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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 24 Mar 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]
I have a large conifer at the bottom of my garden, my neighbour has not only cut over hanging branches but has had someone cut the entire back of the tree right back to the trunk which is at least 3ft into my property and there is evidence that someone was actually on my property to cut off lower branches, I was not spoken to or asked for permission by my neighbour who has ruined my tree, what can I do ? Thankyou
gen - 24-Mar-17 @ 11:27 AM
we have a tree we are taking down but the roots have grown next door and i want to know if we have to take them up as well, the neighbour is wanting us to dig his garden and relay all his slabs do we have to do this. Thank you Steve.
Steve - 23-Mar-17 @ 1:49 PM
Bones73 - Your Question:
I am next door to a company whose tree has branches growing over my property. A visitor to my property parked their car under the shade of the over hanging branches and one of the branches fell damaging their car. Who is responsible for the damages to the car, me, the next door owner or the owner of the car?

Our Response:
The tree owner is responsible for any damage caused by his/her trees as long as he/she was aware of the potential for the tree to cause that damage. She should try claiming directly from the tree owner, if they refuse to pay, try your own property insurer to see what they advise.
ProblemNeighbours - 21-Mar-17 @ 10:22 AM
Alex - Your Question:
My neighbour is a tenant. A huge tree branch fell from one of his trees and they trespassed into my backyard and throw it amongst my trees on the other side of my backyard to suggest it had fallen from one of my trees. The branch belongs to a tree type I don't have and have identified the tree from which it fallen off.I reported this to the managing Real Estate for them to ask their tenant to remove the branch from my property, but no action had occurred. I have not approached the neighbour myself.Could I just throw the branch and others I discovered back? Where do I stand?

Our Response:
No, just dispose of it yourself or ask the neighbours if they want the branch back. If a branch simply falls off in high winds or storm and damages your property, your home insurance is your easiest option. If you think the tree is dangerous you should mention it the owner or the tenant. They can then get it checked over by a professional...ifit's then established that the tree is dangerous, the owner can be held liable for any damage done by the tree to your property.
ProblemNeighbours - 20-Mar-17 @ 11:20 AM
I am next door to a company whose tree has branches growing over my property. A visitor to my property parked their car under the shade of the over hanging branches and one of the branches fell damaging their car.Who is responsible for the damages to the car, me, the next door owner or the owner of the car?
Bones73 - 18-Mar-17 @ 1:47 AM
My neighbour is a tenant. A huge tree branch fell from one of his trees and they trespassed into my backyard and throw it amongst my trees on the other side of my backyard to suggest it had fallen from one of my trees. The branch belongs to a tree type I don't have and have identified the tree from which it fallen off. I reported this to the managing Real Estate for them to ask their tenant to remove the branch from my property, but no action had occurred. I have not approached the neighbour myself. Could I just throw the branch and others I discovered back? Where do I stand?
Alex - 17-Mar-17 @ 5:03 AM
gardenr - Your Question:
My neighbour has cut my tree without my permission on my side of my fence. Is this illegal? What action can I take as it has ruined the tree and the garden?

Our Response:
Your neighbour is entitled to cut back any branches as far as the boundary. If they have gone further than this and have damaged the tree, you could try claiming for damages via the courts.
ProblemNeighbours - 16-Mar-17 @ 2:38 PM
I meant with No blockages to their front window Thank you
roops - 16-Mar-17 @ 8:35 AM
my neighbour planted a red robin between our front garden borders before I moved into my house, at the time it was very short and i was none the wiser of the problems it would have caused. The red robin has matured and overgrown into my garden. whilst the neighbour has had block paving and a border he cleverly planted the red robin to create a screen which now is a nuisance for me as my garden is a total mess each time the leaves fall i am burdened with the mess.Is it the neighbours responsibility to clear this mess and can i have this red robin cut back completely.Thebranches and roots have mostly taken up my garden and blocked the morning sunshine with the height now over 5ft. No matter how much i tidy my garden the red robin is acting more life a shield than a pretty hedge, i live in a small culdesac and all the other houses on the road have open front space with blockages to their front windows with tall trees or hedges. what can i do. Please advise?
roops - 16-Mar-17 @ 7:16 AM
My neighbour has cut my tree without my permission on my side of my fence.Is this illegal?What action can I take as it has ruined the tree and the garden?
gardenr - 15-Mar-17 @ 7:40 AM
I live in a house where the land behind my garden is council land.My problem is very large trees are behind my fence and are now approximately 4-5 meters over my fence over hanging my garden but the tree is so tall i couldnt possibly trim it
Lairdy - 10-Mar-17 @ 7:08 PM
Cheyenne - Your Question:
My neighbours trees are overhanging my fence. They should be responsible for cutting them and not myself?

Our Response:
No. You can cut them back as far as your boundary if you want to, but there is no obligation on your neighbour to do so.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-Mar-17 @ 2:43 PM
Di - Your Question:
My neighbour has a sixty foot birch tree about 12 feet from our house, we are very concerned it is very close to our property and the roots of the tree could cause subsistence, we are also concerned during times of storm that branches break off or the tree falls which could cause damage to our property. We would like the tree to be cut down, what rights do we have to request the neighbours to do this. We are also considering helping towards the cost of cutting the tree down. Can you advise.

Our Response:
It's unlikely that the roots will cause damage in the future if they haven't already. The tree sounds pretty well established. If you think it's a danger you would need to get an expert to back this up with fact. You can then alert your neighbours to the real possibility of any damge. Roots rarely cause subsidence or damage to walls/foundations that are already in place. You can remove the roots that encroach onto your side of the property at your own expense as long this does not damage the tree (if it does you can be held liable for costs etc). You can't demand the removal of a health tree just in case the branches might blow off in a storm. Again, you can trim back any branches that are overhanging your side of the property.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-Mar-17 @ 12:40 PM
My neighbours trees are overhanging my fence. They should be responsible for cutting them and not myself?
Cheyenne - 10-Mar-17 @ 9:07 AM
My neighbour has a sixty foot birch tree about 12 feet from our house, we are very concerned it is very close to our property and the roots of the tree could cause subsistence, we are also concerned during times of storm that branches break off or the tree falls which could cause damage to our property.We would like the tree to be cut down, what rights do we have to request the neighbours to do this.We are also considering helping towards the cost of cutting the tree down.Can you advise.
Di - 9-Mar-17 @ 7:41 PM
Frustrated - Your Question:
Hi,During the recent Storm Doris, a Cypress tree in my neighbours garden has fallen. My neighbours informed that they contacted the local council to get the tree removed, however the council declined, the reason given for the refusal was because we currently have building works at our house and that when we built our store some roots where cut, making to tree unstable and ultimately causing it to fall, do local councils deal with such things for free?My neighbours have then spoken to a private company who deal with fallen trees to professionally remove it, however their report also states that “…due to recent unscrupulous building practise and in order to accommodate foundations for a new-build brick structure, the contractors have deliberately severed several major lateral roots over 50mm…”. In a nutshell they want me to pay to get the tree removed…As far as I am aware I am well within my right to cut either branches or roots of the tree that are within my freehold demise, is this true?Where do I stand?

Our Response:
You do have the right to cut back roots but only if this would not cause significant damage to the tree. Your neighbours will need to be able to prove that the root damage was a direct cause of the tree falling. In view of the storm's severity, it may be that the tree simply has simply fallen. If the neighbours want to claim from you (and it's not fallen into your garden, is it not a direct issue for you), tell them they will need to do so via the courts, or possibly their home insurance. You can get your own survey done if you need to (for a second opinion).
ProblemNeighbours - 6-Mar-17 @ 10:40 AM
who is responsible to pay for tree lopping? Can a neighbour ask for payment to lop branches on their trees that are overhanging a neighbours yard
ttt - 6-Mar-17 @ 4:49 AM
I have a pony paddock at the back of my house. There is a dead tree in the field which is banging against my house wall and guttering. As I can't trace the owner, can I legally remove it? Sue.
Sue - 5-Mar-17 @ 12:27 PM
Our garden and each neighbour on either side has a mature trees within our gardens. Ours is in the centre of our garden but one of our neighbours has his towards the edge of his garden bordering on our property. All have tpos. Our neighbours tree has 3 or 4 large branches overhanging our property which mean our garden has restricted daylight as it is completely in shade during the summer - the branches of his tree reach so far over they meet up with ours. What do we need to do about getting him to have these cut back? He is very odd and difficult to deal with.
Brownies - 4-Mar-17 @ 9:28 AM
Hi, During the recent Storm Doris, a Cypress tree in my neighbours garden has fallen. My neighbours informed that they contacted the local council to get the tree removed, however the council declined, the reason given for the refusal was because we currently have building works at our house and that when we built our store some roots where cut, making to tree unstable and ultimately causing it to fall, do local councils deal with such things for free? My neighbours have then spoken to a private company who deal with fallen trees to professionally remove it, however their report also states that “…due to recent unscrupulous building practise and in order to accommodate foundations for a new-build brick structure, the contractors have deliberately severed several major lateral roots over 50mm…”. In a nutshell they want me to pay to get the tree removed… As far as I am aware I am well within my right to cut either branches or roots of the tree that are within my freehold demise, is this true? Where do I stand?
Frustrated - 3-Mar-17 @ 3:36 PM
Dantheman - Your Question:
Hi,Advise required, My neighbors tree (Silver Birch) I think overhangs on to my back garden, this I don't mind but the roots have started splitting my my concrete path in several places and roots can be seen on my lawn. I'm also concerned the roots are starting to reach a drainage system. Who should be responsible in organizing a survey to check the damage and further damage the roots may cause in the near future. Also could I claim against them for the damage already caused or should a barrier have been installed on my behalf.Thanks

Our Response:
As the roots and potential damage are on your property, it will be necessary for you to arrange and pay for a survey. If the survey proves that the damage has been caused by the roots of your neighbour's tree, you can either try claim the costs from your neighbour or refer it to your home insurance provider (they may then liaise with your neighbour or their insurance company too).
ProblemNeighbours - 3-Mar-17 @ 11:52 AM
I have a question,my neighbours who are elderly and council tenants have a tree which is damaging my property,my fence is now buckling as it is growing in the direction of my property I don't want to upset them but the tree needs removing before any more damage is done who do I contact please.
denny - 2-Mar-17 @ 4:29 PM
Hiswasp - Your Question:
I have 4 very mature trees growing within a yard of my garden. These trees are in a council owned public park. I collect these leaves up & my green bin is full every week from August to November & this year my council is going to charge me £40 per year to empty this green bin so have I the right to charge the council for clearing up their leaves. My other choice is to blow them all onto the road but as the council has also cut back on road sweeping then these leaves stay there for several weeks.

Our Response:
No. You can cut back any branches that overhang your property (unless TPOs are in place)which may alleviate the problem a little, but it's very unlikely you will be able to get a refund on your green bin collection for this.
ProblemNeighbours - 2-Mar-17 @ 2:24 PM
Hi, Advise required, My neighbors tree (Silver Birch) i think overhangs on to my back garden, this i don't mind but the roots have started splitting my my concrete path in several places and roots can be seen on my lawn. i'm also concerned the roots are starting to reach a drainage system. Who should be responsible in organizing a survey to check the damage and further damage the roots may cause in the near future. Also could i claim against them for the damage already caused or should a barrier have been installed on my behalf. Thanks
Dantheman - 1-Mar-17 @ 2:47 PM
I have 4 very mature trees growing within a yard of my garden. These trees are in a council owned public park. I collect these leaves up & my green bin is full every week from August to November & this year my council is going to charge me £40 per year to empty this green bin so have I the right to charge the council for clearing up their leaves. My other choice is to blow them all onto the road but as the council has also cut back on road sweeping then these leaves stay there for several weeks.
Hiswasp - 1-Mar-17 @ 12:12 PM
Td - Your Question:
I have an ash tree over hanging my stables and part of the tree has already come down and it is splitting down the trunk. I have texted the owner and have not had a response from him. I did mention it to him before along with several other trees which we have cut down as they were dangerous for our horses. What should I do as he didn't do anything last time. He only cut one up once it had come down into our field. If any of the horses are injured or have to be distroyed what are my rights. The horses have to be stabled at night all year round.

Our Response:
If you have made the owner aware of the dangerous condition of the trees, he/she can be held liable for any damages. So send a note to the owner and keep a copy. If necessary (and you can afford it), it might be worth getting a report from a professional about the state of the tree. If the owner does not take action and you want to prevent injury to yourself or your animals and property, the local council can take action to force the owner to do something, if the tree definitely poses an imminent danger.
ProblemNeighbours - 28-Feb-17 @ 10:07 AM
I have an ash tree over hanging my stables and part of the tree has already come down and it is splitting down the trunk. I have texted the owner and have not had a response from him. I did mention it to him before along with several other trees which we have cut down as they were dangerous for our horses. What should I do as he didn't do anything last time. He only cut one up once it had come down into our field. If any of the horses are injured or have to be distroyed what are my rights. The horses have to be stabled at night all year round.
Td - 26-Feb-17 @ 10:14 AM
Hils- Your Question:
We have a field which has a stream as the boundary between us and a newly built house. They are complaining about the holly trees and beech tree on the bank going down to the stream and want them removed so that they have a view across our fields. We want privacy and security for our horses. Do we have to cut them down?

Our Response:
If it's simply that the neighbours want their view improved then no, you don't have to cut them down.
ProblemNeighbours - 22-Feb-17 @ 2:48 PM
Had enough - Your Question:
Hi I need some help please. I rent my house off the council. My neighbours own the home. Down the bottom of there garden they have a pine tree and half of the branches hang over my side of the garden. At least half of my garden is covered in pine cones. It's a nightmare especially when trying to mow the garden. Do I have any rights to get the tree cutting back. Thank you.

Our Response:
You can cut back any branches that overhang your side of the boundary. The neighbour (tree owner) however, is under no obligation to cut it if he/she doesn't want to.
ProblemNeighbours - 22-Feb-17 @ 2:27 PM
Matt - Your Question:
I have two oak trees in a field behind and overhanging my garden. Leaves and acorns cause a huge mess and my autistic son who is highly sensory keeps putting acorns in his mouth and chewing them. Not sure if the field is privately owned or not. What can I do?

Our Response:
You can cut back any overhanging branches yourself. If you want the owner to take action (note the owner is under no obligation to do so), but do not know who owns the land, then you can find out via the Land Registry.
ProblemNeighbours - 22-Feb-17 @ 12:00 PM
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