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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 23 May 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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Local council own sycamore trees that overhang my garden by approx 15 feet the trees are approx 30-40 feet tall and also block lots of light from my garden causing my plants to grow leggy to find sunlight council say we have to pay to cut back but this will cost a fortune can you advise, is it my responsibility. Thank you.
John - 23-May-16 @ 7:57 PM
Hi, just wondering if you can help. I have been asked by the council to cut down a dead oak which although is not on my land, is adjacent to it. It lies my side on a ditch which allows water to flow through it. I understand that although I legally must maintain the ditch to ensure the passage of water, I feel I am not obliged to maintain the tree as it does not belong to me, and is not within my boundaries. Is this correct? Many thanks Efty
Efty - 23-May-16 @ 5:10 PM
I live in a townhome and the house next door has a large weeping willow that was planted by the prior owner. These trees are extremely dirty and does nothing but makes the deck on my home filthy,clogs my gutters etc.The prior owner passed away and she maintained the tree. Now I have a renter next door and I have asked her to contact the landlord to no avail.This tree now hangs on my deck and in my gutters trimming back the whippets does not help, the cutting of a simple branch would cut down on all of this mess. Do I have any rights in this matter?
Char - 22-May-16 @ 1:17 AM
TPO question. We live under the shadow (in more ways than one) of a huge sycamore at least 80 ft tall in our next door neighbours garden. It's at the side of their house (round a corner) but at the front of ours, against the adjoining wall. It doesn't really bother them so much as it's round the side and they have a large garden (and a gardener) but easily 90% of it hangs over our front garden & house. The mess is just indescribably horrendous all year round, starting with the sticky residue in spring that covers everything, the tiny green flowers which are just falling off now, covering our entire drive, car, windowsills etc (and inside if I dare open the windows) with a thick green carpet, next will be the seed pods, followed of course by leaves when they drop. It's never-ending. A couple of years ago we had to pay a few hundred pounds to have roots cleared out of a drain which we are convinced were sycamore roots. No doubt that will happen again. It really isn't the sort of tree that should be so close to houses - it belongs in the middle of a field where it probably was originally. At least 15 years ago our previous neighbour tried to get the TPO lifted, and we even offered to go halves to get it removed even though it's not our tree. We were told that it was a 'public amenity' (!!!) and the most they would allow was to trim it back from our side 5% which would have made no difference whatsoever.What are the chances these days of having anything done to a tree like this? Have the regulations been relaxed at all? It really is driving us mad to the point were we want to move from our home of 30+ years. Thanks.
Vee - 21-May-16 @ 6:48 PM
TPO question. We live under the shadow (in more ways than one) of a huge sycamore at least 80 ft tall in our next door neighbours garden. It's at the side of their house (round a corner) but at the front of ours, against the adjoining wall. It doesn't really bother them so much as it's round the side and they have a large garden (and a gardener) but easily 90% of it hangs over our front garden & house. The mess is just indescribably horrendous all year round, starting with the sticky residue in spring that covers everything, the tiny green flowers which are just falling off now, covering our entire drive, car, windowsills etc (and inside if I dare open the windows) with a thick green carpet, next will be the seed pods, followed of course by leaves when they drop. It's never-ending. A couple of years ago we had to pay a few hundred pounds to have roots cleared out of a drain which we are convinced were sycamore roots. No doubt that will happen again. It really isn't the sort of tree that should be so close to houses - it belongs in the middle of a field where it probably was originally. At least 15 years ago our previous neighbour tried to get the TPO lifted, and we even offered to go halves to get it removed even though it's not our tree. We were told that it was a 'public amenity' (!!!) and the most they would allow was to trim it back from our side 5% which would have made no difference whatsoever.What are the chances these days of having anything done to a tree like this? Have the regulations been relaxed at all? It really is driving us mad to the point were we want to move from our home of 30+ years. Thanks.
Vee - 21-May-16 @ 3:48 PM
Hi, I have a similar issue, Hi.The neighbours at the back of my garden have 8 Leland Cypress trees, they are at least 30 meters high and most of each of the trees hangs approx 2 meters over in my garden and all have pushed into the fence.There is no way I could cut back all the overhang. Do I have to pay for a tree surgeon?What are my rights? Thanks.
Cd - 21-May-16 @ 10:13 AM
Hi there. I moved into my property 6 months ago.We have recently cleared the garden and noticed a neighbours tree planted on the boundnary fence has pushed the fence panel and boarders (inwards into our garden). The roots are also noticeably lifting the soil and resulting in uneven land. What do you suggest we do next as I can see the problem only getting worse as the tree roots move towards the house.
Hh - 20-May-16 @ 6:50 AM
Simo - Your Question:
I live in a terrace house with a small back yard. There are two separate neighbours (1 four doors a away and 1approx 10 doors away) which both have huge trees in their back yards. Both of there mean that sunlight is blocked and reduced out in our garden at certain times of the day. What action can I take to reduce the size of these trees?

Our Response:
Unfortunately there's not much you can do about this at all. There is no "right to light" in a garden (though sometimes a house does) and the trees were probably there before you moved in.
ProblemNeighbours - 19-May-16 @ 9:55 AM
Please help me find where I go next if I am denied having a preserved gigantic pine tree being cut down outside my property causing many problems for the occupants as we are disabled, many thanks
SUZANNE LYNN - 18-May-16 @ 8:52 PM
IF I AM DENIED A GIGANTICTREE BEING CUT DOWN ON COUNCIL LAND ON PAVEMENT OUTSIDE MY FLAT WHERE DO I GO NEXT PLEASE
SUZANNE LYNN - 18-May-16 @ 8:46 PM
Kpnuts - Your Question:
The tree opp in my back garden belongs to neighbor we live in corner and have small garden the tree block lots of light in our garden we like to sunbath in our garden only light we got in the sun is 2 to 3 hours what can we do

Our Response:
There's not much you can do unfortunately. Talk to your neighbour and ask if they are willing to cut the tree down, or have the crown thinned. You are entitled to cut back any branches that overhang your property as far as the boundary.
ProblemNeighbours - 18-May-16 @ 2:28 PM
steven hodgson - Your Question:
Hi the house next door is owned by a social landlord, I contacted them about a boundary hedge as it was spreading onto my land, they sent out thier maintenance team who cut the hedge down to ground level and the erected a chain link fence, however they left two large stumps in at the top of my garden and put the fence further onto thier land by a few inches, they told me the stumps from the hedge had grown onto my land and its my responsibility to remove them, if the fence was placed exactly where it should have been, the stumps would be touching the new chain link fence. also towards the bottom of the garden they have concreted post in my garden because they didn't dig out the roots,its now an eye sore, because they cut down the hedge are they responsible to remove the stumps they left in my garden, and do they have to remove the fence and place it back on thier land

Our Response:
You might need to seek an independent opinion from someone who can take a look at this. If the original boundary was the hedge the stumps would have formed part of the hedge, that doesn't really mean the owner has to remove them as they are not on your property (if they form part of the actual boundary so to speak)
ProblemNeighbours - 18-May-16 @ 2:18 PM
Lee - Your Question:
I have A small courtyard garden about 20ft long and 16ft across. My neighbours very large tree over hangs the majority of my garden and part of the conservatory. It's like a roof of trees above the garden, it's very dark! The tree is under a protective order. My neighbour doesn't want to destroy the look, however most of the tree overhangs on my side so she is not affected as much as me. Do I have rights to cut back the tree if the council allow this or is it only my next door neighbour that can apply to the council.

Our Response:
You can ask the Council's Tree Preservation Order to take a look from your side and discuss the options.
ProblemNeighbours - 18-May-16 @ 12:15 PM
Kaz - Your Question:
I live in a rented house and although it's my landlords problem to sort out I'd like to find out what are ours/his rights. There is a fence which I believe belongs to the neighbours behind where their trees have pushed the fence into my garden. We have propped up the fence as best we can but what can my landlord do to get the neighbours to sort this out please?

Our Response:
If the fence is intruding on to you/your landlord's property then you/your landlord can demand that they move it (it's trespass). If it's their fence then (unless there's something in the deeds) your neighbours are not actually under any obligation to fence their land at all unless they have pets or livestock that need to be contained. Have a word with them, it might be easier to discuss it.
ProblemNeighbours - 17-May-16 @ 11:19 AM
I live in a terrace house with a small back yard. There are two separate neighbours (1 four doors a away and 1approx 10 doors away) which both have huge trees in their back yards. Both of there mean that sunlight is blocked and reduced out in our garden at certain times of the day. What action can I take to reduce the size of these trees?
Simo - 16-May-16 @ 9:18 PM
The tree opp in my back garden belongs to neighbor we live in corner and have small garden the tree block lots of light in our garden we like to sunbath in our garden only light we got in the sun is 2 to 3 hours what can we do
Kpnuts - 16-May-16 @ 5:24 PM
hi the house next door is owned by a social landlord,I contacted them about a boundary hedge as it was spreading onto my land, they sent out thier maintenance team who cut the hedge down to ground level and the erected a chain link fence, however they left two large stumps in at the top of my garden and put the fence further onto thier land by a few inches, they told me the stumps from the hedge had grown onto my land and its my responsibility to remove them, if the fence was placed exactly where it should have been,the stumps would be touching the new chain link fence. also towards the bottom of the garden they have concreted post in my garden because they didn't dig out the roots,its now an eye sore, because they cut down the hedge are they responsible to remove the stumps they left in my garden, and do they have to remove the fence and place it back on thier land
steven hodgson - 16-May-16 @ 4:29 PM
lea- Your Question:
I have a cherry tree over hanging into my garden, the leaves fruits ect over the years have ruined my grass plus the roots are sucking up all the goodness preventing me from having a nice green lawn. Over the years I have had the garden turfed, and over the years have spent hundreds on seed and top soil, and still haven't achieved a lawn. The owner of this tree is now lidl, who required the land 3 years ago. After continuously emailing them to cut the tree right back or remove the tree they have finally been out to what I thought was removal of the tree. In fact they have only cut of a few branches, leaving the rest. I believe this tree is the reason my garden cant be enjoyed as its fruits and leaves are rotting my very small lawn. What can I do to 1. Have the tree removed.2. Be compensated for the damage to my garden.

Our Response:
No, you cannot force the removal of the tree. You ARE entitled to cut back the roots as far as your boundary. You can also trim back any branches that overhang your property.
ProblemNeighbours - 16-May-16 @ 2:13 PM
I have A small courtyard garden about 20ft long and 16ft across. My neighbours very large tree over hangs the majority of my garden and part of the conservatory. It's like a roof of trees above the garden, it's very dark! The tree is under a protective order. My neighbour doesn't want to destroy the look, however most of the tree overhangs on my side so she is not affected as much as me. Do I have rights to cut back the tree if the council allow this or is it only my next door neighbour that can apply to the council.
Lee - 15-May-16 @ 11:08 PM
I live in a rented house and although it's my landlords problem to sort out I'd like to find out what are ours/his rights. There is a fence which I believe belongs to the neighbours behind where their trees have pushed the fence into my garden. We have propped up the fence as best we can but what can my landlord do to get the neighbours to sort this out please?
Kaz - 14-May-16 @ 11:56 AM
I have a cherry tree over hanging into my garden, the leaves fruits ect over the years have ruined my grass plus the roots are sucking up all the goodness preventing me from having a nice green lawn. Over the years I have had the garden turfed, and over the years have spent hundreds on seed and top soil, and still haven't achieved a lawn.The owner of this tree is now lidl, who required the land 3 years ago. After continuously emailing them to cut the tree right back or remove the tree they have finally been out to what I thought was removal of the tree. In fact they have only cut of a few branches, leaving the rest. I believe this tree is the reason my garden cant be enjoyed as its fruits and leaves are rotting my very small lawn. What can I do to 1. Have the tree removed. 2. Be compensated for the damage to my garden.
lea - 13-May-16 @ 2:39 PM
My neighbours left and right keep braking brances on my side as well as there's in spite that they want the tree home. The tree is on my side of the fence at the end of my car park porch. They keep intimidating us by doing this in secret. I know it is them because I caught them but they didn't take me seriously. What legal action can I take against them. The gardener told us we can only prune the tree after summer. We told them this but the lady who claims she is ocd and get son who now lives on my right is finding that it is bothering him coz it's 'in the way. Id is only a skinny plum tree. How can we claim ownership over our tree and stop take legal action against the neighbours that keep snapping out branches so viciously. My mother is so distraught and uncomfortable living between such invasive and destructive neighbours she doesn't want to say id answer anything anymore. PLEASE HELP?
Stressed gardener - 13-May-16 @ 1:21 PM
We have a tree growing at the far end of our garden it poses no damage as although its an old tree its still alive. However, our neighbour from across the garden began to cut it down with no consent. By the time I've noticed it the tree was almost gone. Just a stump left. The whole tree cuttings were in our garden. At the time neighbour said that the leaves keep falling down to his garden and he's afraid that the tree might fall on his kids. At the time I said nothing thinking "fine, you cut it down and tidy the place". However, this never happened as hi dumped the massive tree's cuttings in our garden. Later on he refused to talk. This year it has happened again as he started cutting down the bushes and the same tree that came back to life and I realised its because it is blocking the sun for him. However, when I told him to stop it, he refused saying that mice (?) are coming from my garden and that I he has contacted the council already and they told him he has the right to cut them down and leave them in my garden. I don't really know where to turn now
Dominic - 11-May-16 @ 12:39 PM
We recently moved into our house, our garden backs onto a neighbours. In the neighbours garden is a row on coniferous trees approximately the height of our house that overhand around 6-8ft over our fence and into our garden. As the previous owner did not maintain the tree regularly there is little we can do to address the overhang. A few weeks back, our neighbour cut the height of the trees by about 6 ft on their side of the fence only, leaving the height on our side of the fence. I called a tree surgeon to come and quote to level the top (reduce the height on our side of the fence only) so that it is level with the neighbours. Today, whilst the work was underway our neighbour called a halt to the work as the tree surgeon was in the tree to cut the tops and not using a ladder or scaffold from our side of the fence. The tree surgeon manage to cut 2 of the 5 trees before work was stopped. I have spoken to the neighbour and unfortunately was unable to reach an agreement for the work to continue stating that the work should be completed from our side and that the tree surgeon is not allowed to climb the tree. The trees are within 4-5 metres of the property and lights in the kitchen have to remain on constantly as it gets quite dark in there. so, i now have a few questions: 1 - as the neighbour cut the height to the fence line on their side - am i within my rights to level off on our side? 2 - are tree surgeons allowed to climb the tree even though the tree is on our neighbours property to cut the top that overhangs? 3 - is maintaining the height of the tree the responsibility of the tree owner regardless of whether or not it over hangs my property? I thank you in advance for any responses.
JW - 11-May-16 @ 12:30 PM
Sam - Your Question:
My neighbour has tress running the length of her garden down the centre it separates our gardens however, there is also a fence also running the length of the garden and it runs down the garden so that the root of the trees are on her side. Am I right to cut the branches back that are coming into my garden and leave them in her garden entrance? Id like to point out I CANT speak to this lady verbally I have to speak to her by letters posted through the letter boxes as she threatened to shot me in the head last year (2015) and its what has been decided as our way to communicate. I'm asking because ive been told its illegal to throw her branches away or keep them?

Our Response:
You can cut back any branches that overhang your property, but should not simply throw them back or leave them on your neighbour's property. You are obliged to "offer" the branches back.If you don't want to talk to your neighbour in person, you could try a note, or just risk it and accept that she will not want them so simply dispose of them yourself.
ProblemNeighbours - 11-May-16 @ 11:38 AM
dinger - Your Question:
Our neighbour has a line of lime trees that are close to our boundary. The fence is and significantly fence so that it is now clearly on our property. He has recently planted another lime tree which is similarly close to the boundary of our property and will also grow so that the fence will need to be moved. What is our position in this regard? Can he he keep planting trees and moving the fence. Should the fence not be on his property?

Our Response:
It's not clear whose fence this is from your description. The fence is usually on the boundary but often it will "owned" by one neighbour or the other. If it's your fence, it is worth having a word with your neighbour about the recently planted tree while it's still early enough to move it. It is generally inconsiderate to plant trees with significant growth potential near a boundary. Unfortunately unless the tree damages your property in a direct way there is not a great deal you can do. If the fence is already damaged by the existing trees you can either claim from your own insurance (they may in turn claim off the neighbour) or make a direct claim for damages via the courts (legal advice would be useful). Talk to your neighbour about the options for the fence.
ProblemNeighbours - 11-May-16 @ 10:20 AM
Hi I have problem with my neighbour is not very friendly, since his mother died he could not be bother to tidy his garden. The hedge grows over my fence, I have chop up the branches, the apple tree grows too big about 20ft high and now it is the first time in summer sun as block my grass. My garden is about 10x10 feet now I have no where to sit in the sun from about 2pm till 6pm. I have spoke to him very nice ask if you would please trim up make tree smallerlet the light come on my grass or chop off put other new apple tree. He said I can't cut it down because it my memories of my mum (which it sound excuse because he never like to spend his money) but the tree was there before his mother moved in. Is there any law restrict height of tree?
Fab - 10-May-16 @ 5:06 PM
Lea - Your Question:
I came home today to find my neighbour had snapped a branch on my tree and pushed it back over the fence, and onto other plants. Should they have sought my permission before doing so and should they have just thrown the branch back into my property?

Our Response:
A neighbour is entitled to remove any branches of a neighbouring tree that overhang their property - they are not obliged to consult the owner before doing this, unless there is a Tree Preservation Order on a tree. They should "offer" the branches back to the tree owner but should not simply throw them over the fence.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-May-16 @ 11:53 AM
Jon - Your Question:
I am currently undertaking the clearance of my garden in a new property. Having cleared back lots of hedge and bamboo I have come across a tree which torts are on my side but has grown through to my neighbours side. The fence appears to have been built around the trunk of the tree. I want to cut it down and dog up the roots but obviously most of the tree is on my neighbours sides. What am I allowed to do? Thanks

Our Response:
If you can establish that the tree is yours, you can usually do what you like. If this involves entering your neighbour's property, you should get their consent before doing so. It would be courteous to offer to replace the fence where the tree has stood...even if responsibilityn for a fence falls with your neighbour.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-May-16 @ 11:50 AM
My neighbour has tress running the length of her garden down the centre it separates our gardens however, there is also a fence also running the length of the garden and it runs down the garden so that the root of the trees are on her side. Am i right to cut the branches back that are coming into my garden and leave them in her garden entrance? Id like to point out I CANT speak to this lady verbally I have to speak to her by letters posted through the letter boxes as she threatened to shot me in the head last year (2015) and its what has been decided as our way to communicate. I'm asking because ive been told its illegal to throw her branches away or keep them?
Sam - 8-May-16 @ 3:57 PM
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