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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 10 Oct 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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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
JDogg - Your Question:
When my next door neighbour moved in he planted a privet hedge flush up against my footpath (planting guidelines are that they be planted 3 feet away from the boundary), he also planted at least two different sgrubs alongside the wall that separates our properties, these are now 2.7 metres in height in parts. He has never trimmed any of this, instead leaving it to me to trim it back. What action can I take to get him to (A) reduce the height of his hedge alongside my wall to the legal height of two metres, and (B) get him to cut back the privet hedge to the boundary line, I am sure that I've read somewhere that as it is overgrowing my path, he is legally responsible for cutting it back and if he does not, I can hire someone to do it and send him the bill. I know that I can cut back the hedge that overgrows my wall into my garden, I am concerned about the issue that the privet hedge grows over my path as not only is it blocking access for the postman and other visitors to my house, it is now rubbing along the side of my car when I park in my driveway which is alongside the path.

Our Response:
The neighbour is not under any obligation to reduce the height of the hedge. You neighbour is not responsible for cutting back overhanging growth on your side of the boundary, you can however, cut it back yourself. You can cut the hedge back as far as your boundary (including roots) to keep your path clear. The highHigh hedges leglisation might help you if the problem with the height becomes too much.
ProblemNeighbours - 11-Oct-17 @ 12:36 PM
When my next door neighbour moved in he planted a privet hedge flush up against my footpath (planting guidelines are that they be planted 3 feet away from the boundary), he also planted at least two different sgrubs alongside the wall that separates our properties, these are now 2.7 metres in height in parts. He has never trimmed any of this, instead leaving it to me to trim it back. What action can I take to get him to (A) reduce the height of his hedge alongside my wall to the legal height of two metres, and (B) get him to cut back the privet hedge to the boundary line, I am sure that I've read somewhere that as it is overgrowing my path, he is legally responsible for cutting it back and if he does not, I can hire someone to do it and send him the bill. I know that I can cut back the hedge that overgrows my wall into my garden, I am concerned about the issue that the privet hedge grows over my path as not only is it blocking access for the postman and other visitors to my house, it is now rubbing along the side of my car when I park in my driveway which is alongside the path.
JDogg - 10-Oct-17 @ 12:10 PM
Carlos - Your Question:
We have council trees overhanging our garden and blocking sunlight any advice please on getting branches removed thanks

Our Response:
You can cut back any overhanging branches as far as the boundary. There is not much you can do about the lack of sunlight into your garden unfortunately. If the trees are evergreen, you may be able to take action under the high hedges act...see our guide here for more information.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-Oct-17 @ 10:52 AM
Scaley - Your Question:
Hi. We have a neighbours tree (not sure which type) that is overhanging our garden. I want to cut it back to my fence line. However, the majority of the tree is overhanging and I'm worried that cutting so much of it back may kill it.It blocks the sun in the evening and covers our garden with leaves.Please could you advise?

Our Response:
You can cut back branches but not the trunk. If you're worried that doing so might kill or damage the tree, it might be worth discussing it with the tree owner and also seeking advice from a tree surgeon or arboriculturalist.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-Oct-17 @ 10:28 AM
We have council trees overhanging our garden and blocking sunlight any advice please on getting branches removed thanks
Carlos - 7-Oct-17 @ 10:36 AM
Hi. We have a neighbours tree (not sure which type) that is overhanging our garden. I want to cut it back to my fence line. However, the majority of the tree is overhanging and I'm worried that cutting so much of it back may kill it. It blocks the sun in the evening and covers our garden with leaves. Please could you advise?
Scaley - 7-Oct-17 @ 9:19 AM
hi our neighbours tree is overhanging our side passage to our house and now the branches are pressing up against our house.what can i do about this?can i ask them to have it cut back due to it pressing up against the house?
missbossy - 5-Oct-17 @ 6:07 PM
Mo - Your Question:
My neighbour has four birch trees approx 80 ft high on our boundary. One of these trees leans right over our fence so the majority of the trunk and canopy are in our garden. We get no sun in our garden, when they have a lovely sunny garden. We would like to cut the tree down to the fence, do we have to inform them of our intentions. We have spoken to them in the past and they are not willing for us to cut any height of the trees even when we will be paying.

Our Response:
You can't cut down a tree that does not belong to you. You can only cut back overhanging branches (i.e not reduce the actual height of the tree) back as far as the boundary.
ProblemNeighbours - 29-Sep-17 @ 1:00 PM
My neighbour has four birch trees approx 80 ft high on our boundary.One of these trees leans right over our fence so the majority of the trunk and canopy are in our garden.We get no sun in our garden, when they have a lovely sunny garden.....We would like to cut the tree down to the fence, do we have to inform them of our intentions. We have spoken to them in the past and they are not willing for us to cut any height of the trees even when we will be paying.
Mo - 27-Sep-17 @ 7:38 PM
Perno - Your Question:
My small cherry tree overhangs into my neighbours garden, since they have been living there from 2005 we have told them that we are happy for them to cut the tree back on their side to the fence line without having to ask us, and indeed they have done this every year themselves or by engaging a gardener to do it for them. She is now asking us to arrange for this to be done at our expense! Does she have the right to do so?

Our Response:
No. A tree owner is under no obligation to cut back branches that overhang a neighbour's garden. If your neighbour doesn't want the branches overhanging her garden, she can arrange to cut them back at her own expense.
ProblemNeighbours - 19-Sep-17 @ 2:33 PM
Artz - Your Question:
I have an Indian Bean tree which grows near the fence which separates my garden from my neighbour's. Every third year I employ a tree surgeon to cut back excessive growth to ensure that it does not overhang the fence.You have clearly explained the law relating to the cutting back and disposal of branches but my problem is with fallen leaves. My neighbour collects them up from his property then throws them over the fence into my garden; his reasoning is that they are my leaves and he has a right to dispose of them in this way. I would be grateful to know how the law relates to this (albeit petty) action. Thank you.

Our Response:
This might be considered fly tipping and/or trespass. On private land the responsibility for clearance of fly-tipped waste rests with the landowner. Your local authority might be able to offer you advice on the action you can take. A tree owner is under no obligation to clear up fallen leaves from a neighbour's garden, falling leaves are not regarded as a "nuisance" in law.
ProblemNeighbours - 19-Sep-17 @ 2:15 PM
My small cherry tree overhangs into my neighbours garden, since they have been living there from 2005 we have told them that we are happy for them to cut the tree back on their side to the fence line without having to ask us, and indeed they have done this every year themselves or by engaging a gardener to do it for them. She is now asking us to arrange for this to be done at our expense! Does she have the right to do so?
Perno - 18-Sep-17 @ 4:21 PM
I have an Indian Bean tree which grows near the fence which separates my garden from my neighbour's.Every third year I employ a tree surgeon to cut back excessive growth to ensure that it does not overhang the fence. You have clearly explained the law relating to the cutting back and disposal of branches but my problem is with fallen leaves.My neighbour collects them up from his property then throws them over the fence into my garden;his reasoning is that they are my leaves and he has a right to dispose of them in this way. I would be grateful to know how the law relates to this (albeit petty) action. Thank you.
Artz - 18-Sep-17 @ 1:11 PM
Ringo - Your Question:
We have a church next to us, that has 12+ conifers which have now grown to over 20+ feet, and they all overhang on to our property. it took 5 months to get in contact with the Priest as he is always traveling the church itself has had no meetings or gatherings in the last 14 months. He has a caretaker/grounds mans but the priest has no funds for the work to be done, yet they got 3 quotes to take them down to the root, trim the top, trim back to a legal limit. That was in May, when the funds were supposedly available, it was within the season where they could not be trimmed due to nesting, that ran from july to end of august. I have approached again and now this is no funds. I have offered to pay for the hedges to be cut back to about 9 feet and maintain them with every other year I will get them trimmed if required. but all I get is can we chat about that. so I am now forced to look at getting a legal document drawn up with intentions to get myside trimmed back possible take the top off if deemed dangerous or causing damage to my property, passing over the trimmings to the church for there disposal and then claiming back the cost. I am at loss why there is no sensibility here even when you offer to pay for the trimming. does anyone have any ideas what else I can do before I do go down the legal route PLEASE

Our Response:
Write the diocesan headquarters you can find a list of the Church of England Dioceses here and the Catholic dioceses here if you're willing to pay for the trees to be reduced in height and to maintain them, most parishes would jump at the chance!
ProblemNeighbours - 15-Sep-17 @ 2:37 PM
We have a church next to us, that has 12+ conifers which have now grown to over 20+ feet, and they all overhang on to our property.it took 5 months to get in contact with the Priest as he is always traveling the church itself has had no meetings or gatherings in the last 14 months.He has a caretaker/grounds mans but the priest has no funds for the work to be done, yet they got 3 quotes to take them down to the root, trim the top, trim back to a legal limit. That was in May, when the funds were supposedly available, it was within the season where they could not be trimmed due to nesting, that ran from july to end of august. i have approached again and now this is no funds. i have offered to pay for the hedges to be cut back to about 9 feet and maintain them with every other year i will get them trimmed if required.but all iget is can we chat about that. so i am now forced to look at getting a legal document drawn up with intentions to get myside trimmed back possible take the top off if deemed dangerous or causing damage to my property, passing over the trimmings to the church for there disposal and then claiming back the cost.i am at loss why there is no sensibility here even when you offer to pay for the trimming. does anyone have any ideas what else i can do before i do go down the legal routePLEASE
Ringo - 15-Sep-17 @ 1:14 PM
Linda - Your Question:
I have several large confer trees and 1 hugh ash tree that are in my neighbours garden and overhang well into my garden. These trees have a preservation order on them, so we are unable to cut them back to our boundary. Also these trees are extremely high now, and every time the wind blows strongly, we are concerned as if they did blow down it would be straight onto our property. We have approached our neighbours, who were not very accommodating, as they "like the trees". We have also been in touch with the council regarding our concerns, but their response was it is up them (the neighbours) to do something about it if they want to. What are our rights, as it is simply not just a case of overhanging trees, but trees that have grown considerably.

Our Response:
Ask the neighbours if they/you can get an arboriculturalist or tree surgeon to check the trees out. If they're deemed to be unhealthy and therefore dangerous, you can try to take it further.
ProblemNeighbours - 12-Sep-17 @ 2:07 PM
I have several large confer trees and 1 hugh ash tree that are in my neighbours garden and overhang well into my garden.These trees have a preservation order on them, so we are unable to cut them back to our boundary.Also these trees are extremely high now, and every time the wind blows strongly, we are concerned as if they did blow down it would be straight onto our property.We have approached our neighbours, who were not very accommodating, as they "like the trees".We have also been in touch with the council regarding our concerns, but their response was it is up them (the neighbours) to do something about it if they want to.What are our rights, as it is simply not just a case of overhanging trees, but trees that have grown considerably.
Linda - 11-Sep-17 @ 3:04 PM
@Lesan. Your post said your neighbour has snipped some leaves off your laurel bush. It didn't mention any of the details you've just responded with!
WendyTheresaFarrow - 11-Sep-17 @ 12:27 PM
To Wendy Theresa Farrow. You need to walk a mile in my shoes. The sed neighbour has reversed her car at my daughter and grandaughter, pulled out in front of me, ripped plants from my garden, constantly bangs on the party wall, has poisoned her other neighbours plants and harassed them (she went to court for that). I have been advised to record everything by the police so they can gather evidence for harrassment and needed to check my facts. You ought not to be so judgemental
Lesan - 9-Sep-17 @ 10:40 AM
@Lesan. First world problems! Can't believe you've taken the time to write something so petty.
WendyTeresaFarrow - 8-Sep-17 @ 1:00 PM
Lesan - Your Question:
I planted laurel bushes last year. They are 3ft tall and have started togrow branches this year. My neighbour has cut the leaves (not Branches) that are poking over the fence approx a dozen leaves in all. By Law can she do this, if so, does she have to give the cut leaves back. I fshe doesn't give them back can I accuse her of theft

Our Response:
Yes the neighbour can and no they do not have give you the leaves back. If it had been branches that were cut from trees, your neighbour has to "offer" them back to you.
ProblemNeighbours - 8-Sep-17 @ 12:56 PM
I planted laurel bushes last year. They are 3ft tall and have started togrow branches this year. My neighbour has cut the leaves (not Branches) that are poking over the fence approx a dozen leaves in all.By Law can she do this, if so, does she have to give the cut leaves back. I fshe doesn't give them back can I accuse her of theft
Lesan - 7-Sep-17 @ 7:38 PM
Jolly - Your Question:
I live in a elderly bungalow belonging to the Council, on my back garden there is a large tree about 50 ft tall which belongs to a private property at the back of me, I cannot cut any branches of because its to big, and the leaves that are falling are making a mess of my garden, can I get the Council to get them to cut it down or some advice please.

Our Response:
It's unlikely the council will do this for you but you can ask the housing department to see if there's any help available for elderly people. The tree owner is not usually responsible for this.
ProblemNeighbours - 5-Sep-17 @ 1:48 PM
Granstaxi - Your Question:
We have a 30 foot tree at the bottom of our garden.over the years BT have put three lines across it to neighbouring homes and last year one through it to a forth. This years growth now means all lines are in amongst branches. If a storm brings any down who is liable for damage

Our Response:
As the tree owner in general you would be liable, however, your trees were there first, so this might not be the case in your situation.
ProblemNeighbours - 4-Sep-17 @ 2:30 PM
I live in a elderly bungalow belonging to the Council, on my back garden there is a large tree about 50 ft tall which belongs to a private property at the back of me, i cannot cut any branches of because its to big, and the leaves that are falling are making a mess of my garden, can i get the Council to get them to cut it down or some advice please.
Jolly - 4-Sep-17 @ 9:31 AM
kaz - Your Question:
We have two fir trees in neighbours garden that are now over 40ft tall and are hanging over our garden and are almost touching from the other neighbours garden, therefore no sunlight in our back garden. We have asked about cutting them back which they were fine about until we said that by law we have to give the branches back to them. They then said no. What about our garden, its like living in the middle of a jungle, our elderly mother is scared to go into the garden because of the trees.

Our Response:
No that's incorrect, you have to "offer" the branches back to your neighbours - they can refuse to accept them. If they're an inconvenience to you, you can cut them back as far as the boundary. If your neighbour has given you permission to cut back more than that obviously that's fine, but you should dispose of the branches yourself.
ProblemNeighbours - 4-Sep-17 @ 9:28 AM
I have a crab apple tree at the end of my garden . We are on the corner , a semi. A couple of the branches of he tree we hanging over (high up) and some of the sliceable apples had fallen onto the path. When I have returned home from work somebody has come and cut a lot of our branches down and thrown them all back into our garden and also swept mud and dead crab apples and thrown them into our garden too . We did have a tree surgeon coming to look at it next week. Where do I stand? As I'm furious someone would do this without even mentioning it to us .
Bell - 30-Aug-17 @ 10:01 AM
We have a 30 foot tree at the bottom of our garden.over the years BT have put three lines across it to neighbouring homes and last year one through it to a forth. This years growth now means all lines are in amongst branches. If a storm brings any down who is liable for damage
Granstaxi - 29-Aug-17 @ 12:46 PM
we have two fir trees in neighbours garden that are now over 40ft tall and are hanging over our garden and are almost touching from the other neighbours garden, therefore no sunlight in our back garden. We have asked about cutting them back which they were fine about until we said that by law we have to give the branches back to them. They then said no. What about our garden, its like living in the middle of a jungle, our elderly mother is scared to go into the garden because of the trees.
kaz - 28-Aug-17 @ 12:27 AM
Hello. I have 12 conifer trees in my garden all lined up between me and my neighbours garden. All trunks are on my side of the boundary line. Over the years these have overgrown very high and block sunlight in my garden; as there is no fence between our gardens these trees act as a fence giving us both privacy. Due to the over growing height of the trees I recently got a quotation to have them trimmed down to 7ft high (around 80 inches) in keeping with both our privacy. As I am civil with my neighbour I asked her if that would be ok with her. Surprisingly she has got back to me saying that they are not blocking any light in their garden or causing her a problem; and so she is not happy for us to trim these down. I have explained that they will be at least 7ft high giving them plenty of privacy but she has refused to have these cut down. As they are my trees, on my side of the boundary line, is it legally okay for me to have these trimmed down to 7ft high without her permission?
Suz - 25-Aug-17 @ 11:54 PM
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