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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 20 Apr 2017 | 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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My neighbors trees and bushes are growing next to our property wall, it's not overhanging our boundaries as it's the side of our house but it's touching and rubbing on the wall... Can I cut back what is touching my property?
Mason7 - 20-Apr-17 @ 4:11 PM
My neighbour has a Eucalyptus tree right next to our fence. This tree is around 80 foot high around 50 foot from my house and overhands around 25 foot into my garden. It block out light into our garden and also sheds leaves and twigs and makes our lawn mossy. When we have windy weather the tree sways dramatically and looks as though it has the potential to fall. I have previously asked them whether the tree can be cut back and have offered to pay for ithowever they are being obstructive and state that they do not see it as a danger and state that should it fall it would go in the other direction away from my house. Should I just cut any branches of the Eucalyptus tree that overhand my garden the tree would look very odd due to its size. I also have outbuildings in my garden including a cage where we keep are rabbits and also a children play den for my kids. I previously asked him to cut back his large conifer trees which are on the opposing boundary line as they were blocking out sunlight into my garden. He refused and during storm Doris one of them was blown over and severed my phone lines. His house has been up for sale for around 9 months and I believe that he is turning a blind eye to any potential neighbour dispute to avoid any complications should he get a buyer for the property. Since storm Doris we have asked him again whether we can pay to do 'something' with the tree however he refuses t see it as a problem. Your comments would be appreciated.
wadlock - 14-Apr-17 @ 8:27 AM
My neighbour has 2 Leylandii trees at the bottom of their garden at least 50/60 foot and about 15 feet from my house, completely blocks out the light and i'm also very worried in the event of bad weather that the tree could damage my property. I have left many messages to no avail and have since found out the house is rented.What rights do I have as I'd like to have the trees cut down?
Irritated - 12-Apr-17 @ 1:00 PM
Deb - Your Question:
HELP! My neighbour has grown a hedge now 12 foot high. It grows over a path, is about 4 foot wide.I used to look out on to the Grand Union Canal, and could watch the boats in the summer. I have lost my view, and all I see is bush.His wife died, and now last week he died too. How do I get my view back and gain the value of my house?

Our Response:
If the owner is no longer there to discuss this with, it may be more difficult to deal with. You can either discuss it with whoever is dealing with his estate or is due to inherit. The high hedges aspect of the AntiSocial Behaviour Act - our guide -can be useful but is relevant only if you have someone with whom to negotiate which at the moment.
ProblemNeighbours - 12-Apr-17 @ 11:55 AM
HELP! My neighbour has grown a hedge now 12 foot high. It grows over a path, is about 4 foot wide. I used to look out on to the Grand Union Canal, and could watch the boats in the summer. I have lost my view, and all I see is bush. His wife died, and now last week he died too. How do I get my view back and gain the value of my house?
Deb - 10-Apr-17 @ 3:29 PM
My neighbour has a huge lime tree in their garden, 2/3 of it over hangs my drive, between the end of May and August it drips all over our cars and the drive making everywhere sticky along with a constant fall of buds. I have approach them asking if they would get it cut back, the arrogance from them was appalling. The tree is under a preservation order but creates so many problems and it is very costly cleaning up after it constantly. As the tree belongs to them should they not be responsible for the management of the tree. I have given them back a lot of branches and leaves, but been told that is fly tipping by someone from the council, is that true. This tree is a constant menace with our cars being constantly sticky and they have to be washed every time we take a car our. Your advise would be welcomed. Very best regards Edward McCarthy
Edwardmac - 8-Apr-17 @ 5:12 PM
Dalton - Your Question:
Hi my neighbours tree branches hang over our garden however I am confused it says cut back to boundary? Confusing part is can I rest a ladder onto tree from my garden and climb into the tree to cut off the branches I will be in the tree not on there floor or in there property what is the law on this

Our Response:
No, the tree is their property so in theory cannot rest a ladder against it as the trunk is on their property so would be trespass. We guess there might not be an issue with leaning a ladder against any branches that overhang your property (just be sure not to cut the ones your ladder is leaning against!)
ProblemNeighbours - 7-Apr-17 @ 1:58 PM
fatboyonabycycle - Your Question:
My Neighbours when in their early50s engineered a row with us retaliated with 2metre fence and 3metre shrubs,blocking out our light ,laced them with brambles,we have to constantly cut them back from our side,we bag up the cuttings and return them to their back gate,however they are now in their 80s and still have the hates for us,and when they find their cuttings returned this couple hurl all sorts of profanities over the fence to us the 'c' word is a favourite,the moral of the story is,just because their old and have big bushes they might not be nice.

Our Response:
The problem is that they have not done anything wrong in constructing a 2 metre fence, nor in growing shrubs in their own garden. If you cut back overhanging branches you should "offer" them back to the owner (they can refuse to take them), not simply dump them at the owner's property. It doesn't excuse rudeness or bad language obviously.
ProblemNeighbours - 6-Apr-17 @ 10:51 AM
Gladys - Your Question:
Hi my neighbour at the bottom of my garden has a protected tree it does say so in our deeds that it is there's,but it has grown so much it hangs over my fence covering half my grassed garden Iv been round and spoke to the owner who say that we are not allowed to cut it back, he wants it cut back as well,he says I have to get in contact with the council please help I think it's dangerous now the tree branches look dead Iv got grandchildren playing in my garden and we have had some already come off Thankyou

Our Response:
Contact your local council's Tree Preservation Officer. They will be able to advise you about what can and can't be done to the tree.
ProblemNeighbours - 5-Apr-17 @ 2:34 PM
My Neighbours when in their early50s engineered a row with us retaliated with 2metre fence and 3metre shrubs,blocking out our light ,laced them with brambles,we have to constantly cut them back from our side,we bag up the cuttings and return them to their back gate,however they are now in their 80s and still have the hates for us,and when they find their cuttings returned this couple hurl all sorts of profanities over the fence to us the 'c' word is a favourite,the moral of the story is,just because their old and have big bushes they might not be nice.
fatboyonabycycle - 4-Apr-17 @ 4:17 PM
Hi my neighbour at the bottom of my garden has a protected tree it does say so in our deeds that it is there's,but it has grown so much it hangs over my fence covering half my grassed garden Iv been round and spoke to the owner who say that we are not allowed to cut it back, he wants it cut back as well,he says I have to get in contact with the council please help I think it's dangerous now the tree branches look dead Iv got grandchildren playing in my garden and we have had some already come off Thankyou
Gladys - 2-Apr-17 @ 3:09 PM
Hi my neighbours tree branches hang over our garden however I am confused it says cut back to boundary? Confusing part is can I rest a ladder onto tree from my garden and climb into the tree to cut off the branches I will be in the tree not on there floor or in there property what is the law on this
Dalton - 1-Apr-17 @ 10:12 PM
wongie - Your Question:
I have neighbours who have let their shrubs and trees grow right up and at some points over the fence. This means everything sheds onto my decking which I try to maintain in good order and then they become slippery and dangerous for me. There are also a number of larger trees against the boundary fence which are grown too high and they are not willing to cut them back these mean that the amount of sunlight into my garden is limited and makes it impossible for me to grow the things I want. What rights do I have I am on a pension and have someone coming tomorrow to cut back but I don't want to have to pay him to take away their garden waste!

Our Response:
You (your gardener) can cut back any branches or growth as far as the boundary. The tree/shrub owners are not responsible for this or for any of the leaves etc that fall into your garden. Any branches can be offered back to the owner but they do not have to accept them.
ProblemNeighbours - 30-Mar-17 @ 12:29 PM
Aderf - Your Question:
Our neighbour planted about 30 pine trees 35 years ago. They are now at 100 feet tall and causing a loot of shade in our garden as the sun passes over. he has since moved but still owns the property but has it let out. we have been in touch with him and he has visited, looked at the trees and said that we could cut how many we wanted, at our cost, but they are not his responsibility as he planted them on common ground.Is this correct?

Our Response:
Ingeneral an owner does not ahve to cut these down but as they're evergreens and there are more than two of them, the High Hedges legislation might apply. We're not sure how he has planted them on common ground but that may not be relevant anyway. Check out our High Hedges information
ProblemNeighbours - 29-Mar-17 @ 2:35 PM
I have neighbours who have let their shrubs and trees grow right up and at some points over the fence.This means everything sheds onto my decking which I try to maintain in good order and then they become slippery and dangerous for me.There are also a number of larger trees against the boundary fence which are grown too high and they are not willing to cut them back these mean that the amount of sunlight into my garden is limited and makes it impossible for me to grow the things I want.What rights do I have I am on a pension and have someone coming tomorrow to cut back but I don't want to have to pay him to take away their garden waste!
wongie - 29-Mar-17 @ 10:30 AM
Our neighbour planted about 30 pine trees 35 years ago. They are now at 100 feet tall and causing a loot of shade in our garden as the sun passes over. he has since moved but still owns the property but has it let out. we have been in touch with him and he has visited, looked at the trees and said that we could cut how many we wanted, at our cost, but they are not his responsibility as he planted them on common ground. Is this correct?
Aderf - 28-Mar-17 @ 1:00 PM
I have a large conifer at the bottom of my garden, my neighbour has not only cut over hanging branches but has had someone cut the entire back of the tree right back to the trunk which is at least 3ft into my property and there is evidence that someone was actually on my property to cut off lower branches, I was not spoken to or asked for permission by my neighbour who has ruined my tree, what can I do ? Thankyou
gen - 24-Mar-17 @ 11:27 AM
we have a tree we are taking down but the roots have grown next door and i want to know if we have to take them up as well, the neighbour is wanting us to dig his garden and relay all his slabs do we have to do this. Thank you Steve.
Steve - 23-Mar-17 @ 1:49 PM
Bones73 - Your Question:
I am next door to a company whose tree has branches growing over my property. A visitor to my property parked their car under the shade of the over hanging branches and one of the branches fell damaging their car. Who is responsible for the damages to the car, me, the next door owner or the owner of the car?

Our Response:
The tree owner is responsible for any damage caused by his/her trees as long as he/she was aware of the potential for the tree to cause that damage. She should try claiming directly from the tree owner, if they refuse to pay, try your own property insurer to see what they advise.
ProblemNeighbours - 21-Mar-17 @ 10:22 AM
Alex - Your Question:
My neighbour is a tenant. A huge tree branch fell from one of his trees and they trespassed into my backyard and throw it amongst my trees on the other side of my backyard to suggest it had fallen from one of my trees. The branch belongs to a tree type I don't have and have identified the tree from which it fallen off.I reported this to the managing Real Estate for them to ask their tenant to remove the branch from my property, but no action had occurred. I have not approached the neighbour myself.Could I just throw the branch and others I discovered back? Where do I stand?

Our Response:
No, just dispose of it yourself or ask the neighbours if they want the branch back. If a branch simply falls off in high winds or storm and damages your property, your home insurance is your easiest option. If you think the tree is dangerous you should mention it the owner or the tenant. They can then get it checked over by a professional...ifit's then established that the tree is dangerous, the owner can be held liable for any damage done by the tree to your property.
ProblemNeighbours - 20-Mar-17 @ 11:20 AM
I am next door to a company whose tree has branches growing over my property. A visitor to my property parked their car under the shade of the over hanging branches and one of the branches fell damaging their car.Who is responsible for the damages to the car, me, the next door owner or the owner of the car?
Bones73 - 18-Mar-17 @ 1:47 AM
My neighbour is a tenant. A huge tree branch fell from one of his trees and they trespassed into my backyard and throw it amongst my trees on the other side of my backyard to suggest it had fallen from one of my trees. The branch belongs to a tree type I don't have and have identified the tree from which it fallen off. I reported this to the managing Real Estate for them to ask their tenant to remove the branch from my property, but no action had occurred. I have not approached the neighbour myself. Could I just throw the branch and others I discovered back? Where do I stand?
Alex - 17-Mar-17 @ 5:03 AM
gardenr - Your Question:
My neighbour has cut my tree without my permission on my side of my fence. Is this illegal? What action can I take as it has ruined the tree and the garden?

Our Response:
Your neighbour is entitled to cut back any branches as far as the boundary. If they have gone further than this and have damaged the tree, you could try claiming for damages via the courts.
ProblemNeighbours - 16-Mar-17 @ 2:38 PM
I meant with No blockages to their front window Thank you
roops - 16-Mar-17 @ 8:35 AM
my neighbour planted a red robin between our front garden borders before I moved into my house, at the time it was very short and i was none the wiser of the problems it would have caused. The red robin has matured and overgrown into my garden. whilst the neighbour has had block paving and a border he cleverly planted the red robin to create a screen which now is a nuisance for me as my garden is a total mess each time the leaves fall i am burdened with the mess.Is it the neighbours responsibility to clear this mess and can i have this red robin cut back completely.Thebranches and roots have mostly taken up my garden and blocked the morning sunshine with the height now over 5ft. No matter how much i tidy my garden the red robin is acting more life a shield than a pretty hedge, i live in a small culdesac and all the other houses on the road have open front space with blockages to their front windows with tall trees or hedges. what can i do. Please advise?
roops - 16-Mar-17 @ 7:16 AM
My neighbour has cut my tree without my permission on my side of my fence.Is this illegal?What action can I take as it has ruined the tree and the garden?
gardenr - 15-Mar-17 @ 7:40 AM
I live in a house where the land behind my garden is council land.My problem is very large trees are behind my fence and are now approximately 4-5 meters over my fence over hanging my garden but the tree is so tall i couldnt possibly trim it
Lairdy - 10-Mar-17 @ 7:08 PM
Cheyenne - Your Question:
My neighbours trees are overhanging my fence. They should be responsible for cutting them and not myself?

Our Response:
No. You can cut them back as far as your boundary if you want to, but there is no obligation on your neighbour to do so.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-Mar-17 @ 2:43 PM
Di - Your Question:
My neighbour has a sixty foot birch tree about 12 feet from our house, we are very concerned it is very close to our property and the roots of the tree could cause subsistence, we are also concerned during times of storm that branches break off or the tree falls which could cause damage to our property. We would like the tree to be cut down, what rights do we have to request the neighbours to do this. We are also considering helping towards the cost of cutting the tree down. Can you advise.

Our Response:
It's unlikely that the roots will cause damage in the future if they haven't already. The tree sounds pretty well established. If you think it's a danger you would need to get an expert to back this up with fact. You can then alert your neighbours to the real possibility of any damge. Roots rarely cause subsidence or damage to walls/foundations that are already in place. You can remove the roots that encroach onto your side of the property at your own expense as long this does not damage the tree (if it does you can be held liable for costs etc). You can't demand the removal of a health tree just in case the branches might blow off in a storm. Again, you can trim back any branches that are overhanging your side of the property.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-Mar-17 @ 12:40 PM
My neighbours trees are overhanging my fence. They should be responsible for cutting them and not myself?
Cheyenne - 10-Mar-17 @ 9:07 AM
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