Home > Rights > Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 27 Jul 2016 | 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

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Developers want to build new houses at the bottom of next door's garden, but to do so they have plans to prune my purple beech tree at the bottom of my garden because it overhangs next door's land where they want to build a house. Who would be responsible for pruning the branches each year as the tree grows and who would have to foot the bill? If it would be the new neighbours responsibility, but they neglect to keep the tree pruned and their property becomes damaged, who would be liable for the damage? Thank you.
Beech Tree - 27-Jul-16 @ 1:51 PM
I moved into a new house last year which backs into a cul de sac with large sycamore trees. The builders originally cut them back when they built the house they are now overhanging and touching the guttering. The are too high for me to cut without getting professional help. Is this something that the council is responsible for or do I foot the bill.
Grooster - 26-Jul-16 @ 9:36 PM
My neighbours have several full size self seeded buddleias growing in the cracks n their concreted back garden (used as a practice area for football).These overhang my fence and rest on the roof of my bungalow.They drop leaves and I am constantly pulling up mini buddleias sprouting in my very well maintained garden.I understand that buddleias are designated an invasive species.CanI A). Insist that these trees be removedor B.) Have them cut back and throw the cuttings over the fence so that they have the problem of getting rid of them. The house is privately rented and the tenants are only interested in playing football.This presents other problems I will not go into here. Look forward to hearing from you. Evie
Evie - 25-Jul-16 @ 9:29 PM
I live in a new build property, it is next to a council park and I believe the boundary to the park side is mine. There is trees/shrubbery the park side then a fence my side, I try and cut back the trees that overhang my side but since I moved in 18 months ago the council have done nothing on the park side and now looks a mess and overgrown. As the boundary is mine will the council ever cut back anything on their side or is it down to me? The shrubbery/trees are accessible from the park side. I can email a picture if needed so you get a better idea? Thank you for any advice. Bob
Bob - 23-Jul-16 @ 10:02 PM
My neighbour has planted a flower bush that have grown rather tall.and is now leaning over onto my garden near my front door. The petals are all falling in my garden. I would ask my neighbour to trim this but she is vey uncooperative. Where do I stand by law if I trim this down which includes flowers & put them back on her side of the property?
KJ - 23-Jul-16 @ 12:55 PM
Hi, my parents moved into a bungalow 30 years ago. Its down a private lane that everyone who lives on it [ 5 bungalows ] has access to use & responsibility for on their portion. When they moved in there were no real issues & i was quite idyllic ! There is a hedge with a few medium interspersed trees in it on the left that doesnt get much care & on the right are 3 really large deciduous trees, that the trunks & roots have really grown a lot over those 30 years. Our issue is that recently my elderly [ 86 ] father had a stroke & because of the way the hedge on left & trees on right have now grown the ambulance was unable to get access & even the paramedics had to walk the 200 yards to the house. It is possible to get to the house with a car but anything larger is a problem. As my parents are now too old [83 & 86 ] & too settled to move i want to ask if there is anything we can do to resolve the access issue ? One householder has had a wall built inside the trees to almost infer that the large trees are outside their property ! Also as its inevitable that in the near future i'll lose my parents & the house will have to be sold & removal vans involved. How do we stand if only a car can get access ? The ambulance issue is my main concern & if anyone can give me advice as to what we can do [ if anything ? ] i would appreciate it. Thanks in advance Keith
mortsoul - 23-Jul-16 @ 11:01 AM
Treeproblems- Your Question:
I have had an ongoing battle with the local primary school whose field backs onto the bottom of my garden. When I moved into my property 30 years ago there were no trees planted at the bottom of my garden but around 15 years ago they planted some. Unfortunately for us that is where the care for the tress stopped. Over the years they have grown approximately 30feet tall, have encroached my property and damaged my shed (which I never complained about to the school) and more recently they are blocking out a subset amount of light from my garden. I have had ongoing correspondence with the school and spoken to the council on numerous occasions about getting these trees maintained. The school claim they have no funding and are happy for me to foot the bill. I am not prepared to pay to fix their problems and I don't feel like it's my responsibility. I cut the branches I can reach but this is not enough. There is also a huge amount of ivy encroaching my garden.What would be the next step in getting these either removed or maintained regularly without me fitting the bill?

Our Response:
While you say you're not prepare to pay to "fix their problems" unfortunately this is probably not actually causing a problem for the school. The trees were probably planted to provide shade and privacy for the school etc. You should definitely have claimed for the damage caused by one of the trees, it may have prompted them to look more carefully at the trees and their maintenance. You can't really take any other action unless the trees are evergreen in which case you should be able to use the High Hedges Legislation of the Antisocial Behaviour Act.
ProblemNeighbours - 20-Jul-16 @ 12:23 PM
Hello, We have moved into a new build house and chose the plot we are on cos of big tree inc sycamores and elm near to house at back and 2 at side. The branches from most of these overhang the gutter, veranda and large patio at the back. We didn't realise that black stuff would fall in large splodges all over the the veranda and patio that is slippy and sugary. There is limited light around the back and side garden. We have a tree surgeon's report submitted to the council and are awaiting reply from the TP Officer. But, are we allowed - with the TPO,s permission - if we get it, to cut back branches from over the roof and gutter. Also to allow for light to reach the gardens? We just want to be fore-armed with knowledge and it's hard to find facts. Thank you in advance for your help. We dare not do anything ourselves of course, without permission.
Tree lover - normall - 19-Jul-16 @ 7:25 PM
Sarah - Your Question:
The garden that backs onto mine has really high conifer trees and they block the sun from my garden completely. They are about 8-9 feet tall. If not taller. Where do I stand with cutting them down please ? x

Our Response:
You can't reduce the height of these, but can cut back any branches that overhang your side of the boundary. As they are conifers there is action you can take if you neighbour will not voluntarily reduce the height. Please see our guide here.
ProblemNeighbours - 19-Jul-16 @ 2:44 PM
Robert - Your Question:
Is there a limit to how tall a tree can be in the back garden?My lovely neighbour has several silverberch trees in her back garden at about 70 ft tall of which the branches are over forty foot tall and three metres into my garden causing loss of view the the estuary where we live and also loads of leaves and seeds finding their way into my garden and house in Autumn. Put it this way, if the fell over, they would easily hit our house. Additionally, she has conifer trees at approx 50 foot tall all over hanging my garden. She is a very difficult person to speak with. Works for the local council. We are at the end of our tether. She doesn't attend to her garden as we like to with ours. What do you suggest?

Our Response:
There's not a great deal you can do about the silver birches except that you are entitled to trim back any overhanging branches on your side of the boundary. The conifers might be dealt with under High Hedges legislation, see our guide here.
ProblemNeighbours - 19-Jul-16 @ 11:21 AM
I have had an ongoing battle with the local primary school whose field backs onto the bottom of my garden. When I moved into my property 30 years ago there were no trees planted at the bottom of my garden but around 15 years ago they planted some. Unfortunately for us that is where the care for the tress stopped. Over the years they have grown approximately 30feet tall, have encroached my property and damaged my shed (which I never complained about to the school) and more recently they are blocking out a subset amount of light from my garden. I have had ongoing correspondence with the school and spoken to the council on numerous occasions about getting these trees maintained. The school claim they have no funding and are happy for me to foot the bill. I am not prepared to pay to fix their problems and I don't feel like it's my responsibility. I cut the branches I can reach but this is not enough. There is also a huge amount of ivy encroaching my garden.What would be the next step in getting theseeither removed or maintained regularly without me fitting the bill?
Treeproblems - 18-Jul-16 @ 11:21 PM
The garden that backs onto mine has really high conifer trees and they block the sun from my garden completely.. They are about 8-9 feet tall... If not taller... Where do I stand with cutting them down please ? x
Sarah - 18-Jul-16 @ 5:40 PM
Hi there - really appreciate thoughts on this. We live in a ground floor flat in 3 storey building that backs onto a public park. There are 12 trees on boundary of the property (on the park side) and over the past several years these trees have group way up and over the height of our building. One of the trees is at an angle (wind blown) and the branches are within 1 metre of the top flat's windows. The trees block all light in the communal garden and clothes washing line area and also to the flats themselves (the back of our flat has 3 rooms that don't get any direct sunlight as a result of the trees). The issue is compounded by fact that the trees are thick with ivy so they are top heavy and dense... I'm wondering what we can do....
christine - 18-Jul-16 @ 12:36 PM
Is there a limit to how tall a tree can be in the back garden? My lovely neighbour has several silverberch trees in her back garden at about 70 ft tall of which the branches are over forty foot tall and three metres into my garden causing loss of view the the estuary where we live and also loads of leaves and seeds finding their way into my garden and house in Autumn. Put it this way, if the fell over, they would easily hit our house. Additionally, she has conifer trees at approx 50 foot tall all over hanging my garden. She is a very difficult person to speak with. Works for the local council. We are at the end of our tether.She doesn't attend to her garden as we like to with ours. What do you suggest?
Robert - 17-Jul-16 @ 6:47 PM
Bob - Your Question:
Our neighbour has a huge walnut tree which overhangs our garden and we would like to cut (at our own cost)the overhanging branches to improve light and restrict debris falling into our garden. We are in a conservation area, do we need permission to do so and if so, who needs to get permission given it is their tree? Thanks in advance.

Our Response:
Your local planning authority is the place to ask. General planning guidance suggests that trees in a conservation area that are not protected by a Tree Preservation Order are protected by the provisions in section 211 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. These provisions require people to notify the local planning authority, using a ‘section 211 notice’, six weeks before carrying out certain work on such trees, unless an exception applies. The work may go ahead before the end of the six week period if the local planning authority gives consent. This notice period gives the authority an opportunity to consider whether to make an Order on the tree.
ProblemNeighbours - 15-Jul-16 @ 11:34 AM
My neighbour has a large tall wide bush like tree I would say it's over 30 ft tall and about the same across.Around 10ft of it hangs over our shed . I did ask them to cut it back about 3 years back which they did do. But it's grown back with a vengeance!I feel I don'twant and shouldn't have to door knock again. They know it's very overgrown.What are my options. ?In the autumnour garden (last 10 ft) or more is covered in the leaves from it.
Leafitout - 14-Jul-16 @ 11:59 AM
We have trees that are really overhanging and taking up a lot of space and keeping out the sun.The problem is we don't know who the land belongs to and via council have advised it's not theirs.How would I go about finding out who owns the land as the trees are huge not just a case of trimming a few branches?
clairely197 - 14-Jul-16 @ 11:53 AM
Our neighbour has a huge walnut tree which overhangs our garden and we would like to cut (at our own cost)the overhanging branches to improve light and restrict debris falling into our garden. We are in a conservation area, do we need permission to do so and if so, who needs to get permission given it is their tree? Thanks in advance.
Bob - 12-Jul-16 @ 5:15 PM
Noggin - Your Question:
A neighbour has waited 4 years since we moved into our property to say they are not happy with the tree in our garden which overhangs into their property (their driveway). They have also claimed that its roots are damaging their driveway. A tree surgeon was called for their opinion. They confirmed that the roots were in fact from the conifers that were in their garden. The tree in question does overhang their drive and has probably done so for a significant time, well before we moved here. The tree is not posing any imminent danger either. No claim has ever been made against the previous owner or ourselves regarding damage to cars, yet today this is their new issue.The neighbour wishes for us to have the tree cut down but as far as I can see the issue is just overhanging branches, which they could have cut back when they first started overhanging (probably about 20 years ago). Since there is already confirmation that the roots damaging their drive are not from our tree and they could easily trim the branches that overhang, and then throw them back over, do we need to take any action at this point? I feel that even if we offered to cut back to our boundary they will still complain that the tree is not completely coming down. They have already taken their conifers down and a tree in another neighbour's garden was brought down for them. Any advice please? Are we being unreasonable in wanting to conserve a tree? So many have already been removed!

Our Response:
No, from what you've told us, you are under no obligation to remove this tree at all.
ProblemNeighbours - 12-Jul-16 @ 2:16 PM
Having issues with self seeded trees growing behind a high wall in a neighbour's garden. It is a holiday home and rarely visited. These trees do block light from our garden which under current legislation is not allowed because they are spoiling our enjoyment of our property. HOWEVER their property is in the Conservation Area. I do have rights under High Hedges legislation BUT because these trees are ina Conservative Area we can't cut anything from these trees. We have approached the property owners who have ignored our letters requesting a discussion for years re this matter.We eventually managed to speak with them and have offered to pay to have the offending trees dealt with. Weare approaching the Council but don't hold out much hope!
stickman - 12-Jul-16 @ 10:50 AM
Polly - Your Question:
Today, whilst we were out, I had a distraught phone call from my 18 year old daughter who was home alone to say that a man was standing on our fence cutting down our tree and had we arranged this? We live in an end of terrace house on a corner of a crossroads. The trees in question are overhanging an alleyway to which we have right of way. I asked my daughter to go into our garden and ask what he was doing whilst she was still on the phone. A woman spoke to me on the phone and said she was within her rights (as her fathers owns the alley way?) When I said she should have advised us she was quite rude and aggresive on the phone and said she was going to clear away the cuttings but now was going to throw them over the fence!. I understand it is perfectly legal to prune trees that overhang into your property but does the same apply to "right of way alleyways"? The trees do not overhang onto their property. She had had the trees pruned by the time we got home. Thanks

Our Response:
If the trees were blocking the alleyway, the council or landowner is within their rights to trim back any overhanging branches that might be impeding access etc. They cannot (a) stand on your fence to do so (b) throw cuttings back onto your property (c) reduce the height of the tree. At this stage, there's not much you can do, but as you know the position now, you could offer a polite warning that in future, you might consider legal action for:
Trespass - for standing on your fence
Fly tipping - for throwing branches onto your property
Criminal Damage - if the height of the tree is reduced or significant damage occurs to the tree.
ProblemNeighbours - 12-Jul-16 @ 10:01 AM
Yvette - Your Question:
Hi. Myself and my husband. Have a tree out side our front garden. We have approached the council and tree people to be told we can't have it removed so we can have a drive wAy put in as the parking out side out house is terrible. Both neighbours ever side are going to have their drives done because of the situation. What I can understand is that the council and contract workers that built the houses at the back of my house could knock a oak tree down that had been there for hundreds of year for their convenience to build the houses. But the tree out the front they won't let me move. Please could you give me any information or help on this matter Thanks Yvette

Our Response:
Not really, we're guessing the tree was planted for aesthetic reasons and that removing it would detract from the appearance of the area. You should speak to your local councillor if you're not happy with the reaons you're being given.
ProblemNeighbours - 11-Jul-16 @ 10:24 AM
A neighbour has waited 4 years since we moved into our property to say they are not happy with the tree in our garden which overhangs into their property (their driveway). They have also claimed that its roots are damaging their driveway. A tree surgeon was called for their opinion. They confirmed that the roots were in fact from the conifers that were in their garden. The tree in question does overhang their drive and has probably done so for a significant time, well before we moved here. The tree is not posing any imminent danger either. No claim has ever been made against the previous owner or ourselves regarding damage to cars, yet today this is their new issue. The neighbour wishes for us to have the tree cut down but as far as I can see the issue is just overhanging branches, which they could have cut back when they first started overhanging (probably about 20 years ago). Since there is already confirmation that the roots damaging their drive are not from our tree and they could easily trim the branches that overhang, and then throw them back over, do we need to take any action at this point? I feel that even if we offered to cut back to our boundary they will still complain that the tree is not completely coming down. They have already taken their conifers down and a tree in another neighbour's garden was brought down for them. Any advice please? Are we beingunreasonable in wanting to conserve a tree? So many have already been removed!
Noggin - 10-Jul-16 @ 2:50 PM
Today, whilst we were out, I had a distraught phone call from my 18 year old daughter who was home alone to say that a man was standing on our fence cutting down our tree and had we arranged this? We live in an end of terrace house on a corner of a crossroads. The trees in question are overhangingan alleyway to which we have right of way. I asked my daughter to go into our garden and ask what he was doing whilst she was still on the phone. A woman spoke to me on the phone and said she was within her rights (as her fathers owns the alley way?) When I said she should have advised us she was quite rude and aggresive on the phone and said she was going to clear away the cuttings but now was going to throw them over the fence!. I understand it is perfectly legal to prune trees that overhang into your property butdoes the same apply to "right of way alleyways"? The trees do not overhang onto their property. She had had the trees pruned by the time we got home. Thanks
Polly - 9-Jul-16 @ 8:08 PM
Hi. Myself and my husband. Have a tree out side our front garden. We have approached the council and tree people to be told we can't have it removed so we can have a drive wAy put in as the parking out side out house is terrible. Both neighbours ever side are going to have their drives done because of the situation. What I can understand is that the council and contract workers that built the houses at the back of my house could knock a oak tree down that had been there for hundreds of year for their convenience to build the houses. But the tree out the front they won't let me move. Please could you give me any information or help on this matter Thanks Yvette
Yvette - 8-Jul-16 @ 11:11 AM
blooming tree - Your Question:
We have just moved into a house where a neighbours huge conifer tree not only overhangs our garden but also makes a lot of mess and blocks out our sunlight. What are our rights? Can we get the owner to cut it down? If we cut off the branches that overhang our garden is the owner responsible to pay or are we?

Our Response:
You can cut back overhanging branches but cannot ask the neighbour to pay for it. There is not much you can do about the mess apart from clearing it up and you only have a right to light in your home, not your garden. If there is more than one of these conifers together, you may be able to take action under the High hedges legislation
ProblemNeighbours - 7-Jul-16 @ 10:48 AM
We have just moved into a house where a neighbours huge conifer tree not only overhangs our garden but also makes a lot of mess and blocks out our sunlight. What are our rights? Can we get the owner to cut it down? If we cut off the branches that overhang our garden is the owner responsible to pay or are we?
blooming tree - 3-Jul-16 @ 4:31 PM
My neighbor reached across my fence and cut my plum tree level with the fence. However all the branches that were cut were on my side of the fence. They also threw all the branches they cut into my yard. what are my rights??
Lisa - 2-Jul-16 @ 7:04 PM
We have a problem with s neighbours tree in their front garden, which is not generally well kept. The trees branches bang against our bedroom window. We've approached them & they have refused to do anything about it.
Debs - 2-Jul-16 @ 1:25 PM
Maggy - Your Question:
My neighbour has just called me to say that a jasmin tree has overgrown on her side and is affecting her swimming pool so could I pay for it to be cut back. What am I obliged to do.

Our Response:
If you're in the UK, you don't need to do anything. Your neighbours themselves can cut back any branches that overhang their side of the boundary but you are under no obligation to do so. Other parts of the world do not have the same laws so if you're not in the UK (the jasmine tree and swimming pool suggest you aren't).
ProblemNeighbours - 29-Jun-16 @ 2:43 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the ProblemNeighbours website. Please read our Disclaimer.