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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 18 Jul 2018 | 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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Hi is it okay to cut the tree and only leaving a tree stump in your rented property. I already rang the renter twice and two different people gave me two different answers. One said no and the the other said yes?
Mins - 18-Jul-18 @ 12:55 PM
My garden faces a football stadium. Their overgrown trees are causing a maintenance nuisance. Leaves regularly block my gutters causing water to penetrate my home. Can the council enforce the trees are cut and inspect the trees are safe.
Kaysan - 17-Jul-18 @ 9:22 AM
There are 5ft weeds growing between our and our neighbours drive.These weeds originate from their side.We cut any over-Hanging weeds that encroach over our drive and put them on their drive for them to clear away. They then come out and throw the cut weeds into our drive and seem to film the event.We then put the weeds back onto their drive.Needless to say they do not do any upkeep of their property.Are we entitled to put the weedsback onto their side???
Barney - 15-Jul-18 @ 3:00 PM
My garden backs onto a shelterbelt.There are 2 poplar trees within the belt.The poplar tree nearest me has sent out roots and suckers, 90 of which are appearing in my soil and lawn.There are 6 other properties having the same problem.The poplar has devasted my garden.The owner of the shelterbelt has refused my generous offer to pay for the removal of the poplar, now 30 metres tall.In fact they refuse to acknowledge that they are responsible for any damage.We have been informed, via an arborist, that no height reduction will be forthcoming and they intend to plant more trees.The tree line is between 12 metres and 25 metres from houses.What can we do?
Shrub - 13-Jul-18 @ 9:38 AM
Hi, I own an apple tree that hangs over the fence onto my neighbours garden. When apples fall off onto their garden, they throw/‘lob’ the apples anywhere which have been hitting my plants (which I have spent a lot of time and money on) and damaging them. The other day, he was using a cricket bat to hit them over and they were landing close to my patio windows! I know that they are allowed to cut the branches back and I have always been happy for them to do so. They have never asked if I want the apples back and are rude if I ask them not to throw them in such a way. Where do I stand with this...Is this something that I have to just put up with as the apples are my property or should they not be returning them in this way?
Country Girl - 10-Jul-18 @ 7:30 PM
Hi just a quick question i have a big tree out side my house and it's on the footpath it's over hanging on to my garden it's all on the phone wires its hanging over the road it's making all the cars dirty and the brunces are allways falling in to my garden and into the road i have to bend over every day when I come out my house I have asked the council to cut the tree down and they have blanked me over this wants the law can I pay someone to cut it down or can I cut it down my self because it is a health and safety now
Maka - 9-Jul-18 @ 4:49 PM
I have a large conker tree at the bottom of my garden of a house I rent out ,the tree does not over hang my neighbours garden ,but leaves and blossom does blow over to his side. He has applied to the council to have branches removed as the debris are blocking his guttering. He has said he will pay £200 of the £800 of the quote he has had done. I am quite happy to keep the tree as it is , Do I have to get it cut back and if not ,am I liable for having his gutters cleared ? He has only been in the house 2 years ,and I never had the problem with the previous owner
Pb - 9-Jul-18 @ 11:24 AM
Our neighbour has a confir tree that completely boundaries his garden and runs parrell with our drive. The hedge is about 10ft height and about 20 metres in length. Is this hedge our maintenace or ahould the neighbour pick up the cost as its within his boundary?
Holder - 8-Jul-18 @ 6:24 PM
Hello, My neighbour complained about overhanging branches from trees/shrubbery on our side. He has essentially hired someone to take care of the problem (no action has of yet taken place) but the neighbour wants us to pay for the cost. The issue we have is that we rent the property and 1. While we have a clause in our tenancy to maintain the garden, in my view this is beyond standard maintenance. 2. We neither own the property nor the land it is built on. I have cut back branches where possible, but much requires a professional tree surgeon, which for the reasons given, I'm not prepared to pay for .Does anyone know where I stand? Thanks
Nialltuk - 8-Jul-18 @ 2:36 PM
Hi, ive got 4 tiny trees (about 3 foot high) growing at the side of my house, which next door keep cutting, they grab the branches cut & let go meaning the branch they've cut is almost a foot away from the fence (splitting gardens) they then cut their own tree (approximately 12 foot high) & along with my cuttings dump theirs in my garden hidden under my trees. I've put theirs back in their garden once & tried speaking to the wife but nothing ever gets done, until last night I was watering mine, the husband waited until I got in & about to close the back/side door (about 2 metres from where he was stood next to his tree) calling me every name under the sun & proceeded to chuck hisntree cuttings along with his weeds into my garden. I've spoken to the council various times but now it's becoming threatening. What's the best thing I can do?
K-J - 6-Jul-18 @ 3:40 PM
Fedup - Your Question:
My neighbour has a willow tree that is 40 plus foot high and is now completely hanging over my garden. Apart from the mess from leaves dropping all year round it is now completely blocking the sun. I can’t cut back the branches because of the height and I can’t afford to get someone in to do it. Can I comply my neighbour to pay for it?

Our Response:
No unfortunately not, the tree owner is not obliged to cut it back and there is no real "right" to sun in your garden.
ProblemNeighbours - 5-Jul-18 @ 3:46 PM
LastStraw - Your Question:
Hi, I have an apple tree in my garden. It is a good 2 feet inside the boundary and is approximately 80 years old (I have the full history of the house and know the sister of the man who planted it). Every year we have a problem with the neighbour at the back of the house demanding that we cut it. We have cut back the branches overhanging his side repeatedly and yet he still complains. There is no issue re light as he backs onto an east aspect (and we back south) so he gets full sun. There are no flower beds in his garden (mostly paved apart from a small square of grass and weeds in the centre) and his two sheds both having a solid roof. Two years ago I actually found him half in the tree, half balancing on our new fence (it is our boundary) removing young apples "in case they fall into my garden". He constantly tells us it is diseased (it isn't) and that it is too big for the garden (again checked by a tree person and it's not). We feel that we are making sure that he is not inconvenienced but are at our wit's end. What can we do? The removal of the tree is not something we are considering. It's also a bit creepy that he only comes around to complain during the day when I am at home. I have now taken to not answering the door as I find him threatening.

Our Response:
You do not have any obligation to cut down or trim back the branches, although of course your neighbour can cut back the branches as far as the boundary. Your neighbour should not remove fruit from your tree even if it's on his side of the boundary, that is classed as theft. See our guide here for further information - it might be worth printing it and showing it to your neighbour next time he pops round to complain, or you could post it through his letterbox.
ProblemNeighbours - 5-Jul-18 @ 3:19 PM
Bakay - Your Question:
Three Rowan trees (seed droppings I believe) have sprung up on my nieighbours garden. The trunks are now touching my fence and likely next year with another year's growth they will be damaging the fence (which is fairly new)- the trees are about 20ft tall now and block out most of my sun. Most of the branches overhang my garden.ask Can I ask them to remove the trees as they are likely to cause damage to the fence, and if they do cause damage can I ask them to pay for the damage. The roots are also causing my grass to either lift or not grow at all. I am an older lady living on her own and I don't want to cause friction as I am out most of the day all week and do not want any repercussions whilst my property is left unattended.

Our Response:
You can't ask someone to remove trees on the basis of what they may be "likely" to do in the future but yes, if they damage your property you should be able to claim for the cost of repair etc. Unfortunately there is no real "right to sunlight" in your garden but you can cut back the branches and also the roots as far as the boundary. Talking to your neighbours politely about this may bring about better results than you expect if you give it a try.
ProblemNeighbours - 5-Jul-18 @ 11:06 AM
Hi,I have an apple tree in my garden.It is a good 2 feet inside the boundary and is approximately 80 years old (I have the full history of the house and know the sister of the man who planted it).Every year we have a problem with the neighbour at the back of the house demanding that we cut it.We have cut back the branches overhanging his side repeatedly and yet he still complains.There is no issue re light as he backs onto an east aspect (and we back south) so he gets full sun.There are no flower beds in his garden (mostly paved apart from a small square of grass and weeds in the centre) and his two sheds both having a solid roof.Two years ago I actually found him half in the tree, half balancing on our new fence (it is our boundary) removing young apples "in case they fall into my garden". He constantly tells us it is diseased (it isn't) and that it is too big for the garden (again checked by a tree person and it's not).We feel that we are making sure that he is not inconvenienced but are at our wit's end.What can we do?The removal of the tree is not something we are considering.It's also a bit creepy that he only comes around to complain during the day when I am at home.I have now taken to not answering the door as I find him threatening.
LastStraw - 4-Jul-18 @ 1:29 PM
My neighbour has a willow tree that is 40 plus foot high and is now completely hanging over my garden. Apart from the mess from leaves dropping all year round it is now completely blocking the sun. I can’t cut back the branches because of the height and I can’t afford to get someone in to do it. Can I comply my neighbour to pay for it?
Fedup - 4-Jul-18 @ 9:23 AM
Three Rowan trees (seed droppings I believe) have sprung up on my nieighbours garden.The trunks are now touching my fence and likely next year with another year's growth they will be damaging the fence (which is fairly new)- the trees are about 20ft tall now and block out most of my sun. Most of the branches overhang my garden.ask Can I ask them to remove the trees as they are likely to cause damage to the fence, and if they do cause damage can I ask them to pay for the damage.The roots are also causing my grass to either lift or not grow at all. I am an older lady living on her own and I don't want to cause friction as I am out most of the day all week and do not want any repercussions whilst my property is left unattended.
Bakay - 1-Jul-18 @ 3:46 PM
Hi I want to know what right we have at the bottom of are garden there is many large trees they are never trimmed and are now grown so tall they are over hanging half of are garden if any of them was due to fall they would damaged are house and outbuilding also shade half of the garden they are owned by a neighbor that lives at the back of us they are all larger than the house nearly double
Julie - 29-Jun-18 @ 8:18 PM
OP - Your Question:
Hi, our neighbour has erected a narrow flower bed along our wall, which faces her garden. She has planted Olive trees and other other vegetation there. We are worried theat the roots of the trees eventually will cause damage to our wall and drains. The neighbour has categorically refused to discuss this issue. What is the best course of action in this situation? Thanks & kind regards

Our Response:
You are entitled to dig up and remove any roots that have encroached upon your land. Roots can cause problems but it's not a foregone conclusion. Other than that, there's not much you can do unless you can prove/demonstrate that the roots will cause damage - you may need to call in an expert to do this. If evidence demonstrates that there no doubt the roots will cause excessive damage to the wall, you might be able to get an injunction.
ProblemNeighbours - 29-Jun-18 @ 1:32 PM
Ash - Your Question:
Ash - Your Question:Good morning, I wanted some advice please. Can my neighbour hang items on his fence but on my side of the garden. They have been hanging horrible looking bamboo nets on their fence but on my side. Can I take it off legally. You advice will be much appreciated. Thank you in advanceOur Response:Does it protrude into your air space?ProblemNeighbours - 27-Jun-18 @ 3:01 PMThe bamboo net is hanging on my side of his fence. It looks so horrible that's why he decided not to hang it from his own side. As he owns the fence he is being difficult and hanging stuff from his fence but only on my side. If air space implies land from the fence onwards then yes.

Our Response:
You're probably within your rights to place the part of the fence back on top of it. It does sound like it's trespassing into your air space - ask a legal professional if necessary.
ProblemNeighbours - 29-Jun-18 @ 12:44 PM
Spencer1 - Your Question:
Hello, I have been renting a house for 2 years. My neighbours tree/bush has grown and grown which now has damaged our fence so bad we have a mental pole holding it up to stop it collapsing and is so tall we now cannot see anything we used to because of it. We have trimmed it a couple of times however because of the size of it, it's very difficult as it is the length of around 2 cars length ways. Please could anyone tell me if I have the right to ask them to get professionals to cut it back to a manageable size?

Our Response:
You or your landlord could claim for the damage done by the bush and/or get an order to get the neighbour to remove it/reduce its size? Talk to your landlord first of all - it's their property that has been damaged thus far and may sustain further damage if the tree collapses, so they have an interest in getting this resolved. You don't have a right to get the tree's height reduced simply because of what you can see - there is no right to a view.
ProblemNeighbours - 29-Jun-18 @ 11:37 AM
Hi, our neighbour has erected a narrow flower bed along our wall, which faces her garden. She has planted Olive trees and other other vegetation there. We are worried theat the roots of the trees eventually will cause damage to our wall and drains. The neighbour has categorically refused to discuss this issue. What is the best course of action in this situation? Thanks & kind regards
OP - 27-Jun-18 @ 5:48 PM
Ash - Your Question: Good morning, I wanted some advice please. Can my neighbour hang items on his fence but on my side of the garden. They have been hanging horrible looking bamboo nets on their fence but on my side. Can I take it off legally. You advice will be much appreciated. Thank you in advance Our Response: Does it protrude into your air space? ProblemNeighbours - 27-Jun-18 @ 3:01 PM The bamboo net is hanging on my side of his fence. It looks so horrible that's why he decided not to hang it from his own side. As he owns the fence he is being difficult and hanging stuff from his fence but only on my side. If air space implies land from the fence onwards then yes.
Ash - 27-Jun-18 @ 4:09 PM
Hello, I have been renting a house for 2 years. My neighbours tree/bush has grown and grown which now has damaged our fence so bad we have a mental pole holding it up to stop it collapsing and is so tall we now cannot see anything we used to because of it. We have trimmed it a couple of times however because of the size of it, it's very difficult as it is the length of around 2 cars length ways. Please could anyone tell me if I have the right to ask them to get professionals to cut it back to a manageable size?
Spencer1 - 27-Jun-18 @ 3:51 PM
Ash - Your Question:
Good morning, I wanted some advice please. Can my neighbour hang items on his fence but on my side of the garden. They have been hanging horrible looking bamboo nets on their fence but on my side. Can I take it off legally. You advice will be much appreciated. Thank you in advance

Our Response:
Does it protrude into your air space?
ProblemNeighbours - 27-Jun-18 @ 3:01 PM
Good morning, I wanted some advice please. Can my neighbour hang items on his fence but on my side of the garden. They have been hanging horrible looking bamboo nets on their fence but on my side. Can I take it off legally. You advice will be much appreciated. Thank you in advance
Ash - 27-Jun-18 @ 8:21 AM
I was cutting a few branches of a bush stretching off my neighbor’s property line into the alleyway behind it. The nice lady on the other side of the alley felt I should have asked the homeowner with the overgrowing bush (who I know and am sure he wouldn’t care).The 3-5 branches of this bush (not tree) where scraping my car (and everyone else’s) when I’d drive by.Q. -If errant branches of a bush are exceeding the property line of a home, and crossing the plain of a public drive through alleyway, am I obligated to ask the bush owning homeowner before cutting these few branches?Thank you!Bruno
Bruno - 25-Jun-18 @ 8:15 PM
We have a very large tree that branches overhang onto the patio the council never trim back after finely finding out the tree is not on council land and they say they don't know who owns it they say they will not be cutting back I ask why as the seven years we have owned the house they have cut the grass were the tree stands. I would like all the branches cut back to the boundary line but can't put a planning application in as the tree doesn't exist I need a number for the tree.HELP
Jenny - 22-Jun-18 @ 12:08 AM
Angry Son - Your Question:
My 84year oldnfather moved into a bungalow.Along his neighbors boundary there is a long hedge and a tree. It’s a mature tree ,that I suspect has been there longer than the occupants, growing out of the middle of the hedge. I can’t tell whose garden it is in.Recently the neighbors cut branches on their side and dropped them into my dad’s garden. Needless to say, I was unhappy with this but my dad wanted to avoid confrontation.My questions are:1) how do we ascertain who is responsible for the tree?2) the hedge is long and takes a lot of maintenance. Are we entitled to return their hedge trimmings to them? Whilst I appreciate that there will be concern regarding the pettiness of my questions, these neighbors are already a nuisance.

Our Response:
ProblemNeighbours - 20-Jun-18 @ 3:43 PM
I have a 40 ft high mature silver birch.Its base and roots are in my garden but the truck has grown at an angle of about 20 degrees and has grown through a hole in the fence such that only about 3ft of the truck is in fact within my boundary and the other 37 feet are above my neighbour's garden.From time to time my neighbour and I share the cost of getting the tree's crown trimmed to reduce its weight, and the tree surgeon tells me the tree is healthy.However I am concerned that one day it may fall down in a storm, which would result in damage to the neighbour's fence, shed and garden (and possibly risk personal injury).My neighbour is keen to keep the tree because it provides privacy and a visual barrier, but I would be happy to have it felled (with Council permission); the trouble is, practically, the tree surgeon could only fell it with access to the neighbour's garden. Where do I sit legally if the tree falls down and causes damage to my neighbour's property?If I would be liable for any such damage can I get the tree felled now; can I force my neighbour to give the tree surgeon access to their garden, putting felled branches on their lawn before disposing of them?
Silver birch surfer - 19-Jun-18 @ 8:48 AM
We are having trouble with a laurel hedge that overhangs at the bottom of our garden. We cut it back as far as we can reach. It is now about 30ft high. In fact the branches are now as thick as a tree. No dialogue with the neighbour. We are considering putting our concerns in writing. What are our rights if any.L
Swifty - 18-Jun-18 @ 9:02 PM
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