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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 23 May 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

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
My neighbours tree overhangs into my property and blocks out alot of the daylight as it is 14ft tall.I know I am allowed to lop it back to the boundary but it is at some considerable height and I do not have the equipment to do the job.We are not on great talking terms, where do I stand on getting the job done and sending them the bill.
Treewhisperer - 23-May-18 @ 1:12 PM
I am a privet tenant (upper flat) below is council tenant who have a huge tree in front gardem and obstructing my view from window what action can i take to get it cut or trimmed down
Cole - 22-May-18 @ 9:23 PM
Tinsel - Your Question:
My neighbours has a weeping willow and it’s so high 10ft + it blocks all the sun out my garden from teatime the highest point is in his garden I have had to trim back branches that overhang I have asked him to cut the height but he won’t Is there anything I can do ?? It’s a totalMonstrosity whole garden like a jungle

Our Response:
There's not much you can do apart from cutting back the overhanging branches. There is no right to direct sunlight in your garden unfortunately.
ProblemNeighbours - 22-May-18 @ 3:09 PM
Alan - Your Question:
Our neighbour has a massive oak tree in the back garden which overhangs into ours. In the summer the tree blocks out most of the sun but more worryingly large dead branches, 4ft+, have been falling out of it. I'm now concerned that someone could get hurt. Their garden is about 5ft higher than ours and there's no way I can reach high enough to cut it back. The lowest branches must be at least 20ft above the ground.I know they want to move and I guess they don't really want to spend the money on a tree surgeon - It's far too big for anyone else to have a go at. I also know that it is not covered by a preservation order.Do we have any grounds to insist of them cutting it back?

Our Response:
Please take a look at our guide Action Guide here and read the sections about damage to property and dangerous trees. We hope that will answer your question.
ProblemNeighbours - 21-May-18 @ 12:07 PM
Our neighbour has a massive oak tree in the back garden which overhangs into ours.In the summer the tree blocks out most of the sun but more worryingly large dead branches, 4ft+, have been falling out of it.I'm now concerned that someone could get hurt. Their garden is about 5ft higher than ours and there's no way I can reach high enough to cut it back.The lowest branches must be at least 20ft above the ground. I know they want to move and I guess they don't really want to spend the money on a tree surgeon - It's far too big for anyone else to have a go at.I also know that it is not covered by a preservation order. Do we have any grounds to insist of them cutting it back?
Alan - 19-May-18 @ 7:10 PM
MC - Your Question:
My deed shows a shared hedge on my property, last year my new neighbour started pulling it up by its roots, I asked her to stop and she said she'd put something in place to rectify it, it looked horrendous, she asked if she could cut it back towards our boundary, to which I said of course, as she has the rights to trim to our boundary, but no more than that. She made a complete mess of it on purpose and caused huge holes in the centres of the hedge, I have photo evidence of the damage she'd done. I went out one day and told her to stop cutting it back as she had gone well over the boundary line now and was causing more damage to the hedge, she claimed that the roots were 'dead' to which I replied that they weren't until she pulled them out, I came back one evening and she was at it again, pulling them up from the roots, I had a go at her and in a fit I said she may aswell take it all down as she's made such a mess of it and it looked disgusting, this was in no validation that I ever wanted her to chop it down, it has been 6 months since she did it and I have been in hospital so have not been able to make a complaint, do I have grounds to sue her, and how would I go about it???? Thank you for any advice

Our Response:
If your neighbour has damaged your hedge you may be able to claim for damages via the civil courts but as it sounds like you've asked her to take it down, it may be complicated. Seek professional legal advice.
ProblemNeighbours - 18-May-18 @ 2:55 PM
My deed shows a shared hedge on my property, last year my new neighbour started pulling it up by its roots, I asked her to stop and she said she'd put something in place to rectify it, it looked horrendous, she asked if she could cut it back towards our boundary, to which I said of course, as she has the rights to trim to our boundary, but no more than that. She made a complete mess of it on purpose and caused huge holes in the centres of the hedge, I have photo evidence of the damage she'd done. I went out one day and told her to stop cutting it back as she had gone well over the boundary line now and was causing more damage to the hedge, she claimed that the roots were 'dead' to which I replied that they weren't until she pulled them out, I came back one evening and she was at it again, pulling them up from the roots, I had a go at her and in a fit I said she may aswell take it all down as she's made such a mess of it and it looked disgusting, this was in no validation that I ever wanted her to chop it down, it has been 6 months since she did it and I have been in hospital so have not been able to make a complaint, do I have grounds to sue her, and how would I go about it???? Thank you for any advice
MC - 17-May-18 @ 9:29 PM
My neighbours has a weeping willow and it’s so high 10ft + it blocks all the sun out my garden from teatime the highest point is in his garden I have had to trim back branches that overhang I have asked him to cut the height but he won’t Is there anything I can do ?? It’s a total Monstrosity whole garden like a jungle
Tinsel - 16-May-18 @ 3:59 PM
Geoff - Your Question:
25 years ago the person that used to live next door planted an unwanted Christmas tree in the field at the back of our gardens, just outside the gate, said tree has now grown to quite a size. Obviously it was never meant to be there, it leans and is of concern when the winds get up. Can we cut it down? Officially it is on what we would assume is council owned land.

Our Response:
If it's on council owned land, contact the council and ask them if you can remove it.
ProblemNeighbours - 15-May-18 @ 12:02 PM
A neighbour asked if he could trim the overhanging branches of my tree I said he could tri any that overhang as I understand they have that right, he said the tree people would come round and ask for access, When I was out they cut the branches back to the tree truck which is on my boundary they have cut 4 off the trunk and the tree looks terrible I am fuming as I would not do this to anyone’s tree. What can I do as when I confronted him he is not bothered as to the damage he has caused.
Taz - 13-May-18 @ 8:48 PM
25 years ago the person that used to live next door planted an unwanted Christmas tree in the field at the back of our gardens, just outside the gate, said tree has now grown to quite a size. Obviously it was never meant to be there, it leans and is of concern when the winds get up. Can we cut it down? Officially it is on what we would assume is council owned land.
Geoff - 11-May-18 @ 2:12 PM
Mavis - Your Question:
I have a typical housing estate open front lawn which borders onto my neighbours drive.i am wanting to plant a few shrubs along the boundary to give a bit of colour, thing I am wondering is what if it encroaches onto their drive or overhangs a little as it grows.would they be able to ask me to dig it up.I dont want to be wasting my time and or money

Our Response:
Plant them a sufficient distance from the boundary. Talk to you neighbour about it first of all...and let them know that they will be entitled to trim back any overhanging growth if needed. If they're not happy with this, an alternative would be to plant in pots, so that you can rotate them to keep the plants maintained on all sides.
ProblemNeighbours - 11-May-18 @ 11:31 AM
i have a typical housing estate open front lawn which borders onto my neighbours drive. i am wanting to plant a few shrubs along the boundary to give a bit of colour, thing i am wondering is what if it encroaches onto their drive or overhangs a little as it grows. would they be able to ask me to dig it up .I dont want to be wasting my time and or money
Mavis - 9-May-18 @ 8:31 PM
Kels bells - Your Question:
I live in a grove and I have a private road situated to the back of my home,the problem is they have conevers growing through the fences were we have a drive way to our garages at the back of our houses we do try and trim them but nobody has been looking after the height of them they have to be about 7ft and counting which ovisusly do block the sun from our garden at a certain time of day,I’m not sure who’s responsible to trim the height on them?!!!

Our Response:
The may not be much you can do about the height unless you take action under the High Hedges Act. First, talk to the owner of the trees and see if they are willing to reduce the height of the trees. If they refuse, then the High Hedges Legislation may help.
ProblemNeighbours - 8-May-18 @ 11:35 AM
George - Your Question:
I have just moved into a rented property, and have become aware that the neighbour's tree opposite my garden block out all light during the summer months from about 2pm onwards. I have asked him to trim the tree, but it is very large (around 40ft) and it will be expensive so he has refused. I have looked online, but can't find much advice regarding trees specifically. The tree isn't blocking light to the house, only the garden. I would rather not get the landlord involved if I don't have to, as I have a private landlord and want to keep a good hassle-free relationship with him.

Our Response:
Unfortunately for you, there is not much you can do about this. There is no right to direct sunlight, only daylight and it applies to the property rather than the garden. Even if you have a right to light, the amount of light is restricted to approximately equivalent to one foot of candlelight. Nor do you have any right to a view which is obscured by trees. The only thing we can suggest is that you try and negotiate further with the neighbour, perhaps offer to contribute to the cost of cutting the tree back/down?
ProblemNeighbours - 8-May-18 @ 10:59 AM
I have 2 tallish, leafy trees in the back of my garden by my fence. There are branches that overhang into an access road (for rear access to the back of our neighbours - they hold the keys to the gate for this road). Almost the moment I moved into my property I had one of the neighbours behind me come round asking if we wouldn't mind getting the overhanging branches cut back. At the time I said to him that he was welcome to trim them back if they were annoying him. He however stated that they are my trees and my responsibility and as such I should pay towards it. He got upset and left muttering... jump forward 7 years and he has started asking about this again stating that the leaves are a nuisance in his garden. Once again I reiterated that I was happy for him to cut them back and once again he stated that it is a cost that should be borne by me and that his solicitor has advised him that I am responsible for this and that he is prepared to serve me 30 days notice and see me in court. I am seeking opinion here as I don't believe it is my responsibility to have the trees cut back and certainly it should not be at my cost. Please could someone advise if it is indeed a) my responsibility to cut the overhanging branches back and/or b) if it is on me to pay for any cutting back of the branches.
Mo - 7-May-18 @ 10:35 PM
I live in a grove and I have a private road situated to the back of my home,the problem is they have conevers growing through the fences were we have a drive way to our garages at the back of our houses we do try and trim them but nobody has been looking after the height of them they have to be about 7ft and counting which ovisusly do block the sun from our garden at a certain time of day,I’m not sure who’s responsible to trim the height on them?!!!
Kels bells - 5-May-18 @ 7:40 PM
I have just moved into a rented property, and have become aware that the neighbour's tree opposite my garden block out all light during the summer months from about 2pm onwards. I have asked him to trim the tree, but it is very large (around 40ft) and it will be expensive so he has refused. I have looked online, but can't find much advice regarding trees specifically. The tree isn't blocking light to the house, only the garden. I would rather not get the landlord involved if I don't have to, as I have a private landlord and want to keep a good hassle-free relationship with him.
George - 5-May-18 @ 5:00 PM
My neighbour has complained about leaves blowing onto her property from two small camellias on our front balcony.She has asked that we take responsibility for clearing them up, or pay for someone to do so. I am fairly sympathetic to her situation, but also feel that she's been overly aggressive in her approach to us.This of course doesn't impact on whether or not its our legal responsibility to do anything. Am I right in thinking that we have no legal obligation to pick them up?I do feel that it's the decent thing to do, but am not happy about how she's approached us.If we do help her with them I'd like her to understand that it is because we feel we should, not because of a legal obligation.
Planter - 3-May-18 @ 7:01 PM
Irrate OAP - Your Question:
My neighbour planted trees (evergreen very quick growing) about 3-4 years ago, we presumed he would keep them cropped at the same level as the boundary fence. Not so, the trees are now about 30ft high, the branches are overhanging the fence, yesterday my husband was reroofing our shed and the branches were hindering him, and cutting him, so he cut off the overhanging branches and dropped them into neighbours garden. The neighbours came out ranting and swearing, they said we were fly tipping??? Nothing other than their branches were deposited in their garden. Never the less they phoned the police who duly attended (on a Saturday early evening near Glasgow, obviously a quiet time for them) who said they had came as peacemakers??? They advised we didn’t put the branches into their garden but dispose of them ourselves, but then they would of probably of said we stole their branches. We are 65 and it takes us all our time to attend to our own garden and work full time. We’re do we stand? Never in 30 years here have we had a problem with neighbours. The trees are actually nearer my house than his (due to the length of their garden) so it’s also got an affect on my home insurance. Thanks for any advice.

Our Response:
You are entitled to cut back branches as far as the boundary but cannot throw the cuttings back into the neighbour's garden. You must "offer" them back but they can refuse, in which case you will need to dispose of them yourself. If the trees are evergreen and are interfering with the enjoyment of your property, you may be able to take action under the High Hedges legislation
ProblemNeighbours - 2-May-18 @ 12:04 PM
At the bottom of my garden a neighbours tree has grown into and is dislodging my wall. This has weakened it considerably! Where do I stand with this as the bricks could fall into my garden and I am worried about this, as my grandchildren play in the garden. Are they responible to get rid of the tree and make my wall good again please?
worried - 1-May-18 @ 4:51 PM
My neighbour planted trees (evergreen very quick growing) about 3-4 years ago, we presumed he would keep them cropped at the same level as the boundary fence. Not so, the trees are now about 30ft high, the branches are overhanging the fence, yesterday my husband was reroofing our shed and the branches were hindering him, and cutting him, so he cut off the overhanging branches and dropped them into neighbours garden. The neighbours came out ranting and swearing, they said we were fly tipping??? Nothing other than their branches were deposited in their garden. Never the less they phoned the police who duly attended (on a Saturday early evening near Glasgow, obviously a quiet time for them) who said they had came as peacemakers??? They advised we didn’t put the branches into their garden but dispose of them ourselves, but then they would of probably of said we stole their branches. We are 65 and it takes us all our time to attend to our own garden and work full time. We’re do we stand? Never in 30 years here have we had a problem with neighbours. The trees are actually nearer my house than his (due to the length of their garden) so it’s also got an affect on my home insurance. Thanks for any advice.
Irrate OAP - 29-Apr-18 @ 12:02 PM
Dcm - Your Question:
My neighbour has waited until we are away and hired someone to cut back the trees over hanging onto her side. This is fine and not the problem (although would have been nice if she was adult enough to give us a courtesy text as she has our number but again fine; we also offered to cut it back ourselves last year but required permission to go onto her side but no request was made from her).We have a fence between us the entire way; what I disagree with is the person who has cut them back has not just trimmed up to the boundary but also about a foot into our garden too. The tree is no problem but the hedge looks bare and destroyed. I Just wanted to know if this is allowed on her part as I wouldn’t want her to think she can do it again to the hedge further up which currently looks untouched. Unfortunately I do need to find this out as the neighbour believes the world revolves around her. For instance last year she told us we have to kill the ivy growing on the fence (which we like as it adds a bit of colour) as it was damaging the fence (which coincidentally is our fence) out of pure guilt we trimmed it massively and this was when we made the request to trim from her side). We are not unreasonable neighbours and do consider others when maintaining our garden and boundaries.Any advice would be greatly appreciated

Our Response:
Your neighbour can only cut back growth that is overhanging their side of the boundary . At an extreme level, you could take action in the courts for damages or an injunction to prevent the neighbour from cutting more than his common law rights allow. A note requesting that it doesn't happen again however, should probably suffice.
ProblemNeighbours - 27-Apr-18 @ 2:52 PM
Benny - Your Question:
My garden is bordered by a large wall (the side of an old coach house) over the past 30 years this has had a climbing hydrangea growing on it. The neighbors are renovating the coach house and have hinted that they want this removed.Given that as I understand it, hydrangeas do no damage, where do I stand.

Our Response:
You are not allowed to grow, attach anything etc to your neighbour's property, so they're probably within their rights to ask for its removal. Could try erecting a self standing structure for it grow against?
ProblemNeighbours - 27-Apr-18 @ 12:57 PM
Hi i wish to erect a new fence but neighbour is not going to allow me to cut the tree which is on the fence line. The tree pushes on my fence when windy and makes a noise. My fence man is telling me i cannot have a new fence due to alignment problems has this will not be in line with the rest of the fence. Where do i stand regarding this tree on the fence line?
Gazza - 26-Apr-18 @ 11:49 AM
My neighbour has waited until we are away and hired someone to cut back the trees over hanging onto her side. This is fine and not the problem (although would have been nice if she was adult enough to give us a courtesy text as she has our number but again fine; we also offered to cut it back ourselves last year but required permission to go onto her side but no request was made from her). We have a fence between us the entire way; what I disagree with is the person who has cut them back has not just trimmed up to the boundary but also about a foot into our garden too. The tree is no problem but the hedge looks bare and destroyed. I Just wanted to know if this is allowed on her part as I wouldn’t want her to think she can do it again to the hedge further up which currently looks untouched. Unfortunately I do need to find this out as the neighbour believes the world revolves around her. For instance last year she told us we have to kill the ivy growing on the fence (which we like as it adds a bit of colour) as it was damaging the fence (which coincidentally is our fence) out of pure guilt we trimmed it massively and this was when we made the request to trim from her side). We are not unreasonable neighbours and do consider others when maintaining our garden and boundaries. Any advice would be greatly appreciated
Dcm - 25-Apr-18 @ 8:00 AM
My garden is bordered by a large wall (the side of an old coach house) over the past 30 years this has had a climbing hydrangea growing on it. The neighbors are renovating the coach house and have hinted that they want this removed.Given that as I understand it, hydrangeas do no damage, where do I stand.
Benny - 24-Apr-18 @ 7:29 PM
Nick - Your Question:
Is it illegal to cut down a mature tree in a AONB village if the person responsible does not have permission from the landowner? This has just been done next to my garden and the person responsible said the reason was it was starting to interfere with BT overhead cables, though it was not and he is not responsible for maintaining the cables. The entire tree was cut down and the wood taken away. Does this break any law? I feel the real reason is retaliation over an adverse possession application I made to LR (on different land that he has never had an interest in).

Our Response:
Who is the landowner? Are the trees covered by a Tree Preservation Order? Trees without a TPO even in an AOBN are not subject to any particular conditions unless a large number of trees are to be fell (thus impacting the landscape). It's rare that an entire tree has to be cut down because of interference with phone wires...usually trimming the top suffices. Talk to the council or the landowner if you feel action should be taken.
ProblemNeighbours - 20-Apr-18 @ 3:03 PM
my neighbour has4 large conifers on his side of the fence which have grown to a very large size (as tall as the house almost) the roots are into my garden and they are causing a huge issues and is now taking up the fence and completely blocks out all light, the neighbour although we get on amicably has no interest in cutting them or removing them but as the house is owned/maintained by the the council/housing authority is it their responsibility to deal with it?
Fresh - 19-Apr-18 @ 12:05 PM
Is it illegal to cut down a mature tree in a AONB village if the person responsible does not have permission from the landowner? This has just been done next to my garden and the person responsible said the reason was it was starting to interfere with BT overhead cables, though it was not and he is not responsible for maintaining the cables . The entire tree was cut down and the wood taken away. Does this break any law? I feel the real reason is retaliation over an adverse possession application I made to LR (on different land that he has never had an interest in).
Nick - 18-Apr-18 @ 2:54 PM
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