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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

Author: Jeff Durham - Updated: 2 July 2015 | commentsComment
 
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 siginificant damage to your gutters and or blocking your drains, 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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Leave a Comment, Ask for Advice or Share Your Story...
[Add a Comment]
@tony. You cannot force him to pay or simply dump the cuttings on his property. You could ask him if he is willing to do so but he doesn't have to. There is action you can take to get him to cut down his trees to a reasonable height or even entirely. See the High Hedges Guide for more information.
ProblemNeighbours - 3-Jul-15 @ 2:34 PM
@Wedding. It's an unfortunate situation to be in, but not one that is easily resolved. You cannot force a neighbour to cut down trees because of leaves, sap or light. If the trees are evergreen and there are several, you may be able to take action under the High Hedges legislation . You are also entitled to cut back any branches as far as your boundary (at your own cost) as long as doing so does not significantly damage or destabilise the tree. Check also that the trees are not the subject of a Tree Preservation Order.
ProblemNeighbours - 3-Jul-15 @ 10:03 AM
My neighbours tree has grown so much onto myside that it is blocking the garden and the sap from the tree is destroying my grass ! My question is if I cut down branches that have grown in to my side of the garden do I have the right to throw them back over the fence into my neighbours garden as it is not my tree and why should I dispose of his waste ?
kat - 2-Jul-15 @ 5:01 PM
@rupert. They can cut the branches back as far as the boundary.Whilst it's courteous to ask, they do not have to. The tenants can do this and should not have to go through their landlord (depending on the terms of their tenancy agreement).
ProblemNeighbours - 2-Jul-15 @ 12:14 PM
@TEE. He can trim them back as far as the boundary, but should check with the council first in case any Tree Preservation Orders are in place.
ProblemNeighbours - 1-Jul-15 @ 2:02 PM
Hi, We live in a Birmingham council house with a neighbough on the right hand side who owns his property. They have a run of conifer trees going about 24 feet down the garden. These trees are about 12 feet in height which is not a problem. The trees overhang our garden by 2 to 3 foot. In Birmingham we have to pay for garden waste to be collected or we can take it to the tip in our car. With such a large amount of foliage to dispose of, the cost of hiring cutting equipment and having to take all the waste through the house to the car then the waiting at the tip and clearing up the garden, house and car plus transport costs Can I force the neighbour to pay towards the expense of the cutting equipment, fuel and time? I also do not want to spend a day or two transporting his waste in our car and having to clean it out of both tree and insects. Can I just pile the cuttings on his side of the fence further down the garden without breaking the law?
Tony - 1-Jul-15 @ 11:56 AM
@bossman. This is both criminal damage and trespass. Depending on what remedy you want, you could take legal action. It may be wise simply to send a solicitor's letter requesting that they do not do so again.
ProblemNeighbours - 1-Jul-15 @ 10:50 AM
@anon. Much of neighbour-related law stems from the common law and/or tort. The criminal justice and public order act act also refers to trespass more information is here
ProblemNeighbours - 30-Jun-15 @ 12:59 PM
My neighbour's garden is very over grown the problem we have is the large trees. Which block out the sun light from our kitchen windows. Also the leaves get in our gutters and the our garden is always covered in their sab and leaf's. We have even offered to pay for the trees to be cut down. I can't understand my neighbour as his garden is just a jungle which he doesn't look after full of rubbish and old tyres and washing machine's. M.law
wedding - 30-Jun-15 @ 8:55 AM
I own my property but i live nxt door to a private rental property my trees are over hanging into their garden and i think they want to cut them back are they oblighed to ask me or do they need to ask the landlord?
rupert - 29-Jun-15 @ 3:17 PM
@sally. It could constitute both trespass and criminal damage so legal action would be an option. If you do not want to pursue that course of action, then a quiet word about future trimmings may work. If lasting damage has been done to the trees you could try your insurance company who may be able to follow this up with your neighbour's insurance.
ProblemNeighbours - 29-Jun-15 @ 2:27 PM
My neighbour lives in council property, the trees outside his fence are overhanging the fence which is not courseing any problems apart from a few leaves dropping in his garden, he has now decided to lop the branches that overhang the fence, could you tell me if he needs permission to do this from the council that own them, or can anyone cut trees with overhangin branches.
TEE - 28-Jun-15 @ 3:19 PM
just arrived home to find neighbours who are only tenants have hacked my tree in my garden, they have vandalised my tree and trespassed onto my property. The asked about a month ago could they cut the tree and I refuseddue to birds nesting in the tree. They have also taken away the privacy I had in my front living room
bossman - 27-Jun-15 @ 11:12 PM
Unfortunately we have a very awkward neighbour who thinks he can do what he likes. His ivy and plants are overhanging onto our side of the fence and front wall. We have moved them back onto his side but he has pushed them back over the fence and onto our wall. Other than the information that has been given on this page, where would I find the official rights which states I can cut any overhanging plants that encroaches onto our property as it will be certain that he will not take our word for it or bother to check that we are right? Thanks.
anon - 27-Jun-15 @ 1:30 AM
We live in a detached house and the right hand side wall of the house is the actually boundary of a neighbours back garden which is crazy and should never have been allowed when the house was built. In the neighbours garden is a very large walnut tree which has a TPO. The tree has now become very large and has outgrown the space it's in, there are now branches which are overhanging our roof and in the very near future will cause damage to our chimney and aerial. The Council have given permission for the tree to be reduced by 4 metres to take it back from the side of our house. We have been in correspondencewith the owner of the tree who is an elderly lady over the last 4 years or so who has refused so far to take any action to cut back the tree or refused to give us permission to have an approved contractor carry out the work at our own cost. The matter is now becoming urgent with the likelihood of damage being caused to our property. How do we stand with arranging for the braches which are overhanging our property to be cut back to at least the boundary line especially as we still seem to need the tree owners permission to do anything!! Feeling very frustrated... any thoughts or comments would be very welcome. Thank you
Stan - 24-Jun-15 @ 12:02 PM
We live in a detached house and the right hand side wall of the house is the actually boundary of a neighbours back garden which is crazy and should never have been allowed when the house was built. In the neighbours garden is a very large walnut tree which has a TPO. The tree has now become very large and has outgrown the space it's in, there are now branches which are overhanging our roof and in the very near future will cause damage to our chimney and aerial. The Council have given permission for the tree to be reduced by 4 metres to take it back from the side of our house. We have been in correspondencewith the owner of the tree who is an elderly lady over the last 4 years or so who has refused so far to take any action to cut back the tree or refused to give us permission to have an approved contractor carry out the work at our own cost. The matter is now becoming urgent with the likelihood of damage being caused to our property. How do we stand with arranging for the braches which are overhanging our property to be cut back to at least the boundary line especially as we still seem to need the tree owners permission to do anything!! Feeling very frustrated... any thoughts or comments would be very welcome. Thank you
Stan - 24-Jun-15 @ 11:28 AM
@Annoyed. Some people will complain over the smallest things. In general you should ask permission and then go and collect the branches for disposal.
ProblemNeighbours - 24-Jun-15 @ 11:27 AM
We live in a detached house and the right hand side wall of the house is the actually boundary of a neighbours back garden which is crazy and should never have been allowed when the house was built. In the neighbours garden is a very large walnut tree which has a TPO. The tree has now become very large and has outgrown the space it's in, there are now branches which are overhanging our roof and in the very near future will cause damage to our chimney and aerial. The Council have given permission for the tree to be reduced by 4 metres to take it back from the side of our house. We have been in correspondencewith the owner of the tree who is an elderly lady over the last 4 years or so who has refused so far to take any action to cut back the tree or refused to give us permission to have an approved contractor carry out the work at our own cost. The matter is now becoming urgent with the likelihood of damage being caused to our property. How do we stand with arranging for the braches which are overhanging our property to be cut back to at least the boundary line especially as we still seem to need the tree owners permission to do anything!! Feeling very frustrated... any thoughts or comments would be very welcome. Thank you
Stan - 24-Jun-15 @ 11:27 AM
Hi we are due to complete on a property purchase this week.At the back there is a car port which adjoins the neighbours property.Right on the fence line there is a large tree (which appears to be a conifer).My solicitor is unsure as to who owns the tree.I would like to remove it, but as the neighbouring property is a maisonette I am unsure who owns it if it isn't ours. The land the maisonette is built on used to belong to the house we are buying and I believe we are responsible for the fence. How do we get it removed.
LisLew - 23-Jun-15 @ 2:09 PM
Hi I have conifers in my garden which I have cut annually, but I am unable to get to other side of trees without goin on a neighbours property, anyway this neighbour has cut my trees right the way back without consulting me, when I say back I mean back not just what is over hanging his garden, I mean beyond my boundary fence, is there anything I can do about this, as I now fear the trees will die as they have been butchered x
Sally - 23-Jun-15 @ 11:29 AM
Cutting conifers which are mine largely over grown branches fell into next door apart from the ones which fell in her garden I took the rest to refuse neighbour complained this morning about it My reply was through them back over and would dispose of them were do I stand on this matter
Annoyed - 19-Jun-15 @ 1:21 PM
@Pat. That sounds odd have they asked what type of tree it is?
ProblemNeighbours - 19-Jun-15 @ 9:58 AM
@FOR5FOR5. Your neighbour is wrong, you are entitled to cut back any branches/growth that encroaches on your side of the boundary. You in turn should not fix/attach or grow anything directly against a wall that belongs to your neighbour
ProblemNeighbours - 19-Jun-15 @ 9:42 AM
@just. There's nothing really wrong with planting two trees within one's own boundaries. You've not really said what the problem is.
ProblemNeighbours - 18-Jun-15 @ 2:17 PM
@17wd. You cannot deposit the leaves back in the garden. If you are really suffering you could talk to the Tree Preservation Officer and ask what can be done (if anything) to the tree on your side. Your neighbour may then be more amenable.
ProblemNeighbours - 16-Jun-15 @ 2:12 PM
@RAN. No unfortunately not. The above article gives most of the information you need.
ProblemNeighbours - 16-Jun-15 @ 12:36 PM
just been charged an extra £ 24.00 on my house insurance because my neighbours tree is 3 metres from my property!!! what a cheek. boy am I angry.
pat - 14-Jun-15 @ 9:25 PM
We rent our house and live next door to a couple that own their house. The back yards are separated by a brick wall, on top of it is a trellis with plants/vines growing from their side and hanging over our side right to the bottom of the trellis and further down the wall. Myself and my partner don't really like it because its really deep and hasn't been trimmed since we moved in 2 years ago. Recently my partner, whilst in conversation with the lady next door mentioned in passing we were looking to trim them back on our side. This week I set about trimming them right back to the boundary at the top of the trellis so it was basically clear our side and it was about keeping our yard tidy and liveable, as it was really deep foliage. However, the gentlemen living next door owning the house has really gone mad and said we have violated his property, hence me being surprised as it was on our side and we just wanted to maintain it properly He then informed me that the wall was part of his house, hence his property and we have no right to cut it down. I argued it was hanging over our side into our yard, he kept disputing it saying that the wall is nothing to do with us. I now feel really stupid but should I, I mean he never once offered to come over and maintain it and it's grown and grown, even when we mentioned it to his partner he still disputed it. Any advice would really help?
FOR5FOR5 - 14-Jun-15 @ 6:13 PM
Hello my neighbour has grown side by side a holly tree and a hawthorn , they are about 12 ft high and taking a lot of our light , where do we stand please! Thankyou
Just - 14-Jun-15 @ 12:28 PM
We are in a simkar boat. The trees in our neighbours garden are so large they deposit branches and 18 garden bags of leaves which kill our grass, additionally both have TPO's and the neighbour refuses access to have them puned back slightly. The wood pigeons litter on our washing line (50% of the back garden) and path and my childrens slide. Can we deposit the leaves and branches back over the fence? Im keen to find a solution but they are adamant the tree is not to be touches. 1-3m will not make a difference to the tree.
17wd - 11-Jun-15 @ 9:27 PM
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