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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 4 Dec 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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Please could you give me some advice on damage to fencing. The boundary is mine and the next door neighbours plants/ bushes branches have grown into the fencing causing it significant damage. In parts the fencing is hanging off. Who is liable ?
Loopblou - 4-Dec-16 @ 11:08 AM
our next door neighbours are tenants of a renting company and have 6 12 ft conifers in a row cutting light from our garden.when approaching via email the renting company to prune and shorten the trees they reply that it is the tenants responsibilty and i assume its the renting comanies resposibility please clarify
welshy - 1-Dec-16 @ 11:08 PM
There is a very large tree outside my property about a meter from my boundary wall, the tree is owned by the local authority (council) . the branches and leaves of the tree overhang into my garden at least 4 metres at a height of about 10 metres. In autumn the gutters are soon full and overflowing. Can I do anything about it because the tree is on a public pavement and owned by the local council. Thanks
El berto - 25-Nov-16 @ 9:39 PM
I have a very large sycamore growing directly along the fenceline of my garden. The fence is my responsibility but since the tree grows directly through the middle can I ask my neighbour to share the costs of cutting down the sycamore, since it sheds seeds like crazy and is overshadowing an old apple tree and a large part of both gardens.
Jack - 25-Nov-16 @ 10:14 AM
triker - Your Question:
My right of way divides a neighbor's land. the previous owners of their land planted trees along one edge of my R O W which are now dead or dying and several have already fallen over my ROW which I removed, also they removed one and had at least 3 others removed. the problem has become more than an inconvenience for me as my physical condition is not good. what are my rights and their obligations concerning removal of the trees most likely to fall over my ROW?

Our Response:
They should get a specialist tree surgeon or arboriculturalist to look at the trees and assess whether they are dangerous or not. If they are, the neighbours should act accordingly. If the trees cause any damage when the owners are aware that they are dangerous you van claim for damages. If the trees are declared safe there's not much you can do unfortunately.
ProblemNeighbours - 23-Nov-16 @ 11:58 AM
my right of way divides a neighbor's land. the previous owners of their land planted trees along one edge of my R O Wwhich are now dead or dying and several have already fallen over my ROW which I removed, also they removed one and had at least 3 others removed. the problem has become more than an inconvenience for me as my physical condition is not good. what are my rights and their obligations concerning removal of the trees most likely to fall over my ROW?
triker - 22-Nov-16 @ 11:26 PM
RITA - Your Question:
We have a detached property along one side of the boundary of are a line of protected which had a t po without my knowledge.also an estate built just before the t p o was given. one of the trees is now touching one of the houses and the owner wants me to cut the branches apparently the local authority is going to give me 21 days to comply.i cannot see the fairness of all this as the planning committee gave permission for \an extension to the house which was already too close to the trees can you help what redress do I have please

Our Response:
Make an appointment with the Tree Preservation Officer, it's not normally your responsiblity to cut back branches that overhang a neighbour's boundary. The TP officer should be able to tell you what you or your neighbours are allowed to do to the trees.
ProblemNeighbours - 22-Nov-16 @ 12:02 PM
we have a detached property along one side of the boundary of are a line of protected which had a t po without my knowledge.also an estate built just before the t p o was given. one of the trees is now touching one of the houses and the owner wants me to cut the branches apparently the local authority is going to give me 21 days to comply.i cannot see the fairness of all this as the planning committee gave permission for \an extension to the house which was already too close to the trees can you help what redress do I have please
RITA - 21-Nov-16 @ 6:35 PM
A neighbour has come onto my property and cut large chunks of the tree down and left the remains on my front lawn. None of my neighbours have spoke to me about any problems these trees are causing them and now my front garden has lots of branches and cuttings I can't get rid of as I don't drive. Where do I stand with this? What can I do? What law can I refer to?
Bob - 18-Nov-16 @ 11:54 PM
ChrisS - Your Question:
Hi - we have a tree next to our property, owned by our neighbour. It is an Ash tree with a preservation order. It overhangs our property significantly, and causes so many branches / leaves especially at this time of the year in our garden it is getting ridiculous. In the 2 years we have lived here, it has never been cut back. Does my neighbour have to cut it back because of the overhang / mess it makes to our house - and if not, can I do this - would I then need to get permission from the council etc? thanks!

Our Response:
No, your neighbour is under no obligation to cut back the branches. Because the tree has a TPO you will need to consult your council before cutting back any branches that overhang your property.
ProblemNeighbours - 17-Nov-16 @ 1:48 PM
Treeproblem - Your Question:
We have a tree in the rear of our garden that doesnt over hang or shadow our garden but is higher than our house. It sways so much in the wind and we are concerned it may fall onto our house in a storm. Can we ask them to chop the top to reduce the risk?

Our Response:
No, it's not necessarily a risk just because it sways. If you can get an expert opinion on the tree from a tree surgeon/arboriculturalist which concludes the tree is dangerous, you should inform your neighbour. If they tree then causes damage and the neighbours were aware of the issues beforehand, you will be able to claim damages (ideally the neighbours would remove the tree before this happened of course).
ProblemNeighbours - 17-Nov-16 @ 11:41 AM
Hi - we have a tree next to our property, owned by our neighbour. It is an Ash tree with a preservation order. It overhangs our property significantly, and causes so many branches / leaves especially at this time of the year in our garden it is getting ridiculous. In the 2 years we have lived here, it has never been cut back. Does my neighbour have to cut it back because of the overhang / mess it makes to our house - and if not, can i do this - would i then need to get permission from the council etc? thanks!
ChrisS - 16-Nov-16 @ 4:29 PM
Hp - Your Question:
There is a large, very old tree growing at the rear corner of my property. It predates all of the houses in the area and sits on the fence line of three properties - ours, our next door neighbour and a rear neighbour. A portion of its trunk sits in each garden, with each fence terminating at its trunk. I have approached each of the affected property owners about sharing the cost of a maintenance trim on the tree but the rear neighbour says it has nothing to do with him. Am I wrong the believe we should treat the tree as property in common?

Our Response:
This is a very difficult question to answer as we can't see the property or your title deeds. First check your deeds to see if the tree or anything relating to the boundaries is mentioned. If there's nothing specific then yes if it pre-dates the houses it's probably fair to share the cost of maintenance. It will depend on what you agree is necessary maintenance though. If you cannot come to a voluntary agreement, you may have to get the courts involved.
ProblemNeighbours - 16-Nov-16 @ 12:56 PM
We have a tree in the rear of our garden that doesnt over hang or shadowour garden but is higher than our house. It sways so much in the wind and we are concerned it may fall onto our house in a storm. Can we ask them to chop the top to reduce the risk?
Treeproblem - 16-Nov-16 @ 11:03 AM
There is a large, very old tree growing at the rear corner of my property. It predates all of the houses in the area and sits on the fence line of three properties - ours, our next door neighbour and a rear neighbour. A portion of its trunk sits in each garden, with each fence terminating at its trunk. I have approached each of the affected property owners about sharing the cost of a maintenance trim on the tree but the rear neighbour says it has nothing to do with him. Am I wrong the believe we should treat the tree as property in common?
Hp - 15-Nov-16 @ 8:55 PM
Liz - Your Question:
My neighbours have 5 huge leylandi trees at the bottom of their garden that have almost doubled in size in the four years we have lived next to them. Two years ago we asked them to prune them as they cause 50% shadow in our garden for most of the day. They keep saying they will but never do. What can we do?

Our Response:
It's not easy to force someone to cut down/prune trees but as these are evergreen trees you may be able to take action under the high hedges legislation
ProblemNeighbours - 15-Nov-16 @ 2:52 PM
My neighbours have 5 huge leylandi trees at the bottom of their garden that have almost doubled in size in the four years we have lived next to them. Two years ago we asked them to prune them as they cause 50% shadow in our garden for most of the day. They keep saying they will but never do. What can we do?
Liz - 15-Nov-16 @ 5:39 AM
Nell - Your Question:
The new owner of a neighbouring property has cut off a lot of branches, some quite large, from trees which are in their garden but were overhanging my garden. I have a feeling that they would have had to cut them from my side because of the location but have no proof of this as I am out at work when it's done. Am I within my rights to request that they remove the branches which they have cut off?

Our Response:
If they've left them on your property, you should ask them to take them away. In general if a neighbour removes branches from that is overhanging their property, they should "offer" the branches back to the tree owner. Maybe your neighbour has misconstrued this and assumed they had to give them back.
ProblemNeighbours - 14-Nov-16 @ 2:10 PM
I have a mature tree at the top of my garden planted over 25 years ago by the previous ownerI have trimmed them slightly on my side but a few small branches overhang the neighbours. I have no problem with them trimming them off. But today I found they trimmed some off and just dumped them over on my side damaging some plants I have near the wall. They never spoke to me to ask if I wanted the cuttings back. Can they just chuck the off cuts over the wall. As I don't want my plants damaged.
The Gardener - 13-Nov-16 @ 1:04 PM
The new owner of a neighbouring property has cut off a lot of branches, some quite large, from trees which are in their garden but were overhanging my garden. I have a feeling that they would have had to cut them from my side because of the location but have no proof of this as I am out at work when it's done. Am I within my rights to request that they remove the branches which they have cut off?
Nell - 12-Nov-16 @ 4:07 PM
My back fence backs onto a private rd, we want to open our back fence with gates to gain access to our garden but a small tree is in the middle where the opening would be, could i remove it ? It is in no ones garden just the border of the private rd.
Loz - 10-Nov-16 @ 4:12 PM
alsinky - Your Question:
I have mature trees surrounding my property that are over 100 years old. My neighbour who built his bungalow in the back garden of my other neighbour is complaining about my trees saying that I will have to cut them down as he is sick of clearing up all of the leaves that are landing in his garden. The trees surround the border of my property and some of the branches are now overhanging into his garden. I do not want to cut down my trees. My trees have been there longer than his house. Can I be forced to do this if the leaves are causing him annoyance?

Our Response:
No, you are under no obligation to remove or prune the trees. If your neighbour wants to trim back any overhanging branches on his side of the boundary, he can, as long as he doesn't cause damage to the trees in doing so. As you say...he knew the trees were there when he built his property.
ProblemNeighbours - 9-Nov-16 @ 12:33 PM
I have mature trees surrounding my property that are over 100 years old. My neighbour who built his bungalow in the back garden of my other neighbour is complaining about my trees saying that I will have to cut them down as he is sick of clearing up all of the leaves that are landing in his garden. The trees surround the border of my property and some of the branches are now overhanging into his garden. I do not want to cut down my trees. My trees have been there longer than his house.Can I be forced to do this if the leaves are causing him annoyance?
alsinky - 8-Nov-16 @ 4:37 PM
Leev- Your Question:
Hi I have planted conifers and my neighbours have leaned over to cut them as they touch their fence. The council have advised this is fair behaviour however I don't believe this to be. Surely their fence is their boundary so they shouldn't be touching my plays unless they go in to their garden. Please help me with some advice on this. Many thanks

Our Response:
If the fence is theirs and your branches are "touching" it they are within their rights to trim them.
ProblemNeighbours - 8-Nov-16 @ 12:38 PM
gb - Your Question:
There is a tree growing in my neighbours garden that is beside my house ,the tree's branches are scraping on my walls when it is windy. I think the house is rented and I need to know if whoever owns the house who's responsible for the tree. I'm sure that the tree was not planted by anybody and it has just grown from a seed. if my neighbour refuses to cut it down what can I do about it. it may be-causing damage to my house.

Our Response:
Are you able to cut the overhanging branches back to the boundary? If so you are entitled to do this without the neighbour's permission as long as it's not likely to damage the tree. Make the tree owner/neighbour aware that the tree might cause damage. They should take a look and assess this. If the tree does then cause damage, you can claim from them. Here is a letter template, in case you want to make this official etc.
ProblemNeighbours - 8-Nov-16 @ 12:22 PM
Hi I have planted conifers and my neighbours have leaned over to cut them as they touch their fence. The council have advised this is fair behaviour however I don't believe this to be. Surely their fence is their boundary so they shouldn't be touching my plays unless they go in to their garden. Please help me with some advice on this. Many thanks
Leev - 6-Nov-16 @ 10:50 PM
there is a tree growing in my neighboursgarden that is beside my house ,the tree's branches are scraping on my walls when it is windy. i think the house is rented and i need to know if whoever owns the house who's responsible for the tree. I'm sure that the tree was not planted by anybody and it has just grown from a seed. if my neighbourrefuses to cut it down what can i do about it. it may be-causing damage to my house.
gb - 6-Nov-16 @ 10:20 PM
Odjob - Your Question:
I have a couple of old large oak trees in my garden. A few years ago my neighbour got planning permission to build a house in his garden but under and adjacent to my oaks. He then sold the property and now 5 years later my new neighbour has asked me to get them crowned. I feel I'm being made to pay for the privilege of someone building close to my boundary and under my trees. I'm happy enough for him to pay to get them cut to his boundary line no problem. How do I stand legally please?

Our Response:
You don't have to comply with this. If there's nothing wrong with the tree (i.e it's not about to fall/cause damage) then you can leave it to grow. If your neighbour wants it crowning or cutting back in any way and you're happy to allow it, they should pay for it.
ProblemNeighbours - 3-Nov-16 @ 12:26 PM
I have a couple of old large oak trees in my garden . A few years ago my neighbour got planning permission to build a house in his garden but under and adjacent to my oaks. He then sold the property and now 5 years later my new neighbour has asked me to get them crowned. I feel I'm being made to pay for the privilege of someone building close to my boundary and under my trees. I'm happy enough for him to pay to get them cut to his boundary line no problem. How do i stand legally please?
Odjob - 3-Nov-16 @ 12:05 AM
Hi my neighbour the the rear of my house is having a tree chopped down bit by bit ..due to this hundreds of leaves and small branches Ave fallen into mygardend. What can I do ?
Eddyp - 2-Nov-16 @ 2:13 PM
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