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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 8 Feb 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

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Cez - Your Question:
I have a fence between myself and my neighbour. In their garden they have lots of tall bushes/shrubs/thorny trees etc. My fence is breaking as a result of their bushes growing and pushing against it.Where do I legally stand on this?

Our Response:
If the fence belongs to you, ideally the neighbours should not have anything "touching" your fence/property. The first thing to do would be to speak to them and ask them if they can cut back their plants as they're causing damage to your fence. If they refuse and your fence suffers more damage, you should try your home insurance - they can contact your neighbour's insurers to pursue the claim if it's appropriate.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-Feb-16 @ 10:08 AM
I have a fence between myself and my neighbour. In their garden they have lots of tall bushes/shrubs/thorny trees etc. My fence is breaking as a result of their bushes growing and pushing against it. Where do I legally stand on this?
Cez - 8-Feb-16 @ 11:16 AM
Bob - Your Question:
My neighbours ash tree has grown to over 170 feet high and blocks out the sun to my large rear south west facing garden every evening after 6 pm in the Spring/Summer months. I have 2 large patios with no sun every evening. it is now overgrowing our boundary fence.He refuses to cut or trim the tree as he says its been there for years and should be left to grow naturally and if trimmed would not look aesthetically pleasing and the tree might die !!Can I at least cut off the branches which overhang my fence and can I go onto his land to do it as they are big branches ?

Our Response:
You can cut back the branches that overhang your property as long as you are sure it will not damage the tree (a tree surgeon will be able to tell you whether it will or not). You cannot access the neighbour's property to do so without their permission.
ProblemNeighbours - 5-Feb-16 @ 12:53 PM
My neighbours ash tree has grown to over 170 feet high and blocks out the sun to my large rear south west facing garden every evening after 6 pm in the Spring/Summer months. I have 2 large patios with no sun every evening . it is now overgrowing our boundary fence. He refuses to cut or trim the tree as he says its been there for years and should be left to grow naturally and if trimmed would not look aesthetically pleasing and the tree might die !! Can I at least cut off the branches which overhang my fence and can I go onto his land to do it as they are big branches ?
Bob - 4-Feb-16 @ 1:29 PM
integral - Your Question:
Our neighbour had some work done in their garden a few weeks back. We went in the garden to notice that all the clippings from the bush that had been pruned was dumped on our side of the fence, along with part of a fence panel. If prunings fall on our side, surely it's the person doing the pruning responsibility to pick these up? I don't want to get into an argument with neighbours as they hired someone to do the work.

Our Response:
In general yes they should remove them, but they would have to ask your permission to enter your property first. Pop round and just say you weren't sure if you were out when they asked but would they be able to pop back and clear away the fence panel and prunings etc .
ProblemNeighbours - 25-Jan-16 @ 2:11 PM
my neighbour has come into my garden without my permission and chopped a tree down is this against the law?
AJ - 24-Jan-16 @ 4:25 PM
Our neighbour had some work done in their garden a few weeks back. We went in the garden to notice that all the clippings from the bush that had been pruned was dumped on our side of the fence, along with part of a fence panel. If prunings fall on our side, surely it's the person doing the pruning responsibility to pick these up? I don't want to get into an argument with neighbours as they hired someone to do the work.
integral - 23-Jan-16 @ 10:32 AM
Lisa - Your Question:
My neighbours trees overhang into my garden and rest on my roof, the guttering is getting blocked and I am now seeing signs of damp in my walls, what can I do about this

Our Response:
You can remove any of the branches that are overhanging your property, as far back as the boundary.
ProblemNeighbours - 22-Jan-16 @ 12:48 PM
My neighbours trees overhang into my garden and rest on my roof, the guttering is getting blocked and I am now seeing signs of damp in my walls, what can I do about this
Lisa - 21-Jan-16 @ 3:39 PM
My neighbor acorn tree is very large and high, and of course there large, thick branches that overhang to my side yard. I am 78 years old, oon dialysis, and have a heart pacemaker. I cannot control this tree. What can I do? Talking to the neighbor about this problem treedid not resolve. I have no money to hire someone to cut branches on my side.
birdieslove - 17-Jan-16 @ 3:40 PM
I have recently purchased a Victorian end of terrace two storey dwelling house, to the rear of the address are back to back out buildings, presumably originally a coal house. The problem I have is the neighbour directly to my left has an ivy which has growing over the top of my out building across the roof and has completely engulfed rear single storey roof, wall, upstairs rear facing window and up to the second storey tiled/slate roof & guttering. I'm concerned that this will be a major expense to remove not only from my property but there is the likelihood if not destroyed will grow back. What are my options and who will incur the cost of scaffolding the rear of my address to remove the ivy ? Thanks
macca - 6-Jan-16 @ 9:24 PM
my neighbour has a very large deciduous tree which is blocks my gutter, he is suing me for penetrative damp because he claims my guttering is over spilling onto his external chimney and down his flank wall is this my fault or his.
balbo - 30-Dec-15 @ 2:35 PM
There is a massive conifer on my side of a fence at the end of my garden. It is also at the bottom of a garden of a property backing on to mine. My question is, what are the financial implications to me should the tree fall, damaging the neighbour's property? I assume neither my buildings house insurance or the neighbour's would cover this. Ultimately I need to get it cut, given this fact could you give an idea how much it would cost. It is about twice the height of an average house but my garden is huge. Thanks
Lo - 19-Dec-15 @ 9:13 PM
I have a huge conifer at the bottom of our garden on our side of the fence. It is also at the bottom of someone else's garden backing onto ours. My question is, what happens if it snaps & damages the neighbour's property in terms of liability & possible financial implications to me? Thanks
Lo - 19-Dec-15 @ 9:04 PM
A large tree in my garden recently blew down in a gale, and fell across my fence into a neighbour's garden, so that half the tree was on my side and half (the top half) in his.I paid to have it professionally cut up and cleared and the fence mended up while I was away, but was surprised to find on return that the neighbour had offered all the wood to another adjoining neighbour.I had thought all the wood belonged to me, and I had planned to keep it and dry it for burning.Was the wood actually his to give away, at least the part thay lay in his garden?
Kurious - 6-Dec-15 @ 4:41 PM
I live next door to a railway line and my back garden has direct access to the railway bank only broken up by an 18" wall which has steps in the middle which lead onto the bank. On this bank there are3 rows of very tall mixed trees which include oak. These trees block out a lot of sunlight from my garden. The previous owners to me contacted British Rail as it probably was then and tried to get the tops taken out to a reasonable height without success. I have also contacted them and again they don't want to know. I have taken matters into my own hands and reduced the height of the front row, probably shouldn't have done so but hey ho.....my question is are the railway company responsible for keeping these to a reasonable height as they come along the track occasionly and cut the hedges back but don't touch the trees.
Nige - 21-Nov-15 @ 11:23 AM
My neighbour has a leylandii tree growing at the bottom of their garden which is right up against the boundary fence. It's a mature tree probably 20ft high. Problem is, most of it hangs over my side of the garden and tends to block a lot of light. Where do we stand re lopping the branches off to the boundary? I've been told that the tree may not survive if we do this. Thank you.
Ted - 21-Nov-15 @ 7:33 AM
Hello. We could do with your expert advice. Our neighbours asked us if they could gain access to my brothers garden (at the bottom of their garden) to trim the overhanging branches of the old, large silver birch trees, based on his land. Wanting to help, I checked with my brother, and we confirmed their tree surgeon could hop over our bordering fence with them and gain access through the gate we have between our garden and my brothers. We received a note over the first weekend of November advising that the tree surgeon would be arriving on Tues 4 Nov and reconfirming they wanted to trim back the overhanging branches. Our neighbour then called round on Sunday 1 Nov to advise the same. We replied that we would be on holiday that day and my brother would be at work but we'd be happy for their tree surgeon to gain access as advised to trim the large overhanging branches as previously discussed and confirmed in their note. We returned from our holiday to discover the big silver birch had been trimmed as agreed but that the tree surgeon had chopped off the tree TRUNK of a 45+ year old Holly tree in my brothers garden down to about 5 ft and have also cut down a fir tree in our garden, which had been around 25-30 ft high and is now only about 8 ft and is likely to die - non of which had been discussed or agreed to. We were never asked about any cutting down of trees and would never have agreed to this. Neither of the trees cut down blocked light from our neighbours garden as they are to the east of their garden. The sun passes around on the other side - absolutely no reason to have trimmed let alone cut these trees down. Can you advise where we stand legally and is a Holly Tree (not bush) a rare, protected species? How can we pursue this as both we are my brother are, as you can imagine, shocked and extremely angry. Many thanks.
Laura - 17-Nov-15 @ 1:46 PM
Shelley - Your Question:
My neighbours extension roof/guttering overhangs over my property and my conservatory. As a result it is impossible to erect support on this side for any repairs to my property above my conservatory, ie: Roof, guttering, windows etc. What are my rights? I assume I cant remove anything that overhangs my property but this is a real worrying issue. Please help/advise. PUT

Our Response:
You haven't described the location of the neighbour's extension so it's difficult to comment on this one. How much does the extension actually overhang your property? How would you normally acces the roof/guttering above your conservatory etc? Have the neighbours actually built over your boundary?
ProblemNeighbours - 10-Nov-15 @ 11:42 AM
My neighbours extension roof/guttering overhangs over my property and my conservatory. As a result it is impossible to erect support on this side for any repairs to my property above my conservatory, ie: Roof, guttering, windows etc... What are my rights? I assume I cant remove anything that overhangs my property but this is a real worrying issue.... Please help/advise. PUT
Shelley - 8-Nov-15 @ 11:26 PM
I have Sycamore Tree in my garden I have heard this can be removed without getting council permission as it's classed as a weed is this correct?
Big dave - 6-Nov-15 @ 12:16 PM
We live next door to a council owned prperty that has a 30ft weeping willow tree that is now overhangning our boundary and covering two thrids of our garden. The council have inspaected and said the tree is healthy and that we should get it cut back from our side. I cannot do this as it is too tall so would need a professional to do it for us. Can I put it all over into his garden and bill him for the cost of getting it cut? I dont see why I should foot the bill if he will not take responsibilty for getting under control and I certainly havent the capacity to get rid of the branches and debris that is cut back. The council will not intervene anymore unless it causes a health and safety risk which unless we get a hurricane the tree won't go anywhere and is only going to grow bigger. Please advise as I dont know what to do next! Thanks
Lou - 2-Nov-15 @ 2:36 PM
We have a lemon gum tree . Its perhaps 20 Metre high. The branches hang over next door yard. She has built her land about a metre or more obove natural land. Now her retaining wall is coming away. ..out the back and the side. Our side. She says the gum tree roots have grown up a metre ...now how can that be. We love the tree. There are many birds who visit and nest in it. She got a quote it was near 1800. I do not and can not see me having a lazy 1800 to chop a tree i love..where do we stand. For the last 5 years every few months she demands we do something to our plants...we have cut flowers shrubs passionfruit extra...after this it will be something else...
Keza64 - 2-Nov-15 @ 12:40 PM
I am disabled my neighbor cut over hanging room and threw them back in my yard sale and it between my head and the fence I'm missing my leg I have artificial shoulder while yanking on the limb to try to remove it I injured my shoulder what can I do and who is responsible
none - 1-Nov-15 @ 12:28 PM
I am disabled my neighbor cut my tree and threw it in my backyard it landed between the shed and the fence while trying to move it I injured my shoulder that has a artificial shoulder implant what can I do
none - 1-Nov-15 @ 12:26 PM
Here it goes, in my back garden the next door tall big tree higher than the house is blocking the sun light, in Autumn all the leaves are in my garden, my gutter gets blocked needs cleaning out every month, extra expense. the land lord is hard to get hold of because his own tenent can't get hold of him. Can't cut the big branches that's hanging over my garden because it'll damage the whole tree or fall over the house. In very bad weather it shakes like it's going to break n fall and land on my house. Kids can't play in the garden because of falling slug off the tree, I complained to the council but they weren't no help. Please help??
Chik - 31-Oct-15 @ 12:22 AM
H - Your Question:
I recently removed a line of trees along my fence. There are no trees left. My neightbour complained that because we had removed our trees, his trees that are on the other side of the fence have started to wobble. I believe this is because the roots from my tree and his trees got tangled. So uprooting my trees pulled out the roots from his trees. Can he sue me for this.

Our Response:
We doubt he can sue for this, as there is no way you could have known that this would happen. An aboriculturalist or tree surgeon would be able to advise on whether the neighbour's tree roots will re-establish themselves.
ProblemNeighbours - 28-Oct-15 @ 2:35 PM
Our neighbour's tree branches are overhanging on our garden. The branches and leaves are causing damage to the our shed. It will cost a lot of money to get the branches cut back to his border. Is it his responsibility to maintain the tree or ours?
Hward606 - 28-Oct-15 @ 12:19 PM
We have a tree which borders with our next door neighbours. Our neighbour told us he wanted to cut the overhanging branches on his side and we said it wasn't a problem. We were away for a few days and returned to find the tree has been severely hacked and masses of branches were dumped all over our driveway, such that we couldn't even back our car in. Now my partner is out there trying to saw up these huge branches and deal with disposing but I feel the neighbour should have some part in helping this since we were not consulted about the disposal of the branches and this is causing a major hassle for us. Quite apart from the fact that the tree looks terrible now and has obviously been pruned by a cowboy. Please advise.
Soured Relations - 28-Oct-15 @ 10:29 AM
Valb - Your Question:
Our garden backs on to a river, and on the opposite bank of the river there is a huge London Plane tree, about 25 metres high. Its a beautiful tree and we have no wish to see it removed, despite the leaves. However, a second Plane tree grows immediately next to it, with its roots sandwiched between the first tree and the river, and it leans heavily towards the river. The trunk itself is not a problem, but a huge branch (more than 30cm diameter) has grown out over the river and over our garden shed, and the whole thing is now so big and top heavy, that although it is healthy, I'm really worried that if we had a strong wind from the west, it could cause a great deal of damage if it fell. Being in the position it is in I realise it would cost the neighbour a small fortune to deal with, but as each year passes, so the risk grows. What can I do, there is no chance we could cut the branch from this side, it is far too high?

Our Response:
Firstly discuss it with your neighbour, it may be that between you, you can come up with a solution. Secondly, you could ask the neighbour to have the tree and any risk assessed by a tree surgeon or arboriculturalist (it may be perfectly safe for years). Thirdly, you could simply leave it and make a claim against your neighbour's insurance if your shed is ever damaged.
ProblemNeighbours - 27-Oct-15 @ 12:42 PM
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