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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 17 Aug 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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I live on a Main Street in a village opposite my property are some trees which are very tall and subsequently block out the light in my living room and have caused significant damage to my roof 30 tiles need replacing and the roofer thinks that the shade in winter is causing frost damage.I believe they are on private land but the land owner does nothing to manage them.Is there any way I can get the council to get them to cut them down? Or at least have the land owner manage the trees?
Kat - 17-Aug-17 @ 7:56 PM
My neighbours have a large laurel tree which has grown to 50ft high and 30ft wide, the berries are poisonous and I'm worried my daughter may eat one. It also blocks my light and comes into my garden blocking light.My neighbours don't want to chop it down but have said I could chop back the branches overhanging my side which are 50ft high.What is the legal height for a laurel tree, poisonous berries and also can I throw the chopped branches over there side?
Noodles - 16-Aug-17 @ 8:44 PM
Bev - Your Question:
I live in a rural property which I access from an unadopted lane. This lane does not have an owner and each property that borders it maintains their respective hedgerows through the services of a chap who cuts them once a year with a tractor and attachment. A couple of years ago, one of the neighbours sacked the chap from cutting her hedges and naturally they continue to grow. Her hedge has now grown over my brick pillars at the entrance to my property and I cannot get out of my car at the gates. She is refusing to maintain the hedge and says I can do so at my expense and dispose of the cuttings myself. This needs specialist equipment which I don't have and so will cost me in time and money. Do I have any come back on my neighbour?

Our Response:
Contact your highways department. Even though it's undadopted, the road it may need unfettered access for emergency services etc. As for your drive and exiting...you may need to take civil action to force the neighbour to keep your drive entrance unrestricted.
ProblemNeighbours - 15-Aug-17 @ 11:41 AM
I live in a rural property which I access from an unadopted lane. This lane does not have an owner and each property that borders it maintains their respective hedgerows through the services of a chap who cuts them once a year with a tractor and attachment. A couple of years ago, one of the neighbours sacked the chap from cutting her hedges and naturally they continue to grow. Her hedge has now grown over my brick pillars at the entrance to my property and I cannot get out of my car at the gates. She is refusing to maintain the hedge and says I can do so at my expense and dispose of the cuttings myself. This needs specialist equipment which I don't have and so will cost me in time and money. Do I have any come back on my neighbour?
Bev - 12-Aug-17 @ 9:30 PM
Suz - Your Question:
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?

Our Response:
If they are your trees on your side of the boundary, yes you can do what you like to them.
ProblemNeighbours - 11-Aug-17 @ 11:08 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 - 10-Aug-17 @ 6:56 PM
sue - Your Question:
I live in a cul-de-sac of 27 housing association homes. Bordering one side of the path are a row of 4 crab apple trees planted 17 years ago, These trees have never been cut back, have been a nuisance every year dropping hundreds of apples. The trees are now 40 ft tall, totally obscure the street lighting and the lower branches are hanging just 5-6 ft from the path (head height). I have complained to the housing association , we pay a service charge for grounds maintenance. They tell me that the trees are not on the survey, therefore not on the schedule of works and are not doing anything about this. What can I do?

Our Response:
Contact your local council's highways department to report this (assuming it's not a private road) - they will cut back the trees and may/may not charge it back to the housing association.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-Aug-17 @ 10:55 AM
I live in a cul-de-sac of 27 housing association homes. Bordering one side of the path are a row of 4 crab apple trees planted 17 years ago, These trees have never been cut back, have been a nuisance every year dropping hundreds of apples. The trees are now 40 ft tall, totally obscure the street lighting and the lower branches are hanging just 5-6 ft from the path (head height). I have complained to the housing association , we pay a service charge for grounds maintenance. They tell me that the trees are not on the survey, therefore not on the schedule of works and are not doing anything about this. What can I do?
sue - 9-Aug-17 @ 2:45 AM
T - Your Question:
I have a climbing rose bush on my fence, my neighbour has almost decimated it with cutting it. He does not cut what is over hanging as I go out periodically to see if there is anything he could possibly cut and cut it before him now. This morning at 6.30 (as he always does when no one is around) he has cut off a lot of branches that are in the air up a height. He has then thrown them all over in to my garden as he always does. Can he actually cut off what is in the air? And should he just be throwning them over? This is not an isolated incident he has tormented us for years with other things.

Our Response:
Your neighbour can cut back anything that is overhanging his side of the boundary (including the air space) but cannot reach over and cut anything that is on your side. The neighbour can "offer" you the branches back but should not simply throw them over.
ProblemNeighbours - 27-Jul-17 @ 1:00 PM
I have a climbing rose bush on my fence, my neighbour has almost decimated it with cutting it. He does not cut what is over hanging as I go out periodically to see if there is anything he could possibly cut and cut it before him now. This morning at 6.30 (as he always does when no one is around) he has cut off a lot of branches that are in the air up a height. He has then thrown them all over in to my garden as he always does. Can he actually cut off what is in the air? And should he just be throwning them over?This is not an isolated incident he has tormented us for years with other things.
T - 27-Jul-17 @ 7:07 AM
paula - Your Question:
I have a plum cherry tree at bottom of the garden and a buddlia. which I keep cut back but when the neighbours fence fell over in bad weather I had to build a wall of all sorts of things to make sure the dogs didnt go through which meant I couldn't get near them to cut back.I had previously asked the new neighbour if they would cut back branches that over hung and they said the were happy to do so and I reminded them on several occassions even offered the loppers to them and reminded them that they could grow quite tall. and she said her husband would take care of it and that they had something to cut them back. the fence took 8 months for them to repair and the buddlia had grown and had leant towards them I have been keeping my side cut but assumed they liked it as they had'nt touched theirs now its really big and they have asked me to cut it back. Im 70 with arthritic hips and cataracts and on basic state pension and they are trying to pressure me to get it done and said as im a council tenant they will go to council to complain and I'm sick with worry. I feel they had the opportunity to cut it when it would have been easier and even let me into their gaden to do it as I offerred to do at least once but although I have been up the ladder this afternoon my daughters insisting I dont do that and shes annoyed and thinks they are taking advantage. will the council make me responsible. I didnt plant the trees just maintained them

Our Response:
Contact your local housing officer and explain the situation if you're worried about complaints. In general you shouldn't be held responsible for this anyway. It's up to the neighbours to trim back any overhanging growth.
ProblemNeighbours - 26-Jul-17 @ 2:18 PM
Elmore - Your Question:
I own a ground/lower ground floor maisonette, with a shared front garden. I share the freehold with my neighbour, who has the top two floors. Recently, I came home to find that he had cut our healthy 7 foot hydrangea down to a knee high stump. It screened my lounge and front bedroom from the street, affording me some privacy from passers by. Also, I really liked it! Now it's gone, and my flat feels very exposed and uncomfortable. I've tried speaking to my neighbour, but he said I can pull my curtains and it will grow back. Since then he's ignored my requests to talk. Surely he's not within his rights to wreck something I co-owned and enjoyed? I want to plant some new large shrubs to regain some privacy, can I force him to pay for this? What can I do?

Our Response:
What's in your title deeds? Who is responsible for maintenance of the gardens?
ProblemNeighbours - 25-Jul-17 @ 2:49 PM
keith - Your Question:
My elderly mother & father live in a bungalow at the end of a shared private drive.They needed an ambulance the other day & it couldnt / wouldnt go along the drive & they ended up attending on foot & getting my mother to the parked ambulance by wheelchair. Luckily they didnt need the ambulance equipment. The reason they couldnt get was the bottom land of 1st house has 3 very large [ meter wide trunk ] trees in a row, that the owner has now built a new fence behind thus creating impression that they're not his responsibility !On the left is mostly small trees, brush, weed & some evergreen laurel bushes for about 60 feet. Its pretty well left to its own devices & is thickening all the time & hence you can only get down with a car & even then it rubs in spots.What are our options / rights with 1. the trees on the right & 2. the hedge/ bush ect on left ?Any help appreciated greatly

Our Response:
Because it's a private drive, this is something that the owners of the land that the drive is on / the property owners themselves will have to agree on. Generally, title deeds will give details of any responsibilities for maintenance and access issues, so it's worth checking them. Assuming the trees are quite old (if the trunks are over a metre diameter) - it's likely the trees will be referred to in some respect.
ProblemNeighbours - 25-Jul-17 @ 2:36 PM
I live in a block of flats with a number of mature tress in the back garden. Recently we reluctantly cut a mature elm down to about 15 foot after a complaint by our next door neighbours that it was dangerous and confirmation from a tree surgeon that this was the case. The tree is clearly on our land and there is a fence and a pathway separating ours and our neighbour's gardens. The remains of the tree have begun to sprout again which we are pleased about as the tree has been a wonderful habitat for wild life. Two days ago we discovered that someone (presumably our neighbour) has completely stripped the stump of new leaves as far down as he could - to the point where he couldn't each further down so that most of the stump is now effectively bare again. We are extremely upset about this as we did not want to shorten the tree in the first place and were delighted to see it coming back to life again! The leaves on the neighbours side do not overhang his garden as they (at this stage of growth) only overhang the path. The tree is obviously no longer dangerous. Is our neighbour breaking the law by stripping our tree? if so, is there anything we can do about it?
Cal180 - 21-Jul-17 @ 6:20 PM
I have aplum cherry tree at bottom of the garden and a buddlia.. whichI keepcut back but whenthe neighbours fencefell over in bad weather I had to build a wall of all sorts ofthings to make sure the dogs didnt go through which meant I couldn't getnear them to cut back..I had previously asked the new neighbour if they wouldcut back branches that over hung and they said the were happy to do so and I reminded them on several occassions even offered the loppers to them and reminded them that they could grow quite tall..and she said her husband would take care of it and that they had something to cut them back.. the fence took 8 months for them to repair andthe buddlia hadgrown and had leant towards them Ihave been keeping my side cutbut assumed they liked it as they had'nt touched theirs now its really big and they have asked me to cut it back.. Im 70 with arthritic hips and cataracts and onbasic state pension and they are trying to pressure me to get it doneand said as im a council tenant they will go to council to complainand i'm sick with worry. I feel they had the opportunity to cut itwhen it would have been easier andeven let me into their gaden to do it as I offerredto do at leastoncebutalthough i have been up the ladder this afternoonmy daughters insisting I dont do thatand shes annoyedand thinks they are taking advantage..will the councilmake me responsible.. i didnt plant the trees just maintained them
paula - 20-Jul-17 @ 7:03 PM
I own a ground/lower ground floor maisonette, with a shared front garden. I share the freehold with my neighbour, who has the top two floors. Recently, I came home to find that he had cut our healthy 7 foot hydrangea down to a knee high stump. It screened my lounge and front bedroom from the street, affording me some privacy from passers by. Also, I really liked it! Now it's gone, and my flat feels very exposed and uncomfortable. I've tried speaking to my neighbour, but he said I can pull my curtains and it will grow back. Since then he's ignored my requests to talk. Surely he's not within his rights to wreck something I co-owned and enjoyed? I want to plant some new large shrubs to regain some privacy, can I force him to pay for this? What can I do?
Elmore - 19-Jul-17 @ 4:20 PM
My elderly mother & father live in a bungalow at the end of a shared private drive. They needed an ambulance the other day & it couldnt / wouldnt go along the drive & they ended up attending on foot & getting my mother to the parked ambulance by wheelchair. Luckily they didnt need the ambulance equipment. The reason they couldnt get was the bottom land of 1st house has 3 very large [ meter wide trunk ] trees in a row, that the owner has now built a new fence behind thus creating impression that they're not his responsibility ! On the left is mostly small trees, brush, weed & some evergreen laurel bushes for about 60 feet. Its pretty well left to its own devices & is thickening all the time & hence you can only get down with a car & even then it rubs in spots. What are our options / rights with 1. the trees on the right & 2. the hedge/ bush ect on left ? Any help appreciated greatly
keith - 19-Jul-17 @ 1:34 PM
Yesterday afternoon, I discovered the neighbour who backs onto me has chopped off my hedges - 6 inches over my side of the fence. This has left me with onlytrunks at some points. This is the second time this has happened. Hash*t he trespassed and damaged my property according to law?
Juless - 16-Jul-17 @ 11:14 AM
Ive been offered a job to remove at least half a tree thst splits in two then over hangs from my customers next door neighbour garden. Its a large 40ft tree that splits into 2 large truncks 5ft from the ground. Its a danger in high winds to their huge conservatory and the lawn has been damaged so much without sun lightbecause of the denseness of leaves. Do i have the right's to chainsaw the overhanging trunks and branches. I have been warned that the police will be called as soon as i go near the tree
Job on - 15-Jul-17 @ 10:47 PM
There is a lime tree (I think) at the bottom of my garden which has totally grown into my next door neighbour's garden with onlya lump of root showing in mine.Many years ago when this tree was fairly small, my husband asked my neighbour if he'd like it taken down as we were aware of the fact it was growing totally in his garden. He said no, he and his wife were happy to keep it.A couple of years ago, he asked my husband to cut some of the branches back which my husband willingly did, and cleared away all the debris. Now the neighbour is asking my husband to cut back half of the tree, which has now grown considerably. What is our legal position here? My husband has told the neighbour to feel free to cut back as much as he likes, but he's insisting my husband does it.
Eve - 15-Jul-17 @ 7:32 PM
Our neighbours tree branches overhang in our backyard. Birds perch themselves in the tree and drop their mess all over the end of our garden. Our shed, pathway and washing line are all covered with mess. We constantly have to wash clothes again because of the mess. We asked our neighbour if we could trip the branches, she said no. She had a tree surgeon over less than a week later and he avoided cutting any of the low hanging branches in our garden. We told him that it was okay if he did, but she must have told him not to because he said he wasn't allowed to. What a b.... Can we hire our own tree surgeon to cut away the branches on our side without the owners permission? Because she's clearly out to make life as difficult as possible.
NeedSleep - 12-Jul-17 @ 10:08 PM
Hello we're do you stand when a tree trunk has grown throw theneighboursfence onto our property.
Pip - 8-Jul-17 @ 9:01 PM
Richard - Your Question:
There is a tree at the bottom of our garden which is rooted in our land but has spread to two neighbouring gardens and has grown quite high so another neighbour is complaining that it is blocking her light, it doesn't spread into her garden just overshadows it. Is it totally my responsibility to cut the tree back, I will have to hire someone to do it, or can I ask that the neighbours share the cost ?

Our Response:
No, you are not obliged to cut back any overhanging branches or provide light for your neighbours. As a tree owner, the only obligation you have it that you monitor them for safety/disease etc.
ProblemNeighbours - 7-Jul-17 @ 12:32 PM
There is a tree at the bottom of our garden which is rooted in our land but has spread to two neighbouring gardens and has grown quite high so another neighbour is complaining that it is blocking her light, it doesn't spread into her garden just overshadows it. Is it totally my responsibility to cut the tree back, I will have to hire someone to do it, or can I ask that the neighbours share the cost ?
Richard - 6-Jul-17 @ 4:37 PM
eve_waessle - Your Question:
My neighbour has an overhanging hydrangea and polite requests to keep it trimmed don't seem to work. The plant is also reducing visibility when I reverse the car from the drive, with a count of 2 near miss in the last few months as I can't see people walking pass. Can I legally ask them to have it cut altogether, I don't want that as long as they keep it trimmed but they don't. Am I right to assume that I can legally tackle the overhanging branches myself? thanks

Our Response:
You can cut back any branches that overhang your side of the boundary, the neighbour does not have to do this. If the branches are overhanging a public highway/pavement, the owner has to keep them cut back - if they don't/won't, report it to the highways department.
ProblemNeighbours - 5-Jul-17 @ 12:19 PM
Landlord - Your Question:
I have a tree in my front garden and my neighbour is complaining that the branches have overgrown and the sap and bird poo keeps falling on her car. She is asking me to trim the tree on her side of the boundary. She also says that there are telephone wires that are touching the branches. Is it my obligation to trim the tree and if so to what extent?

Our Response:
There is no obligation to trim back the branches simply because they areannoying the neighbours (or that sap and birds are making a mess). The phone company may try and claim any damage that the tree does to the phone wires, so if this becomes really bad, it's worth getting that bit sorted out.
ProblemNeighbours - 5-Jul-17 @ 11:22 AM
my neighbour has an overhanging hydrangea and polite requests to keep it trimmed don't seem to work. The plant is also reducing visibility when I reverse the car from the drive, with a count of 2 near miss in the last few months as I can't see people walking pass. Can I legally ask them to have it cut altogether, I don't want that as long as they keep it trimmed but they don't. Am I right to assume that I can legally tackle the overhanging branches myself? thanks
eve_waessle - 4-Jul-17 @ 8:19 PM
Jon - Your Question:
Our next door neighbour has sold off the bottom 50% of his garden to a developer who has applied for planning permission to build two houses. The scheme includes the removal of a beech tree that sits on the boundary between our gardens (there is an old boundary wire passing mid-way through the trunk). Has the developer the legal right to remove the tree without our consent?

Our Response:
No if the tree is on the boundary there's a chance it's jointly owned and your consent will certainly be needed to remove it. Check your house deeds for any reference to the tree. Check also the age of the tree and any land registry information which might help.
ProblemNeighbours - 4-Jul-17 @ 2:50 PM
I have a tree in my front garden and my neighbour is complaining that the branches have overgrown and the sap and bird poo keeps falling on her car. She is asking me to trim the tree on her side of the boundary. She also says that there are telephone wires that are touching the branches. Is it my obligation to trim the tree and if so to what extent?
Landlord - 4-Jul-17 @ 11:35 AM
TR - Your Question:
Hi We have overhang from neighbours on every side. The worst is a 30ft high pine tree. The lowest branches have been lopped but most the rest overhang. The debris in our garden is dreadful. I have to clean the children's trampoline from pine needles every few days. This fills a dustpan and brush. To cut these back would obviously require our neighbour to get a specialist. Am I within my rights to request this? Thanks

Our Response:
No unfortunately not. A tree owner is under no obligation to cut back branches that overhang a neighbour's property. As owner of the neighbouring property, you can cut back any branches as far as the boundary. If there are several coniferous/evergreen trees in a row, they canbe considered a hedge and action might be taken under high hedges legislation, see our guide here
ProblemNeighbours - 28-Jun-17 @ 11:19 AM
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