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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 20 May 2020 | 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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We live next door to a nhs run card home, they have large trees who’s branches are now overhanging our garden, they block the sun from the garden in the summer and cause substantial leaves to fall in autumn, we are having trouble getting advice on if these can be cut back, does anyone have any advice?
Sheri - 16-May-20 @ 8:13 AM
I have a sycamore trees branches hanging over into my garden and it blocks the sun until 3.00pm in the afternoon and also masses of leaves fall into my garden every day the tree is in between my garden and British gas land can I prune the tree back to my fence line or do I have to ask permission of British gas to do this
Smudga56 - 14-May-20 @ 12:28 PM
My drain in my drive way is clogged up with roots from a tree that is in the city tree box. I have been trying to get them to cut the tree down and unstop the drains by removing the roots since 2014 to no avail The roots have torn up my driveway and flooded my basement on several locations.What can I do I can't afford.the cost Sat
Glo - 14-May-20 @ 4:25 AM
My neighbours cherry blossom tree is causing huge problems in my garden. I have had to throw away garden furniture and it is causing untold damage to my drainage and patio area. What are my rights regarding this ? I am unable to use my garden as it’s just constantly covered n falling blossom during the shedding season. I have tried to speak to my neighbour and she is not prepared to remove the tree.
Tracy - 11-May-20 @ 4:27 PM
My Neighbour has gone past the border by 2-3ft into our garden front and rear to cut a hedge and the worse is they have completely butchered the Lilac Tree that was in full bloom.Not only was tbe tree 27 years old and Beautiful but it has made no difference to her "light" to her garden and we are without a tree that may take 3 to 4 years to even get buds on it.Are there legal options I have?
Liz - 11-May-20 @ 2:07 PM
My neighbour has a huge blossom tree which is right next to the fence and very close to our conservatory.The Branches are now at least half way across our garden. You can no longer see the back bedroom window if you stand at the bottom. Are we allowed to cut back the branches to the fence without asking them?
Trace1 - 8-May-20 @ 4:49 PM
Our neighbours trees are conifer that has grown much taller than our house. Anyway as it grew it is now like three or four separate trees, all very tall. Then it died, strangled by vines, (because her garden is just a mess) about five years ago. We have exhausted all the protocol we can, but she is old and doesn’t want anything to do with us. A couple of weeks ago one of these tree like parts, fell into our garden in the night. We manages to get it cut up and sorted out, however the rest looks as if it is going to fall on our house. We have a nice garden but I’m frightened now to use the garden. It is really dangerous. Would we be allowed to cut it down our selves as it is a huge health and safety issue?We have been in touch with the council but they said it is a civil matter. I would be so grateful for advice as I am vulnerable, because of ill health and the garden is my only only safe place at the moment, because of lockdown. I would be very grateful for some direction, as what to do? Thank you Audrey Smith
Aud - 7-May-20 @ 7:39 PM
Our neighbours trees are conifer that has grown much taller than our house. Anyway as it grew it is now like three or four separate trees, all very tall. Then it died, strangled by vines, (because her garden is just a mess) about five years ago. We have exhausted all the protocol we can, but she is old and doesn’t want anything to do with us. A couple of weeks ago one of these tree like parts, fell into our garden in the night. We manages to get it cut up and sorted out, however the rest looks as if it is going to fall on our house. We have a nice garden but I’m frightened now to use the garden. It is really dangerous. Would we be allowed to cut it down our selves as it is a huge health and safety issue?We have been in touch with the council but they said it is a civil matter. I would be so grateful for advice as I am vulnerable, because of ill health and the garden is my only only safe place at the moment, because of lockdown. I would be very grateful for some direction, as what to do? Thank you Audrey Smith
Aud - 7-May-20 @ 5:58 PM
Our neighbours oak tree (about 50 feet high) is healthy but severely hangs over our drive and patio. We paid for a tree surgeon to cut back as much as he could on our side. We knew that to cut it back to the boundary line would necessitate cutting opposing branches in the neighbours garden, which we obviously can't do. However, when the surgeon arrived,the neighbour took charge of everything he did. He told the tree surgeon he wanted the tree to 'keep its shape' and watched him the whole time. As a result, the tree surgeon left many of the branches and leavesintact. The tree is still severely overhanging our garden and we have paid a lot of money just to have it slightly trimmed. The roots of the oak tree has caused a concrete pillar to tilt. The fence post next to the post is damaged. That portion of fence has broken. Don't know whether it's at all possible to replace the fence because of the roots. We don't park our car in our driveway because of the bird droppings and stuff falling off the tree. Also can't use our patio for the same reason. The gutter of the house is filled with tree stuff. Wondering whether the roots might eventually damage our house's foundations - it's nearer to our house than our neighbours. Is there any way we can have the tree cut down?
Dorrie - 7-May-20 @ 3:59 AM
In discussion with a neighbour in February he asked to trim one of our trees and some greenery which was overhanging his fence.Last week I went down to the end of our garden and he sent his labourer (he did not employ a professional tree surgeon) and felled three of our trees (one being a yew tree). Where do we stand legally - it was a trusted verbal agreement to trimming - not tree felling.Someone has come over 10ft into our property to undertake this work.As far as I am concerned this is criminal damage. Also we have three houses running along our right hand boundary - over the years they have cut back branches and placed the rubbish back in our garden - can I have clarification they can do they can do this without prior permission (even as a courtesy).We have a very large garden, with some very old trees - some of which we are awaiting a TPO on. I look forward to hearing from you.
Loretta007 - 4-May-20 @ 1:09 PM
Hi, I am seeking for advise on a matter after falling out with a neighbour who had dangerous branches hanging over our property. The neighbours have had the tree cut after the fallout but left the base of the tree to cause a nuisance. This tree has damaged and taken out 2 fence posts and lifted our concrete pathway and may be further root damage to our house. We cannot put a new fence in either. Any advice. Lee
Lee M - 2-May-20 @ 3:51 PM
Neighbours have cut overhanging branches and chucked them in my garden. Surely this should not be allowed?
Mel - 27-Apr-20 @ 6:03 PM
We have neighbours who aren’t very pleasant, their trees overhang and with some of them containing berries we have trimmed them (just the overhanging parts) to keep our dog safe, we dropped them carefully over the fence but they have then photographed our garden and house then thrown all the branches back over into the middle of our garden. I feel so stressed out as they look for anything to report us about, the fences multiples times a makeshift lean to, all has been inspected as a result by the council who has said we’ve done nothing wrong, we constantly have to walk on eggshells, even though we aren’t doing anything wrong and keep living in fear, they’ll no doubt report us for something again and the constant stress is very frustrating
Anon - 23-Apr-20 @ 8:09 PM
My neighbour has rented his property out for several years. His trees and shrubs have not been cut back and it is a relatively small garden, about 40 ft in length. During this time, these have all damaged the fence that I am responsible for, and pampas grass has travelled through to my garden and very difficult to remove. His confers are out of control, one of these overshadows my garden and very close to my house, its about 30ft high its branches spread at least 3ft over my garden but are too high for me to reach to tidy up. Some of these trees, Leylandi, eucalyptus and other shutting have got to be over 40ft High. The roots and branches of the v ones near my garden have damaged the fence that I'm responsible for beyond repair. I am having brand new high quality fencing panels put in. I have asked the tenant to contact the agency and owner to cut / remove the shrubs and trees to prevent damage to the new boards. He has kindly approached them to get a quote. Hopefully this will get sorted, the whole house seems to be in bad repair. If I'm not happy with how much these are trimmed (hopefully removed), is there anything I can do? There is a shed with decking at the bottom of their garden which is neglected and have vermin in there. Thanks for any advice you can provide.
MN - 22-Apr-20 @ 3:19 AM
Out neighbour who's garden backs onto ours has a very large pine tree growing close to the boundary line. The branches are mainly growing over into our garden and creates so much mess. I'm aware that we can have these cut back but the issue is that it has destroyed the fence which is currently being held up by our shed and a random concrete post and has large gaps in between the panels now where ethey have detached from the posts. What are our rights with regards to the fence? The trunk has grown quite thick so we can no longer fence along the actually boundary and would need to fence in front. If the tree keeps growing, the fence is surely only going to get destroyed again. I'm also worried about the roots as they have lifted the concrete paving near the boundary also.
Claire - 19-Apr-20 @ 11:16 PM
We have a very small garden with only one seating option patio at the back fence , our fence, separating the neighbours garden. They have a large garden. Last year the planted two lily trees right next to my fence and seating area, they grew over 6ft and the smell was disgusting and affecting my husbands breathing. Not only that when windy the anther pollen blew over and stain my husbands white t shirt and our furniture cushions. We have two beautiful house cats that love going on the garden with leads on but every part of a lily tree can be fatal to them if licked. So this looks like another summer stuck in! They are also growing sweet peas up my fence which look really awful and keep growing through......pls help anyone? Thanks
Kaz - 18-Apr-20 @ 2:52 PM
The people who's garden backs onto mine have a tree at the bottom of there garden behind a shed. In the nearly 6 years I have lived here they have never maintained the tree. It hangs over half of my garden and blocks the light, half of our grass has died because it has no access to light. It also blocks lights in my two neighbours gardens. It also sheds lots of mess in all three of our gardens. I have asked them to cut the side of the tree that affects us three neighbours but they shrugged there shoulders and said it's not ours. It is on there property. Where do I stand I cannot go through another summer of this three, birds (pigeons) constantly poo out of it and the poo lands on my childrens toys! I cannot out my washing out anymore as it was getting poo on it and also black bugs kept falling from the tree and laying eggs on my washing. What can I do?
Siobhan - 17-Apr-20 @ 4:25 PM
Can I trim a tall shrub/tree.overhanging my side of a. Party fence which is 2mtrs high
Blondie - 16-Apr-20 @ 2:41 PM
There has been no cutting of our communal trees in our garden area, trees are hanging over from the train line onto our washing lines preventing us from being able to use the clothes lines, looks very untidy and shabby. We also have a walkway/ alleyway to the Crescent, that is overly over grown. It not only looks unsightly, it is also dangerous, because people are beginning to use this area as a dumping ground for fly tipping. We could also use more lighting around that area. We all pay towards the upkeep of our surrounding communal area's which has not been upheld. Please can you get back to me asap if this would be possible in the near future. Ms J. Barnett
JB - 15-Apr-20 @ 4:54 PM
I have a lane alongside our house with a bank on the far side. This land seems to not belong to anyone, and after exhaustive searches, including Kew I don't know what to do with a tree problem. On this back there is two oak and two chestnut trees. One of the oak trees is now almost into our roof, and all the trees fill our gutters and garden with leaves. I did approach the local council a few years ago and they sent a surveyor to assess. They said there was no danger to my property. I do have a press clipping from a number of years ago which points to the council owning the lane and bank as they tried to rent the bank to the house the other side of the lane to cultivate, and gave permission to another house further down the lane to extend their access. Do I have grounds to force the council to trim the trees back? Thanks Ray
Ray - 9-Apr-20 @ 11:58 AM
My neighbours came in my garden while I was out and put up an aerial their side but it overhangs my fence. I want it gone. What are my rights please?
W - 4-Apr-20 @ 1:50 PM
My neighbours trees, along the boundary, have grown so high that one side of our garden is nowpermanently in deep shade. Do I have any rights to get the trees taken down or reduced in height?
Grumpy gardener - 28-Mar-20 @ 2:16 PM
Hi, I recently moved into the house (end terrace) where council trees from one side of the garden (very toll) literally covering most of the garden. The conservatory is always covered in birds poo and gutters with roof are covered with mess from the trees as well. Could I ask council to do something about this?
Aramis Cara - 17-Mar-20 @ 1:49 PM
The neighbour as trimmed my conifer trees without my consent, ruining my privacy. He has been into my garden and damaged my trees whilst I was out. I came back to find him at the back of my trees with his cutters. Caught him red handed. I payed a tree surgeon £1000 4 years ago to cut the height down to a sensible level. But he won't leave them alone. My trees are within my garden boundarys and he shouldn't be touching them. He has to climb over his 6 foot fence and 1.5mtrs to get to my boundary and another 600mm to my trees beyond the boundary. My trees have been there 30 plus years and his house has been there 15 - 20years. I have photos before and after. Now they are pretty bare and look awful and 2 trees are dead, he was spraying them with something regularly probably poison, What's my rights?
Colin - 2-Mar-20 @ 7:05 PM
We have a very small garden and the neighbours tree is very tall and over hanging our garden. So tall that I cannot get to the branches to cut it back. When the birds sit in it they tend to pop all in our garden on the washing and over the patio flooring we have. When the grandson visits it’s hard to let him outside due to all the birds mess. Can we have a council officer visit to enforce him to get it cut back as he seems to have pruned all his other trees and bushes but not the one behind our property ?
Ian - 23-Feb-20 @ 4:44 PM
hello, there can you please tell me the law on a fallen tree that has fallen on my property and coursed damage to my greenhouse. And I also have the cost of disposal of the fallen tree All of this was coursed by the recent storms.or is a case of just bad luck on my side.tnank you Mr Powell.
gray50 - 22-Feb-20 @ 3:49 PM
I've been reading your advise regarding problems with overhanging trees. My friend has a problem from willow trees close to there property. This trees are on MOD land. Southwest water has been to clear the main pipe and cleared the intruding willow tree roots. However there is still a problem from the house to the mains that need repairing. Also they are having to pay a gutter cleaning company each season to clear there gutters and roof tiles of leafs,debris and leaves due to the close facinity of the near closely over hanging branches. Is it right that the land owner take responsibility of this upsetting delima.
Jonny - 12-Feb-20 @ 8:58 PM
My neighbour around 11 years ago chopped down my whole tree and threw it on my side yet we never did anything about it. Now 11 years later he's still cutting down branches of my tree and throwing it on my side, he's also reaching across on his shed to cut my tree branch which is above someone else's property corner. I have threatened to call the police but he says there is no evidence and he doesn't care. He says the tree is making a mess on his shed so he can cut the branches on his side, but he's throwing it all in my garden and reaching in my garden to cut it down shorter. He is very abusive and harassing and says he doesn't want to talk to a 'women' about it. Please help
Nicki - 9-Feb-20 @ 5:11 PM
My neighbours trees are making my garden a right mess.i have leaves and dead bits of tree falling in my garden al year round.also I have pigeonmess Every day all over my garden furniture As fast as I clean it.it reappears.al over the seats and path.what can I do
Harry - 17-Jan-20 @ 6:36 PM
Interested to read the reply to one letter
Mandy - 16-Jan-20 @ 8:42 AM
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