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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 11 Nov 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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A neighbour has two very large trees that overhang the retained land managed by our Residents Association and bend onto the roof of one if the individual house owners. Those running the Residents Association have not arranged any gardening in this part of the commonly held gardens for many years.The house owner has now asked the Residents Association to pay for the cutting back of these trees (which will need to be done from the owners garden). The Residents Association are saying it is not their responsibility and the house owner must pay the cost themselves. Is this correct?Can the house owner go back to the original neighbour boundary or must they only cut to the boundary between their property and the Residents' Association's boundary by them? Who should bear the cost?
Truth2Power - 11-Nov-18 @ 6:58 PM
Please can you help. I recently returned home from work to discover a tree which was firmly located upon my property had been chopped down leaving only a stump on my property. The branches which provided fruit in my rear garden where they were located and shade on my shed roof, all on my property, were gone. The missing timber was nowhere to be seen. The tree had sentimental value, being a favourite of my Father when he was alive. I belive that the tree, a fruit bearing elderberry, was felled during maintenance perform by network rail. I feel trespassed. This feels like vandalism to my property. A violation. Please may I ask your advice or assistance with bringing my dismay and outrage to the organisation responsible. Ian
Peelie - 7-Nov-18 @ 12:51 PM
My Neighbour has a row of trees that must be 40-50 high (if not larger) it starts with two huge pines entwines with another type tree a small gap with 2 new trees growing up fast in the gap then finishes of with a maple. they have destroyed any enjoyment i get from my garden, the pine trees are casting needles like you wouldnt believe as are the other trees. my gutters are constantly blocked with his leaves and needles, moss is starting to grow everywhere i get no light and spend weekends filling the 2 brown bins (i had to request a second bin to cope with the leaves and still not enough) I am sick of the whole situation of unblocking drains hoovering up leaves or washing my paths clean of bird muck from pigeons roosting in his trees above my property
Fowlwynd - 5-Nov-18 @ 12:45 PM
My neighbour has removed a whole corner of my beech tree. Yes, it did overhang their garden but all the trees in my garden have TPOs. The land where the houses were built was originally a large farm and the developers tried to put fences where they could without ‘cutting’ trees in half. We originally had 11 trees but over the years storms and disease have meant we have had to remove some, with council permission where necessary. The tree looks very strange now. We can only think he did the work when my husband seriously ill in hospital for three weeks. We only have evidence of when he previously removed some branches. He has threatened us in the past, neighbours the other side moved out because of his behaviour, so what do we do? Do we put up with a badly damaged tree and keep quiet or report him to the council?
Angrynan - 21-Oct-18 @ 9:55 AM
We have a school at the back of our house, When we bought it 10 years ago the 4 trees were just over the height of the wooden fence (about 6foot)..Now these trees have grown so tall (they are about 25-30feet high now)that the sunlight is totally blocked in my garden and grass from +-9am in the morning for the whole day. This means that my house is cold and I am afraid of any damp forming. Also there is so much moss in my garden now. It is a losing battle every year to keep my garden neat. I am an old age pensioner and struggle to do the garden financially and physically. Please help. Is there anything I can do?
Anne - 6-Oct-18 @ 12:34 PM
I have the branches of an oak tree with a TPO on it on a neighbouring piece of spare land, never maintained, all summer we have had to put up with sticky black leaves everywhere,meaning no washing could be put out or even sit out,all the gutters have to keep being cleaned out, the council say a few branches over 5mtrs high can be cut, which isn't a great help as a lot of branches are over the land it is on.we juust want to enjoy our home and do normal things
wallyollie - 4-Oct-18 @ 9:45 AM
We hired an arborist to trim our backyard tree at the request of a neighbour. The branches extended over into two yards. The arborist gave us a quote splitting the costs between neighbours with us paying 50% of the service the other two sharing 50%. Now one neighbour is refusing to contribute even though they were happy with the service. I would like to know what is the general rule about overhanging branches which are not causing damage and how a bill is managed thank you.
liz - 3-Oct-18 @ 3:18 PM
Neighbour has cut my over hanging branches at the back of my property( not on there property), it belongs to the water board , in July this year they cut some branches where they were over hanging onto there's but came into my boundary by approximately 18 inches. Do I have a case ??
luckyme - 2-Oct-18 @ 4:38 PM
I have a alleyway behind my garden, it doesn't lead to anywhere. Then you have houses behind my garden. There are 2 overgrown fit trees which are blocking sunlight in my south facing garden. These trees are effectingmy neighbours garden and two doors away as well. We have spoken to them and they have refused to do anything about it. I have got in contact with my local council if they can tell me if they can tell me if it's a council house or it's privately owned, they said they can't do that as it's a data protection act. So what we could do now.
Jularoso - 28-Sep-18 @ 1:31 PM
Too - Your Question:
I have tall trees bordering my garden.On one side is a single track road with my neighbour's property alongside it.He wants me to cut down or severely reduce these trees as leaves block his gutters and gather in his yard. He says there are overhanging branches but I 've not noticed these. We have been here for 30 years and our neighbour only 4. We made it clear before they moved in that we love our trees and won't take any down unless they are dangerous. They do not block light. If he takes this further , has he a right to legal action?

Our Response:
There is no obligation to remove branches becayse of falling leaves etc. A neighbour is entitled to remove any overhanging branches him/herself. If the trees are evergreen the neighbour may use high hedges legislation
ProblemNeighbours - 18-Sep-18 @ 3:34 PM
I have tall trees bordering my garden.On one side is a single track road with my neighbour's property alongside it.He wants me to cut down or severely reduce these trees as leaves block his gutters and gather in his yard. He says there are overhanging branches but I 've not noticed these. We have been here for 30 years and our neighbour only 4. We made it clear before they moved in that we love our trees and won't take any down unless they are dangerous. They do not block light. If he takes this further , has he a right to legal action?
Too - 17-Sep-18 @ 8:32 AM
My neighbour moans as us when the bin men leave our bins by her garage before we have the chance to move them . She is a barrister so will understand the law better than us but she has vegetation encroaching rapidly into our garden and a rapidly growing fig tree that is taking over her garden . My concern is she doesn’t keep the garden maintained , what am I able to ask her do before they become a problem ?
Milo2016 - 15-Sep-18 @ 11:32 AM
We have an established holly tree ( which is beautiful and full of wildlife) that is planted in our garden but over the years (prob about 30) the trunk has bended and drifts over our neighbours boundary and then back into our garden. The current fence has been erected to account for the tree trunk.As the fence is wearing the neighbours would like to replace with a higher fence and want all the tree cutting right back to the boundary And have sent us a copy of some legal advice they have been given saying we are trepassing by the tree being across the boundary and going to court if we don't cut it back will cost circa (20k!).( we know the email has come from a lawyer friend of there's so is by no means official) I'am reading lots about common law and that neighbours can cut Back branches and trunk back to the boundary but as the tree owners, do we have to do it if requested?We have tried to be amicable with them but it's turning nasty.We are also in a conservation area so aware we will need permission to prune anyway.Any immediate advice or comments would be welcome please.
Archie - 11-Sep-18 @ 10:11 PM
I have a tree on the other side of my garden wall which is the responsibility of the Highways department of our county council. Around 3 years ago we requested they cut the tree back, which they did for us and we were surprised at how much light we had gained!We have recently asked them to cut it back again as it is wider than our house and is over half way over our garden. The leaves have started dropping and we only have a small garden so it will get completely covered. We also have a drain in our garden. And I'm worried about my gutters. They have refused to do anything about it stating they only cut dangerous or dying trees. If we were to get it done ourselves, can we bill the council, or if we get blocked gutters from the leaves, can we bill the council? I am really annoyed as, I love the tree but it really is too big and out of control. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you in advance
Niki - 10-Sep-18 @ 12:29 PM
Debs - Your Question:
If my neighbours fig tree hangs about 4 foot over my fence can I cut it in my side and give them the branches back

Our Response:
You have a common law right to cut back tree branches that overhang onto your property. The law states that any branches cut off belong to the person on whose land the tree originally grew, so you should ask your neighbour if they want them back, or if they are happy for you to dispose of them. Do not just throw trimmings back over the boundary - this could constitute 'fly tipping'. Ask your neighbour whether they would like any trimmings back. Equally any fruit on trees, even if they are growing on branches which overhang your property, still belongs to your neighbour. You are therefore stealing if you pick these for yourself without your neighbours' permission.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-Sep-18 @ 11:23 AM
We have our neighbours Apple tree branches hanging over over our chalet they are hanging over about 5ft on the roof causing damp when it rains . We have been told by a housing officer we have to pay a tree surgeon to cut the branches our side and and pay them to take them away .We live in a privately owned property .
Bramble - 6-Sep-18 @ 8:02 PM
A neighbour's fir/conifer tree (about 30 ft tall) is planted right on the boundary with our property. The tree's trunk is pushing over the fence and its roots are lifting up the patio slabs. The overhanging branches are halfway across the patio and the mess (from the branches and the nesting pigeons) is incessant. The lowest branches are over 10 ft tall and are not easily reached to lop. We have approached the neighbor about this on more than one occasion and he is not interested in dealing with the tree at all. Offers to 'go halves' on removing it have resulted in the door being slammed in our faces.It seems to me that the laws regarding this sort of thing favour irresponsible tree owners and do little to protect those whose property is materially damaged through no fault of their own. What can we do?
LS - 5-Sep-18 @ 9:46 AM
If my neighbours fig tree hangs about 4 foot over my fence can I cut it in my side and give them the branches back
Debs - 3-Sep-18 @ 11:07 AM
I have an ash tree close to my boundary with a neighbour. The neighbour claims that 'droppings' from the tree (presumably leaves and 'spinners') are blocking his drains and damaging his car. He wants me to cut the tree down. I am not willing to do the but am happy for any overhanging branches to be removed. Who does the removing and who pays?
Rosie - 31-Aug-18 @ 4:22 PM
There are two giant conifer trees at the end of neighbours garden and one of the conifer tree is over into my garden. I would say it covers quarter of my garden. The mess it makes in my garden is harendous, every week I am sweeping my garden and it’s tiering. Is it neighbours right to cut the tree-down or the branches that are coming into my garden.
Daks - 30-Aug-18 @ 3:20 PM
My neighbour pulled up trees on our boundary to put up a new fence, he then copped one down which is on our property. Where do we stand legally?? Thanks
Zahne - 28-Aug-18 @ 11:47 AM
I have bougt a house but the neighnours tree has large branches over my garden which are very very high and small grown bushes over my fence can i get these cut off right to top as long as theyr leve with the fencing upto where my garden ends
Simmy - 25-Aug-18 @ 8:56 PM
15 years ago when I moved here my (then ) next door neighbour had a summer house at the bottom of the garden. The fence ended two or three feet short of this point. The previous occupiers of my property had set five various conifer trees, two yew and three leylandi to screen the summer house. We kept them trimmed. Looking along the line the trees were well within my property. My late partner was deteriorating in health and he was not able to cut the trees for a couple of years. Eventually new neighbours moved in and when a friend came to cut the trees down for us both he and my late partner were shouted off. The neighbour claimed they were his. The trees looked odd as all the side branches had been removed ready for felling. After my partner died the fence rotted away and I mentioned several times to the neighbour that I would appreciate it if he replaced the fence. This went on for four years until the fence panels were flat to the ground. He denied it was his fence and I had to show him my deeds to prove it was his. I offered to pay and get a firm in but he said he would do it. Whilst I was away he replaced the fence moving it over and incorporating the trees in the line. Over the years whenever I have tried to talk to both him and his wife I have had a verbal blasting and complete refusal to discuss the matter. Measurements from the boundary marker the other side of my property prove the trees are on my land and a chartered surveyor has examined my documentation and confirmed this. I requested to discuss the matter again but received the same objectionable response, a ‘signed for’ letter was sent stating that I was disappointed that they would not discuss the matter ,that I was going to remove the trees and that The fence should be realigned. I gave them two weeks to remove the bird boxes and detach the existing fence from the trees. After several weeks and no response I had the trees felled. The fence has not been moved and of course they did respond when the trees were gone but by blasting me and now a complete wall of silence. If I went to court it would cost me a lot of money which I can I’ll fford . Is there an inexpensive way for me to resolve this matter?
Muffet - 20-Aug-18 @ 7:28 AM
Row - Your Question:
There are conifer trees at the bottom of my garden that belong to the factory. They are taller than my house hang over my garden so shades all my patio area. Sheds it's pins everywhere and also hangs all over my shed. Previously in a storm one of the branches wenthe right through my shed roof. Didn't claim as was oled anyway. Now I have a different shed and trees are growing over it. Who is responsible for cutting these?

Our Response:
You are responsible for cutting back any branches that overhang your side of the boundary. If the tree causes damage again you can claim off the tree owner. If you think the tree is dangerous, here is the advice from our guide:
If you are concerned that a tree is diseased or damaged and poses a danger due to having fallen, or being at risk of falling, you should contact the owner of the land on which the tree is growing. If the land belongs to the local council, contact them to request that the tree is cut down or pruned. If you are unable to contact the land owner or they refuse to take action, contact your local council's Environmental Health Office. The owner is not under any legal duty to take action, but will be liable if a tree they knew to be damaged caused damage to Property or injury to a person.
As prevention is often better than waiting for damage or injury to occur however, the Environmental Health Office may be able to invoke the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 if the tree poses an immediate risk to Property or people. This allows them to serve notice on the land owner to make the tree safe. If they fail to do so, the Environmental Health Office may undertake this work themselves. The land owner would then usually be charged for any gardening required.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-Aug-18 @ 10:22 AM
Lil - Your Question:
My neighbours trees are now growing over my summerhouse and new fence. I have telephoned twice to ask when the tree surgeon is coming back to finish the job the neighbour asked to do but no reply. I have now written a letter to the property owner to ask for them to ask for completion of the job as they left all loose branches over my garden and didn't cut my side of the fence. I have ivy growing in between slats of my new fence and I now also have berries on my patio which are black and stain everything if trodden on, Is their anything else I can do/ as when another neighbour moved in and cut about 4 foot off the conifers the neighbour in question had them up for criminal damage and I don't wish to get into that situation. Please help with next steps.

Our Response:
You are entitled to cut back any growth that overhangs your side of the boundary, the tree owner does not have to do this.Falling leaves, berries etc are annoying, but they are not legally a 'nuisance', which has a very specific meaning.As for the ivy, your neighbour should not "attach" anything to your fence if it belongs to you, so you can request that the ivy is removed. You can also cut it back yourself as long as you do not "trespass" into your neighbour's property in doing so.
ProblemNeighbours - 8-Aug-18 @ 3:19 PM
There are conifer trees at the bottom of my garden that belong to the factory. They are taller than my house hang over my garden so shades all my patio area. Sheds it's pins everywhere and also hangs all over my shed. Previously in a storm one of the branches wenthe right through my shed roof. Didn't claim as was oled anyway. Now I have a different shed and trees are growing over it. Who is responsible for cutting these?
Row - 8-Aug-18 @ 6:37 AM
My neighbours trees are now growing over my summerhouse and new fence. I have telephoned twice to ask when the tree surgeon is coming back to finish the job the neighbour asked to do but no reply. I have now written a letter to the property owner to ask for them to ask for completion of the job as they left all loosebranches over my garden and didn't cut my side of the fence. I have ivy growing in between slats of my new fence and I now also have berries on my patio which are black and stain everything if trodden on, Is their anything else I can do/ as when another neighbour moved in and cut about 4 foot off the conifers the neighbour in question had them up for criminal damage and I don't wish to get into that situation. Please help with next steps.
Lil - 7-Aug-18 @ 5:34 PM
Sorry but a lot of this article is providing inaccurate information . A neighbour only becomes liable for damage fromtree roots or overhanging branches once they become aware that their tree is causing damage and thenonly become liable for future damage not for any damage which occurred prior to them being made aware Also the natural dropping of leaves,sap and seeds is not considered to be an actionable nuisance and any clean up or remedial work cannot be charged to the tree owner.
UKMICKY - 29-Jul-18 @ 10:52 PM
'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.' For someone to sue and gain compensation they need to show the ownerknew damage was occurring and also need to show a case for an actionable nuisance which seasonal leaf fall is not Tree Roots 'You are entitled to dig up and remove any roots that have encroached upon your land. ' However should you remove a large rootwhich causes the tree to fall your actions could be deemed to be reckless and could find your self in court if harm or damage occur. '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.' No it is not . You may be able to force them to remove the tree if an experts report positively identifies the tree as the cause of the subsidence but you need to show they knew the trees were causing damage and then failed to act . Even them they would only be liable for future damage.
ukmicky - 29-Jul-18 @ 10:42 PM
We live in a apartment overlooking the sea our ground floor neighbour has a tree in there garden which blocks our view every summerI have to ask them every year to cut this tree back I don't want to fall out with them but it seems if I don't ask them to cut it they wouldn't bother this problem has now been going on for the past ,9 years the trunk of this tree is getting higher every year with the result the Only answer is to remove it R
Ray - 27-Jul-18 @ 9:10 PM
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