested. So I've basically had enough and want to screw the council for their intimidatory attitude, but I do need a specialist who has the balls to take the council on. NIMBY's and huggers need not apply.
Mick - 12-Sep-16 @ 11:23 PM
I live in a rented house which is surrounded by 50 foot fur treeswhich I love! They bring lots of beautiful birds in the garden as well as shade for the children, dog and chickens!My neighbours have complained to the lettingagent and I've been informed that they are all being cut down next week! I'm heart broken for all the wildlife and birds that will suffer, I still have birds nesting! Are they allowed to be cut down?!!I don't want to look out in to my garden and see the back of other houses, laundry lines etc etc
Katie - 12-Sep-16 @ 7:38 PM
Hi we live next door to an old church which is a carpet shop now.. There is a tree / bush overhangingon our drive. The problem is its covered with wasps so it's a big problem cutting it back. Where do we stand in trying to get rid of the wasps and cutting the branches back.
John - 12-Sep-16 @ 7:14 PM
roxy - Your Question:
We got back from walking our dogs,next door but ones daughter came bowling out and pounced saying I want that tree cut down it,s attracting flies into my kitchen,it,s 2 shrubs in our front garden her kitchen at the back,we had the same last year this time ie was the mother made us cut the butterfly tree down. the daughter said yesterday if you dont cut it down i,ll call the council and get you chucked out of your council s**t hole.we,re h.a and I think their either private rent or private owned.they.re indians so not sure if maybe it,s racist as we,re white british or maybe it,s cos we,re h.a. think it,s possibly about more than the trees as she was so vicious and resorted to personal insults

Our Response:
You do not have to remove your trees at the request of a neighbour. The nieghbour can cut back any growth that overhangs their side of the boundary. The council will not take any action even if the neighbour reports you.
ProblemNeighbours - 12-Sep-16 @ 12:27 PM
we got back from walking our dogs,next door but ones daughter came bowling out and pounced saying i want that tree cut down it,s attracting flies into my kitchen,it,s 2 shrubs in our front garden her kitchen at the back,we had the same last year this time ie was the mother made us cut the butterfly tree down. the daughter said yesterday if you dont cut it down i,ll call the council and get you chucked out of your council s**t hole.we,re h.a and i think their either private rent or private owned.they.re indians so not sure if maybe it,s racist as we,re white british or maybe it,s cos we,re h.a. think it,s possibly about more than the trees as she was so vicious and resorted to personal insults
roxy - 9-Sep-16 @ 7:38 PM
Head - Your Question:
I am a headteacher and developers recently built homes next to the school. The existing trees on our side of the boundary are now causing some issues as the houses are built very close to them. One our new neighbours is suggesting that the school has to trim them back. We have never had to touch them before. The school budget issues at the moment means we do not have expendable finance. How should I proceed?

Our Response:
No, it's not your responsibility to trim back the trees. The neighbours can trim back any growth that overhangs their side of the boundary but at their own cost etc. If the trees are coniferous, they can consider using the High Hedges legislation (of the AntiSocial Behaviour Act) but this is a formal process that must be made via the council (more information can be found on that here. Respond to your neighbours, politely stating that you are not under any legal obligation to trim back the trees. Refer them to our Action Guide if necessary.
ProblemNeighbours - 9-Sep-16 @ 12:35 PM
How I sympathise about seeds from birch trees.Our neighbour has two large trees which shed seeds all over our garden (looks like snow falling at times !) If we leave doors and windows open they invade the house as well !Cannot enjoy a meal or drink outside as everything gets covered !I love plant life and trees but would quite cheerfully chop these specimens down !
Maz - 8-Sep-16 @ 4:26 PM
I am a headteacher and developers recently built homes next to the school. The existing trees on our side of the boundary are now causing some issues as the houses are built very close to them. One our new neighbours is suggesting that the school has to trim them back. We have never had to touch them before. The school budget issues at the moment means we do not have expendable finance. How should I proceed?
Head - 8-Sep-16 @ 1:48 PM
Mr Agitated - Your Question:
My neighbours had a Silver Birch tree which is as tall as a house. It's right up against the boundary fence about 50 foot from my house and it is always dropping something my side of the fence. If it's not leaves in Autumn, it's hundreds of seeds in July and August which cover paths, bushes, cling to fencing, get into bedrooms etc. Then in Winter it covers my side in branches. Its roots have caused my small lawn to sink badly in one area. I also know an inch wide diameter root is under my patio. I asked them to prune the tree but the ignored me so I spent money to get it pruned back to their side. I put a note in their door to say I was going to get someone to prune the tree? Months later they decided to prune it back. Is there anything I can do about the mess my side which really makes my garden unpleasant to look at and be in. Also in the evening the tree shades my garden and patio. Who pays for the root problem?

Our Response:
You can remove both roots and branches that grow on your side of the boundary as long as this wouldn't harm or destabilize the tree.
ProblemNeighbours - 6-Sep-16 @ 2:27 PM
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