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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 21 Aug 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]
Bucko - Your Question:
My back neighbour has a Sycamore tree 17 Mts from my house around 80 ft tall and over hangs my garden by 25 ft I've asked her to get it cut back. She tells me what to do!. The sap damages my garage felt and discoloured my garden paving flags rots my children toys. Can I cut it back

Our Response:
You can cut back any branches that overhang your side of the boundary as long as it doesn't damage the tree. The neighbour doesn't have any obligation to cut it back.
ProblemNeighbours - 22-Aug-16 @ 12:25 PM
Can a tree surgeon climb a tree in my garden to cut over hanging branches that are very high in a neibours garden , with out my permission .as you would not be able to cut theses branches without useing a tree surgeon . Thanks Paula
Bru - 21-Aug-16 @ 11:43 PM
I have just come back from holiday to find my neighbour has cut a lot of branches off my tree. I don't mind that he has done this but he has thrown all the cut branches into my garden. Which is a substantial amount. Is he allowed to do this?
Kt2burns - 21-Aug-16 @ 8:29 PM
My back neighbour has a Sycamore tree 17 Mts from my house around 80 ft tall and over hangs my garden by 25 ft I've asked her to get it cut back. She tells me what to do! . The sap damages my garage felt and discoloured my garden paving flags rots my children toys.... Can I cut it back
Bucko - 21-Aug-16 @ 10:19 AM
Gill - Your Question:
My neighbour has taken to using a hooked walking stick the grab branches from my shrubs and drag them or snap them off claiming they are overhanging the garden. They have already cut the height down to fence height on their side and are now trying to reduce ththe height.The sun is on their side of the garden and does not block any light at all from them is this criminal damage. We have asked them to stop and we were met with filthy abuse

Our Response:
As long as they are not cutting any growth on your side of the boundary this should be fine, but if they are causing damage to your shrubs then of course you can take action.
ProblemNeighbours - 17-Aug-16 @ 12:32 PM
The local council (England) have trees that over-hang my drive. The branches and sap are constantly landing on my car, some have marked the bonnet and it's costing me a fortune at the car-wash (full-time working, single mum, very little time!!). As the branches are too high for me to cut myself (which I would happily do) they said I could pay to have them removed, but I have been quoted £300!! Which I can't afford, whI should I have to pay?
SueyB - 17-Aug-16 @ 12:21 PM
My neighbour has taken to using a hooked walking stick the grab branches from my shrubs and drag them or snap them off claiming they are overhanging the garden . They have already cut the height down to fence height on their side and are now trying to reduce ththe height .The sun is on their side of the garden and does not block any light at all from them is this criminal damage. We have asked them to stop and we were met with filthy abuse
Gill - 16-Aug-16 @ 7:24 PM
Jabbs- Your Question:
There are two oak Tree's at the side of my property each tree is in two different gardens.they both have preservation orders. One is over hanging our house whilst the other is over hanging my garden we have had problems with these trees for the past twenty years. We have given up having grass as the leaves kill it. Over the years I have spent a fortune on grass. We also had a swimming pool but like the grass the leaves and insects put a stop to that. Our gutters and roof have also been ruined. Our patio has been renewed as some branches have fallen onto itWhat can I do. Many thanks jabbs

Our Response:
Speak to the tree preservation officer and see what work they would allow on the tree. They may allow some crown thinning etc.
ProblemNeighbours - 12-Aug-16 @ 2:33 PM
Hi, Can I please have a response. I have asked this question 3 times now & just need a simple yes or no. I can not scroll down further than the previous 5 questions & pretty sure ive had no reply. Can I cut a flower bush including the flowers thats over grown into my garden? I am fully aware you can cut bushes & branches but can you cut flowers? Thank you
KJ - 11-Aug-16 @ 11:22 PM
I have a two-part question. Firstly, does the same law apply to climbing/spreading plants that have grown over and completely enveloped a fence? In other words, can we cut it off and put it back over the fence? Secondly, how do you know who is responsible for the fence/boundary between two properties? I've heard it's left hand side facing out from the door?? I'm fed up of the same arguments all the time!
Emmsy - 11-Aug-16 @ 1:23 PM
There are two oak Tree's at the side of my property each tree is in two different gardens.they both have preservation orders. One is over hanging our house whilst the other is over hanging my garden we have had problems with these trees for the past twenty years. We have given up having grass as the leaves kill it. Over the years I have spent a fortune on grass. We also had a swimming pool but like the grass the leaves and insects put a stop to that. Our gutters and roof have also been ruined. Our patio has been renewed as some branches have fallen onto itWhat can I do. Many thanks jabbs
Jabbs - 11-Aug-16 @ 9:45 AM
Hello I leave in a converted house, on the first floor.There is only ground and first floors. My neighbour has a wide garden at the moment, it has not been moaned for long months and they have an anused water tank , full with water. I have already told him that I got beaten by insects wich never happened for the previous 15 years which I leaved here. His tenants have stopped cutting it and in addition to insects we also have lots of foxes making noise all night long; thereforenot allowing me to have a deep sleep. Also, next door neighbour house has been unhabited for at least 2 years and the garden is very wide, with pots with water and also attracting lots of insect and foxes as a consequence. Is there any law that I can mention that says that back gardens must be cared for and that containers nad empty vases should not be left lying around? I am no longer oppening my windows fully (in summer) to avoid insects getting inside.
PH - 10-Aug-16 @ 9:28 PM
Mad women- Your Question:
Hi I came home from work the other day and my neighbour has cut some of my bushes down along my fencing I don't mind him cutting down what is overhanging in his garden but he has clearly cut some through my fence my fence is inside our boundary as previous neighbour didn't want us touching her fence ( it was dropping to bits lol) so we actually put it a few inches away from her fence so it's well within the boundary.Regards Donna

Our Response:
Have a word with your neighbour and ask them not to cut anything that doesn't overhang his fence. Does he know that your fence is well inside the actual boundary?
ProblemNeighbours - 9-Aug-16 @ 2:07 PM
Hi I came home from work the other day and my neighbour has cut some of my bushes down along my fencing I don't mind him cutting down what is overhanging in his garden but he has clearly cut some through my fence my fence is inside our boundaryas previous neighbour didn't want us touching her fence ( it was dropping to bits lol) so we actually put it a few inches away from her fence so it's well within the boundary . Regards Donna
Mad women - 8-Aug-16 @ 3:46 PM
James - Your Question:
Hi there, I am having a problem with my neighbour throwing cuttings over every time I mow my lawn or leave the house, I have told her I do not want the cuttings thrown over and see is to despise of them herself. she has continually ignored this request. Is she entitled to do this?

Our Response:
No, a neighbour can ask the tree owner if they would like the cuttings back, but cannot simply throw them over if the neighbour doesn't want them. Unfortunately if asking doesn't help, your only real remedy is the civil court.
ProblemNeighbours - 8-Aug-16 @ 1:58 PM
Ade - Your Question:
My neighbour has a bush along her front boundry that encroaches onto a public footpath, to the extent that mothers with pushchairs have to walk along the road. Can I cut it back as the neighbour has refused

Our Response:
Speak tp your highways department first, they may have a polcy whereby they can force the owner to cut it, or will cut it themselves and charge the owner.
ProblemNeighbours - 8-Aug-16 @ 1:57 PM
melo - Your Question:
I understand that branches overhanging a neighbours garden can be removed subject to certain conditions.but is there a height restriction on that.ie my neighbours tree has overhanging branches into my garden but they overhang at about 10 metres high. I hope thats clear

Our Response:
No, as long as you can reach them without leaning a ladder against the neighbour's tree and they are definitely overhanging the boundary, you can remove them.
ProblemNeighbours - 8-Aug-16 @ 1:02 PM
i understand that branches overhanging a neighbours garden can be removed subject to certain conditions.but is there a height restriction on that .ie my neighbours tree has overhanging branches into my garden but they overhang at about 10 metres high . i hope thats clear
melo - 8-Aug-16 @ 12:21 PM
Cliff - Your Question:
HiWe have tall trees in our garden which we love but the four neighbours at the back of usHave aproached us and asked if they could reduce the height to roof level which means taking about ten feet off them.we do not want the trees cut but would allow the neighbors to reduce the height to keep the peace.my question is who should foot the billThanks cliff

Our Response:
If the trees are not evergreen (where high hedges legislation could apply), nor posing a damage, you are under no obligation to reduce the height, so you can reasonably expect your neighbours to pay for this.
ProblemNeighbours - 8-Aug-16 @ 11:50 AM
tarzanspants - Your Question:
Hi, we and a few of our neighbours are having sunlight issues with another neighbours trees, after 3pm you can forget any sun hitting our lawns, anyway on request to the neighbour some years back she said she would sue, ( she is an american mind ) if we touched the trees, we have cleaned up on our side to the fence as law dictates, however, this home , is only being let out as a holiday home, is there any rights we have, if the neighbour doesn't actually live there ?

Our Response:
There is no legal right to sunlight in your garden, but if these trees are evergreen, there is a possibility you could take action under the High Hedges legislation
ProblemNeighbours - 8-Aug-16 @ 11:28 AM
HiWe have tall trees in our garden which we love but the four neighbours at the back of usHave aproached us and asked if they could reduce the height to roof level which means taking about ten feet off them.we do not want the trees cut but would allow the neighbors to reduce the height to keep the peace.my question is who should foot the billThanks cliff
Cliff - 7-Aug-16 @ 6:49 PM
hi, we and a few of our neighbours are having sunlight issues with another neighbours trees, after 3pm you can forget any sun hitting our lawns, anyway on request to the neighbour some years back she said she would sue, ( she is an american mind ) if we touched the trees, we have cleaned up on our side to the fence as law dictates, however, this home , is only being let out as a holiday home, is there any rights we have, if the neighbour doesn't actually live there ?
tarzanspants - 7-Aug-16 @ 4:34 PM
Hi there. We have a holiday home up in the north of Scotland and our neighbour has trees over hanging our access road which is now scratching our cars. Do we have the rights to trim them back? Thanks
Grant - 6-Aug-16 @ 2:55 PM
Hi there, I am having a problem with my neighbour throwing cuttings over every time I mow my lawn or leave the house, I have told her I do not want the cuttings thrown over and see is to despise of them herself.... she has continually ignored this request. Is she entitled to do this?
James - 5-Aug-16 @ 5:46 PM
My neighbour has a bush along her front boundry that encroaches onto a public footpath, to the extent that mothers with pushchairs have to walk along the road. Can i cut it back as the neighbour has refused
Ade - 5-Aug-16 @ 5:25 PM
Claire- Your Question:
Hi, I know that I can trim back my neighbours tree that is hanging over my garden. I would like to know if I can put the trimmed bits in their garden or not?

Our Response:
No, you have to ask your neighbour if they would like the branches etc back. If they do not want to accept them it's up to you to dispose of them.
ProblemNeighbours - 5-Aug-16 @ 2:43 PM
lakay - Your Question:
I have a fruit tree hat is hanging over my neighbors yard. Her dog ate my avocado friuit, and got sick. He veterinarian said, due to eating the friut and paid for emergengy medical. care. She is asking me call a tree cutter to cut the branches that hanging over the fence. Is it my responsibility to trim the tree and also told me that if her dog eat the avocado fruit again and got sick , I will be liable for any medical expenses or if her dog dies.

Our Response:
It sounds as though you are not in the UK (just a guess as we don't tend to have avocado trees or "yards"). If you are in the UK, you are under no obligation to cut back the branches that overhang your neighbour's property.
ProblemNeighbours - 5-Aug-16 @ 2:23 PM
Kaz - Your Question:
Our property backs on to council park there is a lot of shrubbery and trees that never get tidied up by the council we have e-mailed asking them to look at a tree that is overhanging our property and causes us concern , we had an e-mail back off them saying they would not be doin anything about it as there is no budget for tidying up the area and cutting back the trees where do we stand on this as our house insurance will not cover us because of the distance between our property and the trees.

Our Response:
You are entitled to cut back any branches that are overhanging your side of the boundary. If any serious damage is done by the tree of course you will be able to claim for damages from the council.
ProblemNeighbours - 5-Aug-16 @ 1:48 PM
Hi, i know that I can trim back my neighbours tree that is hanging over my garden. I would like to know if I can put the trimmed bits in their garden or not?
Claire - 5-Aug-16 @ 1:48 PM
Sooty - Your Question:
Hi, my neighbour has got a 3 40 foot conifer trees right on the boundary, almost half of these trees overhang onto my land, blocking out light and dropping leaves all over my garden. I've been round to ask him to get them cut back a bit but got nowhere, he wouldn't even discuss the subject, I've phoned the council and they have told me I'm within my rights to cut back whatever is overhanging on my side, the only problem is the lowest branch is about 15/20 foot high, so there's no way I can reach it without using a cherry picker, which with no access for a vehicle that size to my garden is impossible, a step ladder wouldn't get anywhere near. Surely the council should be doing more to get him to cut them back?

Our Response:
No, it's not the council's problem unfortunately. You could employ a tree surgeon to undertake some work if the dropping leaves are concerning you. Because these trees are evergreen, there's a possibility you can take action under the High hedges legislation
ProblemNeighbours - 5-Aug-16 @ 12:38 PM
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