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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 22 Jun 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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I came home from work today to find my neighbour has been in my garden cut down the bottom of my tree cleared 3 ft of ivy from the bottom mad a huge mess and left me with massive holes in a lovely old ivy/tree even dug out my Holly bush!!!!!
Tlg - 22-Jun-16 @ 10:16 PM
Angry- Your Question:
I bought my property and branches and bushes from a housing association land are coming into my property they are nettles and weeds. I an disabled and are unable to cut them back. Please who is responsible for maintaining this???

Our Response:
You can choose to cut back anything growing over your side of the boundary. You may be able to get help from the council or a charitable organisation to do this, or maybe a family member could help you? If these are "injurious" weeds such as pear thistle,creeping or field thistle, curled dock, broad-leaved dock and ragwort. You may be able to take legal action.
ProblemNeighbours - 22-Jun-16 @ 2:37 PM
I bought my property and branches and bushes from a housing association land are coming into my property they are nettles and weeds. I an disabled and are unable to cut them back. Please who is responsible for maintaining this???
Angry - 21-Jun-16 @ 10:11 PM
Caz - Your Question:
I live in apartment and there is a lady who lives underneath. She never has been nice since the day I moved in. She has two fruit trees which are now upto the guttering and an oak which is now over the roof. As I'm upstairs roof and gutter my responsibility. We own our apartments but it's in the contract of sale of property. I asked her to cut them last year but she didn't. What's my next step. Thank you

Our Response:
What's in the contract of sale? Is she supposed to keep them below a certain height etc?
ProblemNeighbours - 20-Jun-16 @ 12:00 PM
I live in apartment and there is a lady who lives underneath. She never has been nice since the day I moved in. She has two fruit trees which are now upto the guttering and an oak which is now over the roof. As I'm upstairs roof and gutter my responsibility. We own our apartments but it's in the contract of sale of property. I asked her to cut them last year but she didn't. What's my next step. Thank you
Caz - 18-Jun-16 @ 5:32 PM
We have a tree that is over grown and very large its branches over hang onto our garden. I have not asked our neighbour yet but is it their responsibility to pay for it to be cut back and maintained. Thank you in advance. Steve evans
Steve - 17-Jun-16 @ 7:01 PM
WooWoo - Your Question:
I live in a flat, which has joint owner ship of the pathway with the lady whom lives underneath me. She is not the easiest person to get on with or talk to. The main problem I have at the moment the tree that is in her garden is now growing over the joint pathway and also a lot of it is on the public path way. Am I with in my rights to cut it all back, or what can I do. It's also getting so tall that it is begining to block out the in my front room. Any advice/help would be great. Thank you

Our Response:
Do you both have a landlord who would normally deal with this? If you're owners, is there a management company etc?
ProblemNeighbours - 17-Jun-16 @ 2:05 PM
Hello...I have a tree that is over hanging half of my garden. My garden isn't very big as I live in a flat. Me and my upstairs neighbour have different landlords but the landlords are family so they know eachother. Anyway I phoned the estate agents last year inquiring wheather it could be cut down or cut back at least but I got no reply back. I don't want to ask again as I hate being a nag. But the tree completely blocks out the sun and don't get me started on the leaves and the bugs. Is there anything I can do? I have already cut some away from what I can reach from my garden but it hasn't done anything. Please help.
maria - 16-Jun-16 @ 4:22 PM
Poppy - Your Question:
Hi, I am a female pensioner living alone with a very large garden ,my garden is lovely and I try to keep it well maintained. I have a male neighbour of a similar age who has the same sized garden but does nothing to it ,half of his garden is sectioned off and is completely overgrown( no one could possibly manage to walk in this bottom half of his garden , My problem is the trees at the bottom of his garden have leaned to my fencing and pushed the fencing forward,I will have to replace this even though I don't know which side of the fencing is my responsibility as my former husband put fencing round both sides also the bottom of my garden , The trees are buddlias ,they look very beautiful and attract butterflies but also hang very low into my garden which means I have to climb onto a wall and try to balance to cut them back , but as I'm getting older it is now difficult for me to safely do this , I also have to cut back rambles that come through and over my fencing Have I a legal right to send this man a letter asking him to please do something about his garden , My neighbour is a very rude man and does not communicate with me , Any advise it will be welcomed , Thankyou ,

Our Response:
In general there's not a great deal you can do, take a look at our guide to Overgrown and Messy Gardens for more information.
ProblemNeighbours - 16-Jun-16 @ 10:35 AM
I live in a flat, which has joint owner ship of the pathway with the lady whom lives underneath me. She is not the easiest person to get on with or talk to. The main problem I have at the moment the tree that is in her garden is now growing over the joint pathway and also a lot of it is on the public path way. Am I with in my rights to cut it all back, or what can I do. It's also getting so tall that it is begining to block out the in my front room. Any advice/help would be great. Thank you
WooWoo - 16-Jun-16 @ 12:35 AM
Evielyn15 - Your Question:
I have been applying resolve weed killer to a 3ft wall around the bottom of the wall in our front garden. I have been receiving complains about it from a neighbour saying it had killed their plants as the weed killer could have gone air Bourne and I did not know that as it had no warning onPackaging. 2. We live in a Roural part of the city were rodents sometimes like to visit the garden, I have been putting bait killer down on our land away from animals and people alike and still get complains from neighbours. 3. We have a 5ft round hedge tree in our front garden and I trim and keep in shape regularly to avoid over growing yet my neighbors cut our tree clearly when its roots and foundations grow on our property any help?

Our Response:
The first one is difficult to prove, but maybe if in future you try a different method, your neighbours cannot complain. Second question, there's nothing to prevent you from putting legally obtainable pest killer on your own property - as long it will only kill the pests it’s intended for. Thirdly, if the hedge is entirely on your property, you neighbours are committing both trrespassand criminal damage. We suggest some pleasant conversation and a general agreement with your neighbours over these issues.
ProblemNeighbours - 15-Jun-16 @ 2:28 PM
Hi, I am a female pensioner living alone with a very large garden ,my garden is lovely and I try to keep it well maintained . I have a male neighbour of a similar age who has the same sized garden but does nothing to it ,half of his garden is sectioned off and is completely overgrown( no one could possibly manage to walk in this bottom half of his garden , My problem is the trees at the bottom of his garden have leaned to my fencing and pushed the fencing forward,I will have to replace this even though I don't know which side of the fencing is my responsibility as my former husband put fencing round both sides also the bottom of my garden , The trees are buddlias ,they look very beautiful and attract butterflies but also hang very low into my garden which means I have to climb onto a wall and try to balance to cut them back , but as I'm getting older it is now difficult for me to safely do this , I also have to cut back rambles that come through and over my fencing Have I a legal right to send this man a letter asking him to please do something about his garden , My neighbour is a very rude man and does not communicate with me , Any advise it will be welcomed , Thankyou ,
Poppy - 14-Jun-16 @ 1:48 PM
I have been applying resolve weed killer to a 3ft wall around the bottom of the wall in our front garden. I have been receiving complains about it from a neighbour saying it had killed their plants as the weed killer could have gone air Bourne and I did not know that as it had no warning on Packaging. 2. We live in a Roural part of the city were rodents sometimes like to visit the garden, I have been putting bait killer down on our land away from animals and people alike and still get complains from neighbours. 3. We have a 5ft round hedge tree in our front garden and I trim and keep in shape regularly to avoid over growing yet my neighbors cut our tree clearly when its roots and foundations grow on our property any help?
Evielyn15 - 13-Jun-16 @ 9:05 PM
Jme - Your Question:
Our neighbours have climbing clematis and a few trees that we have to keep cutting back from overhanging in our garden and then have to get rid of all the rubbishy, can we throw it back into their garden so that they have to get rid of it?

Our Response:
No, you can offer back any branches but your neighbour does not have to accept them.
ProblemNeighbours - 13-Jun-16 @ 1:57 PM
Our neighbours have climbing clematis and a few trees that we have to keep cutting back from overhanging in our garden and then have to get rid of all the rubbishy, can we throw it back into their garden so that they have to get rid of it?
Jme - 10-Jun-16 @ 6:19 PM
Mac1 - Your Question:
I have just been asked by a neighbour to cut down a tree as the branches overhang their patio and things seem to be dropping from it on to it and their washing line (in both cases this is a well established tree they knew was there before they decided to put both things under it)They expect us to foot the cost of taking the tree down, I have no wish to take the tree down at all, and certainly not the money for the cost.Can I advise them that I am happy for them to take down the overhanging branches (at their own cost) and be done with it?

Our Response:
Yes you are under no obligation to remove the tree, or cut any overhanging branches. If they want to cut back the branches themselves they can do, but only as far as the boundary.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-Jun-16 @ 10:09 AM
Hi I am a landowner with conifers around the perimeter of our land, I am currently in a dispute with a neighbour whom has had a quote from a waste of space so called tree surgeon to cut the branches back on his boundary and throw branches cut over our fence! Their are over 10 species of birds nesting in my trees and bird of prey visit these trees. Now the height of my conifers is significant and I need to know we're I stand, I've had problems like these before and the rspb stated at no time could I be forced to cut them back, however are they allowed to trim them back? Thanks
Chrissy - 9-Jun-16 @ 5:15 PM
Graeme - Your Question:
Hi, I have a tree which is right in front of my house on the pavement (not on my property but on the 'sidewalk') in the warm weather it sapps all over my car and garden wall and up the footpath to my front door. Its ruining my car but I have knowhere else to park, I have spoken to the council to see if they could remove it but I was told it wasnt a nuisance tree, it doesnt get maintained i.e cut back or trimmed and I am at the end of my teather with it, my kids cant play in the front as the grass and pavement are so sticky and you can actually feel it drip onto you. Is there anything else I could do before I go mad??? Helpppp. Thankyou in advance

Our Response:
Unfortunately you cannot get it removed. You could consider a loose cover for your car and easily washable wellies/plastic sandals for the kids?
ProblemNeighbours - 9-Jun-16 @ 1:00 PM
We have been living in our house for 10 years.We have never had a boundary on the front of the house with next door (who we are joined to).New neighbours have moved in and planted a hedge right up against our boundary, which was determined before just by the end of our driveway and some plant pots on our side, and on their side, the grass.Our neighbour is not a gardener, and is letting this hedge grow and grow.He never mentioned to us that he was going to plant a hedge, we never wanted a hedge there.Is there anything we can do about having him remove the hedge?
HF - 9-Jun-16 @ 9:54 AM
I have just been asked by a neighbour to cut down a tree as the branches overhang their patio and things seem to be dropping from it on to it and their washing line (in both cases this is a well established tree they knew was there before they decided to put both things under it) They expect us to foot the cost of taking the tree down, I have no wish to take the tree down at all, and certainly not the money for the cost. Can I advise them that I am happy for them to take down the overhanging branches (at their own cost) and be done with it?
Mac1 - 8-Jun-16 @ 6:40 PM
Hi, i have a tree which is right in front of my house on the pavement (not on my property but on the 'sidewalk') in the warm weather it sapps all over my car and garden wall and up the footpath to my front door. Its ruining my car but i have knowhere else to park, i have spoken to the council to see if they could remove it but i was told it wasnt a nuisance tree, it doesnt get maintained i.e cut back or trimmed and i am at the end of my teather with it, my kids cant play in the front as the grass and pavement are so sticky and you can actually feel it drip onto you. Is there anything else i could do before i go mad??? Helpppp. Thankyou in advance
Graeme - 8-Jun-16 @ 12:12 PM
Dawnie - Your Question:
I have a 3ft tall fence adjoining next door and a (very) short privet hedge (5ft long) that is probably 1ft taller than the fence. My neighbour has trimmed the hedge that was hanging over onto their property, however, she has also trimmed the top of the hedge (that she could reach from her side) and has left the hedge looking unbalanced. I'm ok with her trimming the bits that overhang but can a neighbour legally reduce the height of the hedge? By the way the hedge isn't blocking any light.

Our Response:
Is it your hedge? If so, in theory, your neighbour should not trim as it would be criminal damage. Your hedge however, should not occupy any of the air space above your neighbour's land which gives her the right to trim it back to the boundary. If the top also extends over the boundary, then of course she will want to tidy it up and can do so but only the part on her side of the boundary. If it's a shared hedge, you have to agree on a procedure for mutual trimming.
ProblemNeighbours - 8-Jun-16 @ 10:23 AM
I live next to a church and there is an Oak tree with a tpo next to my fence which over the years has been forced to lean mostly over my fence by a large sycamore. The main Oak tree is pushing my fencing out of line and the majority of the Oak hangs over my property! Does any one know if I can cut this Oak back in line with my fence?
David Bone - 7-Jun-16 @ 10:19 PM
Nell - Your Question:
I have a neighbour threatening to cut off the top of my red robin and bamboo which is appox 10/12 in height! Can she do this???

Our Response:
No, your neighbour can only remove branches that are overhanging their side of the boundary.
ProblemNeighbours - 7-Jun-16 @ 2:01 PM
Sandy - Your Question:
Can I throw back any over hanging branches from neighbours tree after I have cut them off?

Our Response:
No, you can offer them back to your neighbour, but if they refuse to accept them, you must dispose of them yourself.
ProblemNeighbours - 7-Jun-16 @ 10:36 AM
I have a 3ft tall fence adjoining next door and a (very) short privet hedge (5ft long) that is probably 1ft taller than the fence. My neighbour has trimmed the hedge that was hanging over onto their property, however, she has also trimmed the top of the hedge (that she could reach from her side) and has left the hedge looking unbalanced. I'm ok with her trimming the bits that overhang but can a neighbour legally reduce the height of the hedge? By the way the hedge isn't blocking any light.
Dawnie - 6-Jun-16 @ 4:32 PM
sjc - Your Question:
A neighbour has a massive tree that has many branches over hanging my garden. She refuses to do anything about it and the tip of 1 branch is less than 1 meter away from my roof. (My garden is 7 foot long so shows how big the tree is to be that close!) We have been told by our housing association we can cut anything back but it is too high up for us to do ourselves and can't afford a tree surgeon. What are our legal rights here?

Our Response:
Unfortunately there is nothing you can do about this tree unless it causes actual damage to your property.
ProblemNeighbours - 6-Jun-16 @ 2:08 PM
I have a neighbour threatening to cut off the top of my red robin and bamboo which is appox 10/12 in height! Can she do this???
Nell - 5-Jun-16 @ 11:03 PM
Can I throw back any over hanging branches from neighbours tree after I have cut them off?
Sandy - 5-Jun-16 @ 11:49 AM
A neighbour has a massive tree that has many branches over hanging my garden. She refuses to do anything about it and the tip of 1 branch is less than 1 meter away from my roof. (My garden is 7 foot long so shows how big the tree is to be that close!) We have been told by our housing association we can cut anything back but it is too high up for us to do ourselves and can't afford a tree surgeon. What are our legal rights here?
sjc - 4-Jun-16 @ 4:03 PM
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