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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 20 Jan 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 neighbour wants to build a new extension in his garden close to my garden boundary and asked me to remove my conifers. My conifers have been there for over 20 years. I understand he can remove the roots that grow into his garden but surely he has no right to remove my trees? Any advice appreciated. Thanks.
Resident - 20-Jan-17 @ 6:20 PM
There are three very large sycamores that are now nearly 30 years old and are on Crown Escheate Land.Residents in the Close are forever having to clear guttering of leaves and seedlings that are self sowing from the trees. These trees are now 40ft+ tall. Unfortunately the Crown Solicitorsor the local Authority (Norwich City Council) will do anything about these overgrown trees.What can we do as residents affected by these trees?
NeedHelp - 14-Jan-17 @ 2:57 PM
Hi, My neighbours have a huge eucalyptus ree in their garden, only a couple of foot from the dividing fence, which is mine. The tree roots have previously started to force up the concrete fence posts, so I spoke to them (we have history of problems, but we now try to stay civil) and explained it was damaging my property. They 'couldn't afford' to contribute to the removal of the root, so I foot the bill to avoid further damage. In the very strong winds we've had overnight, the tree has started to lean inwards into their garden, but this is forcing the bigger roots up and my fence posts and panels - the ones I've just paid to have repaired, are being forced up again, but this time much worse. With every gust, the ground moves up and down by at least a few inches - I videoed it on my phone and could feel the garden moving under my feet. I need to have these big roots removed asap, but I know for a fact they won't offer me any money for the tree surgeon. I'm aware that if we remove very large roots, it could kill the tree. Where do I stand on this?
RhythmChic - 13-Jan-17 @ 12:08 PM
Billy - Your Question:
I live in a house converted into two flats, I live in the first floor flat, I have access to a parking space at the front of the property. The people on the ground floor are responsible for the front garden which has two large trees, one of the trees, which is a Magnolia and is between 25 and 30 feet in height.The tree, depending on time of year, are constantly shedding leaves or its fruits onto the space allocated for my parking.The trees throughout the year block out around 90% of the light into our two bedrooms that are at the front.The people have shown no interest in reducing the size to help the situation.What, if anything are my rights?

Our Response:
Do you have a landlord? If so they may be able to help you. If you own the property, is there anything in your deeds that says you can keep your parking space clear etc?
ProblemNeighbours - 11-Jan-17 @ 2:26 PM
I live in a house converted into two flats, I live in the first floor flat, I have access to a parking space at the front of the property. The people on the ground floor are responsible for the front garden which has two large trees, one of the trees, which is a Magnolia and is between 25 and 30 feet in height. The tree, depending on time of year, are constantly shedding leaves or its fruits onto the space allocated for my parking. The trees throughout the year block out around 90% of the light into our two bedrooms that are at the front. The people have shown no interest in reducing the size to help the situation. What, if anything are my rights?
Billy - 10-Jan-17 @ 6:56 PM
ambient - Your Question:
Hello,What is the situation please with a tree growing on a piece of land that is being neglected, or where the owner of that land as registered on the Land Registry has likely passed away and the heirs are untraceable? The land in question is an alleyway between the gardens of two opposing properties, but none of the properties abutting to the alleyway own the alleyway itself.The particular tree of concern is encroaching across the boundary of my land and has grown overtall and is blocking light. It just needs some trimming back and the top cutting. If I arrange for the work to be done what is my situation legally speaking?Thanks,

Our Response:
You are entitled to cut off any branches that grow over your side of the boundary. If you want tocut back any other part of the tree you will need to make some effort to trace the owners, rather than simply assuming they are untraceable etc. If the owner cannot be traced speak to your local authority (possibly the highways department) and see if they can assist.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-Jan-17 @ 12:00 PM
My neighbours have an established oak tree in their back garden. It currently blocks pretty much all light at the back of my property. The leaves and acorns fill my garden and the flat roof of my brick built shed. After a search it appears that there is no TPO in place on the tree, but when I asked the neighbour they informed me that there was something in his deeds that prevented him cutting it down. There is a protected scotch pine immediately behind the oak in another garden and I think they may be confusing the two. My question is, if there is no TPO am I permitted to lop any overhanging branches regardless of any restrictive covenant or planning conditions that may be in place on the neighbours?
Damo1978 - 9-Jan-17 @ 5:54 PM
Hello, What is the situation please with a tree growing on a piece of land that is being neglected, or where the owner of that land as registered on the Land Registry has likely passed away and the heirs are untraceable? The land in question is an alleyway between the gardens of two opposing properties, but none of the properties abutting to the alleyway own the alleyway itself. The particular tree of concern is encroaching across the boundary of my land and has grown overtall and is blocking light. It just needs some trimming back and the top cutting. If I arrange for the work to be done what is my situation legally speaking? Thanks,
ambient - 9-Jan-17 @ 12:00 PM
Per Plexed - Your Question:
My neighbour has a tree within their boundary and which, over the past number of years has continued to grow. The issue is that it has now started pressing against the boundary fence, which is maintained by us, and which has caused bevelling to the point where we are concerned that it will soon break. It is already causing damage to the plants on our side of the fence. What our are rights?

Our Response:
If the branches are leaning on your fence, you are entitled to cut them back. If it's the trunk that is causing problems you should discuss this with your neighbours. If the tree causes actual damage to your fence and they're aware of this danger before it occurs, they will be liable to pay for the damage. They may agree to remove the tree or to contribute towards the cost of moving the fence so that it it abutts the tree trunk either side or re-constructed around it.
ProblemNeighbours - 4-Jan-17 @ 11:39 AM
My neighbour has a tree within their boundary and which, over the past number of years has continued to grow. The issue is that it has now started pressing against the boundary fence, which is maintained by us, and which has caused bevelling to the point where we are concerned that it will soon break. It is already causing damage to the plants on our side of the fence. What our are rights?
Per Plexed - 3-Jan-17 @ 7:19 AM
Hi guys i have a question in regards to hedges been cut down at our home/dog rescue centre. We awoke one morning a few weeks ago to fing our 8 foot hedges cut down to 4 foot . They had also been cut at the sides, which left the hedges almost see through. We are private renting this site and we have many dogs here we are trying to keep safe as well as there being sheep on the neighbouring land. When i called the owner of the land about this problem , he told me it was the law of the land! We expalined that we thought the law of the land would involve letting your neighbours know beforehand? We have dogs here with a high prey drive and two of our own family pets were shot dead whilst under control by a local farmer. He knew they were our dogs as we rang him to say they got out as the bounderies hjad completely exposed our yard and made our dogs more aware of what was in the next field. Having had our lanlord come to asses the perimetere he explained that the hedges were part of his boundarie and they had never been cut back so far in all the years he was here. We do have pictures of before and after and where the boundary line was cut right back by an extra good metre or 2. We understand we are responsible for our dogs as we told the farmer we wqould pay for any damage that it should be us held liable and niot our dogs. There has been many factors to how our dogs got out but the main factor being the boundary hedges. We posted a tribute of our dogs shortly affter they were shot. The owner of the land contacted us via their PA asking us to remove ooiur post and if not to remove the part aout the hedging being cut down. He told me it was the law of the land and hes within his rights to do so between sept and march in which i was already aware of. What i dont understand is why someone would do this knowing we are a charity organisation who soley volunteer to help many dogs throughout ireland. I would love to have some feedback or if anyone can tell me if what he did was against the law ? Regards Jo.
Jo - 9-Dec-16 @ 3:51 PM
Hi guys i have a question in regards to hedges been cut down at our home/dog rescue centre. We awoke one morning a few weeks ago to fing our 8 foot hedges cut down to 4 foot . They had also been cut at the sides, which left the hedges almost see through. We are private renting this site and we have many dogs here we are trying to keep safe as well as there being sheep on the neighbouring land. When i called the owner of the land about this problem , he told me it was the law of the land! We expalined that we thought the law of the land would involve letting your neighbours know beforehand? We have dogs here with a high prey drive and two of our own family pets were shot dead whilst under control by a local farmer. He knew they were our dogs as we rang him to say they got out as the bounderies hjad completely exposed our yard and made our dogs more aware of what was in the next field. Having had our lanlord come to asses the perimetere he explained that the hedges were part of his boundarie and they had never been cut back so far in all the years he was here. We do have pictures of before and after and where the boundary line was cut right back by an extra good metre or 2. We understand we are responsible for our dogs as we told the farmer we wqould pay for any damage that it should be us held liable and niot our dogs. There has been many factors to how our dogs got out but the main factor being the boundary hedges. We posted a tribute of our dogs shortly affter they were shot. The owner of the land contacted us via their PA asking us to remove ooiur post and if not to remove the part aout the hedging being cut down. He told me it was the law of the land and hes within his rights to do so between sept and march in which i was already aware of. What i dont understand is why someone would do this knowing we are a charity organisation who soley volunteer to help many dogs throughout ireland. I would love to have some feedback or if anyone can tell me if what he did was against the law ? Regards Jo.
Jo - 9-Dec-16 @ 2:50 PM
We moved in to our property 3 years ago. During the first months we became friendly with the neighbours. All but one of whom was very understanding about conifers that border our property. The trees stand within our boundary and we make sure they are trimmed bi annually to ensure they do not encroach our neighbours land, airspace or views. However there is a silver Birch that stands in one garden that is now well over twice the height of the neighbouring houses (All bungalows). When asked if this neighbour trimmed the tree, the response received was very aggressive, and No it was not getting trimmed it would be allowed to grow! Since then the neighbour has sadly passed away, and I have nor wished to raise the subject with his widow. Although the tree does cause shadow over half of the garden in the summer, if it grows much further it will be reducing the light falling on my Solar panels after 4pm during the summer. I do like the tree , it is very pretty but it's a real pain with regards to seeds and leaves. It's just getting TOO tall. Any suggestions?
Tinhat - 8-Dec-16 @ 7:21 AM
My neighbor has 6coconut palm trees about 7 ft. Tall with coconut. I have a new tile roof. The trees hang over. My fence and roof. I have the right to cut them back. Need reference to a tree surgeon. My phone number is 305- 301-4833. Any suggestions, advice I would appreciate. I am SR. Citizen
Need help - 7-Dec-16 @ 4:05 PM
My neighbours fern tree borders my driveway. It sheds and the ferns go all over my car & in my cars front grill causing problems especially with the air con.it doesnt overhang my drive at the moment but it has in the past and I've complained to the neighbour. Can I do anything about it?
mollykins - 7-Dec-16 @ 12:26 PM
ivy - Your Question:
My neighbour has ivy growing on a panel of fence against the house, but as you can imagine it has grown over covering my side completely.It has even started growing up the wall of my house. It grows wild and thick and it is very hard to keep cutting back. I know its his fence but it looks very unsightly and it hard work for me to keep on top of. Is there anything I can do to have him remove it completely and if I cut back on my side can I drop it over his side of the fence seeing as it belongs to him anyway.

Our Response:
No not really, you could try asking him? But he isn't obliged to cut it back.
ProblemNeighbours - 7-Dec-16 @ 11:29 AM
My neighbour has ivy growing on a panel offence against the house, but as you can imagine it has grown over covering my side completely.It has even started growing up the wall of my house.It grows wild and thick and it is very hard to keep cutting back. I know its his fence butit looks very unsightly and it hard work for me to keep on top of. Is there anything i can do to have him remove it completely and if i cut back on my side can i drop it over his side of the fence seeing as it belongs to him anyway.
ivy - 6-Dec-16 @ 10:13 AM
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
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