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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

Author: Jeff Durham - Updated: 31 July 2014 | commentsComment
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 siginificant damage to your gutters and or blocking your drains, 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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@black-dougie. If the neighbour's trees are causing damage to the overhead wires then he is responsible for them. If there is no damage or threat of damage and you want them cut back, then it's you that will have to do it, or pay for it. The question is whether you can prove that the tree is causing the damage?
ProblemNeighbours - 31-Jul-14 @ 12:20 PM
@TT. Assuming you have not cut back any of the plants that are actually within your neighbour's boundary it's unlikely any action she took would come to anything. If you have a joint responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the road and the majority of the other neighbours support your view then just ignore it and carry on.
Mrs Tittlemouse - 31-Jul-14 @ 10:51 AM
@smartie. You should not 'throw' the branches back in to your neigbour's garden (if you did so he/she could take action for damage)...you are obliged to 'offer' the branches back to your neighbour before disposing of them.
ProblemNeighbours - 31-Jul-14 @ 10:28 AM
My neighbour's willow tree hangs over into our garden.There are overhead telephone cables (two of them) that run over our garden (about 3 metres high). The willow tree branches hang down into and around these two telephone lines. 1) I would like to cut these branches but they are high (3 metres) and I do not have the equipment to reach them. 2) Even if I did have the equipment I would be reluctant to cut the branches for fear of damaging the telephone lines (when the branches fall). I have spoken to the neighbour and he says it is my problem. What would you advise? Many thanks Dougie
Black_Dougie - 31-Jul-14 @ 10:25 AM
Sorry, but I made an error in the last post. It should have said: Hello, I live in suburban Bristol, UK. There is a private road that runs behind my house to allow access to around 50 GARAGES - half of the houses are on my street and half on the street it back onto. This road is owned jointly by all houses
TT - 30-Jul-14 @ 6:40 PM
Hello,I live in suburban Bristol, UK. There is a private road that runs behind my house to allow access to around 50 houses - half on my street and half on the street it back onto.This road is owned jointly by all houses.It's in a very bad state of repair, and is unlikely to ever be repaired (it has been tried in the past) as getting all 50 household to agree to agree to paying is nigh on impossible.However, many of the neighbours have lets their plants get out of hand making it difficult to drive to your garage without scratching you car.Today I went out and did some serious pruning. but never over a boundary wall.(To be honest I never went within a foot of a boundary wall as it was so overgrown.)A couple of neighbours saw and were very happy!However one neighbour became unhappy saying that that the thick thorny hedge is her security and that I had no right to cut it. The problem being it that this house is the worse culprit as it's right on a corner and the plants grow nearly 3 ft away from the boundary wall. Many of the plants are not even in her garden, and are simply in the verge.While I was pretty sure that I was in the right I thought I'd stop and research.So can I cut these plants?I guess as it's a private road this neighbour is as much an owner of these plants as I am.But the plants really obstruct the road and the sharp thorn scratch cars and vans.She also objected that I hadn't knocked on her door.However with over 50 houses I simply do not have time to knock on all the doors first, however much I'd like to as I work full time and have other commitments. I also believe that I do not have to. and that if the neighbours were behaving neighbourly in the first place they would not let the plants become an issue.Anyway, sorry for the rant, but any advice would be appreciated.
TT - 30-Jul-14 @ 6:37 PM
first you need to know the current laws. then you should know the tree you want to trim. If a branch is hanging over onto your property from the neighbor's property, you are allowed to trim this branch and throw it back to your neighbors property. If you do not know the tree, and the tree dies, you may be liable. Usually you would trim the branch of a bush, or vine or weeds that are on your fence, or propery. You do not have to ask your neighbor before you do this. If it is a large tree you are not familiar with, do not touch it. If you are on good terms with the neighbor, speak to your neigbor. If necessary, write a letter to your neighbor, and let your neighbor know you have a copy. If the tree is a definite danger to you, or your property, inform your neighbor of the consequences of not trimming their large tree. If does you no harm and the neighbor does not comply, you may want to put up with it. Without being a nag, you may want to mention the problem once a year to your neighbor. Sometimes persistence works. If the tree falls on your property, you have to prove that your neighbor was neglegent and not an act of nature. A certified Arborist would cost you money. My thought. Each neighbor could be considerate of their next door neighbor and trim their own trees, so it does not interfere with your neighbor. Common sense.
smartie - 30-Jul-14 @ 5:14 PM
@carrot...no he cannot remove or cut branches off trees from land that does not belong to him this would consitute criminal damage.
ProblemNeighbours - 29-Jul-14 @ 10:32 AM
@problem. You cannot do much about a hedge that has grown apart from trimming back branches that overhang your property. If the trees are evergreen or semi-evergreen and adversely affect reasonable enjoyment of your property or act as a barrage to direct light, then you maybe able to take action under the high hedges section of the Anti-Social Behaviour act 2003. If you can prove the above you could take action to enforce the farmer to cut the hedge back to a height of 2m. It's costly and not always easy to prove it's adversely affecting you etc. Try a polite letter, then mediation before taking legal action. Good luck.
ProblemNeighbours - 28-Jul-14 @ 12:25 PM
There is a smallish tree and the far side of an entry access shared by ourselves and our neighbour, It is on council land and does not encroach on the access.Our neighbour has infomed us he intends to remove the tree.Can he do this, or does he need permission.He has also cut branches off our climbing plants which have overhung our fence by about 6 inches and were about 6 foot from the ground, but which were on the fence facing the entry and were nowhere near his garden.Can he doe this?Thank you
Carrot - 28-Jul-14 @ 11:53 AM
I live in my private bungalow, out at the front of my property we have a public pavement and a grass verge that edges the road, in this grass verge is a tree which is council ownedand maintained, they prune it every year so we are assuming it is the councils tree. The routes to the tree have gone under the pavement and under my garden wall lifting the wall which has cracked and is leaning over dangerously, it is a danger to children should they be playing by it, the wall is block bricked and we have been advised by a builder that it has to come down the routes have to be raised and removed and the wall has to be rebuilt. Do we have the right to persue the council to get the work done, are they liable for the full cost of the work to be carried out. Regards Colin Millage
CM - 27-Jul-14 @ 7:36 PM
The farmer with land opposite our property(out of spite) has let the hedge opposite us grow over 6' 6" and untidily restricting our view. What can we do?
problem - 25-Jul-14 @ 6:52 PM
My neighbour has a 16 ft tree in the front garden, her branches are in my drive and near my Guttering and also blocking my sky dish that sometimes whether This is the reason can't get a full signal.I paid £60 got sky on a call out last year And they cut some branches and seemed better that was a year ago and since then obv grown back plus more. Asked my neighbour several times but she ignores me and we don't get on Since this tree thing. I have been in touch with my landlord - new charter twice but second time a ninth ago still haven't come back to me it's not looking good. The first time last year they said they would cut it then went back on it and then Said no..I rang them today said still waiting to hear but I could cut my branches from my drive but I don't see why I should when not my tree and am unemployed where my neighbour works has a nice car etc.Who else will help me I want this tree cut down the branches going into my property and near my dish and guttering.
Tina44 - 24-Jul-14 @ 4:44 PM
@buddy. The ABI does not make laws, but does have a code of practice. We can't find anything relating specifically to this type of eventuality (but that does not mean there isn't one). Driveways and gardens are not usually covered by insurance unless you have specifically taken out additional insurance (for example to cover damage to a neighbour's property by a fallen tree from your garden etc). We suggest you contact theABI directly here.
ProblemNeighbours - 16-Jul-14 @ 11:18 AM
@Seanog. You need to check with the council to find out who owns the stream and then to be able to prove that the damage has been caused by the bamboo etc. The council will have procedures in place for this kind of eventuality.
ProblemNeighbours - 16-Jul-14 @ 10:58 AM
My neighbour has a 4 metre high by 40 metre long Lawsonia hedge which is pushing over the small boundary fence. The owner even wired an additional small lattice 1m fence on my side for his added privacy, which he has never maintained. His garden is a metre higher than my drive which has a 1 metre brick boundary wall about .5m away from our joint boundary fence line. Unfortunately by small wall is cracking and being pushed over (about 25mm per year). The concrete driveway is also badly cracked. I am advised by 4 structural builders this is all due to my neighbours hedge and roots. It will cost me about £10,000 to deal with. My neighbour and their insurers Saga, refuse to accept liability and won't make any offer towards these unnecessary costs. This is based on an incorrect survey made by the insurers assessor, who misjudged that my wall's age. They state that the wall is 40years old and would be due to fall over! My neighbour has never maintained my side of the hedge, allowing the unacceptable height to maintain their privacy. I have to bear the cost of maintaining the hedge annually even though it is on their property. My own insurers even state that I am not covered for damage as my bungalow is not affected by damage. I thought their was an ABI mutual law that covered such claims?
Buddy - 16-Jul-14 @ 10:52 AM
A wall borders our property and the other side is a small stream, property of the Council I assume. We have just moved in and found bamboo growing along the stream bank. It has undermined the wall and is infesting the bushes and garden. It has grown quite big. What rights do we have? Thanks.
Seanog - 15-Jul-14 @ 2:15 PM
Hi there, our neighbour's woodland is encroaching on our fence and garden. One of his trees is resting on our fence and vigorous ivy is growing up and over into our garden. Both are causing damage to our fence. Aside from trimming what is overhanging what rights do we have to insist he removes the tree resting on the fence? Also is he liable for the fencing damage? Best regards, JP
JP - 11-Jul-14 @ 2:20 PM
@angry man. They should have simply offered you the cuttings back rather than simply throwing them behind your trees. They are however your property and throwing them back into your neighbour's garden may seem a little churlish don't you think?
ProblemNeighbours - 9-Jul-14 @ 12:39 PM
a neighbor recently trimmed my conifirs on her side of the fence and did not collect the cutting and offer them back but threw them behind my trees can i throw them back over the fence legally
angry man - 8-Jul-14 @ 5:51 PM
To the side of our house is an area of grass owned by the council. There is one large tree (25ft) which is about 2ft away from our drive way. A large portion of the tree hangs over our drive way which results in wet leaves, fruit and bird mess being dropped onto it. Our car needs to be kept on the driveway which means we regularly have to clear the car to avoid it being damaged and because the drive way is on a slope the mess can result in a slipping hazard. The branches are far too high to allow us to do any pruning ourselves. We have mentioned this to the council who gave us a list of reasons why they don’t have to do anything (which where nothing to do with our initial request, no right to light etc) however nothing to do with the cost of cleaning the car/slipping hazard or if there was any reason why they couldn’t trim back. Seeing as this this is the only way out of the house and where we have to put the car is there anything else that the council should be doing? Are they required to compensate us for car washing and if someone was to slip would they be liable (my wife is currently 4m pregnant and is worried about this) ?
confused - 7-Jul-14 @ 10:18 AM
My garden backs onto a junior school the trees hang over onto my garden they told us when they planted them it was shrubs but theyve grown into big trees ive been to the school and complained 3 times to no avain what can i now do? Thank u.
Jackie Ashe Cave - 5-Jul-14 @ 2:44 PM
@Des. The council has cut them back at low level so they are no longer impeding you in your garden/driveway or obstructing your access to the avenue. What problem are the higher branches causing? 4.5 metres should be high enough that the branches do not present much of an issue. Remember you do not have an automatic right to light. Since the trees are the subject of a TPO, then they are obviously considered worth preserving. Cutting them back entirely on one side would almost certainly spoil them aesthetically. Why not get together with some other residents and ask the council if all the trees can be shaped/crowned etc to let some more light into the area?
ProblemNeighbours - 27-Jun-14 @ 11:22 AM
Hi Andie. DO you have written evidence of the authority's intention to prune the tree every four years? If so then you should refer to that. If you think the tree is actually damaging your property that is not always considered a valid reason for removing it. Try contacting your local MP and say that you are not receiving appropriate attention. If the council do not want to prune the tree any longer, they should at least be informing you of that, and giving you a reason for it.
ProblemNeighbours - 26-Jun-14 @ 2:32 PM
Outside my property is a Lime tree belonging to the local authority.The authority promised that they would prune the tree every four years.This has not been done. The tree leans towards my property and therefore cuts out much light at the front of the house.It also drips sap during the Summer all over the front garden, pathway leading into the house, which has ruined my carpets.Our vehicles are covered in the sticky sap that falls from the tree, we have to take our vehciles on a twice weekly basis to the car wash to clean this off and some of the time it does not come off.I have also noticed that the front garden wall has creeping cracks which are gradullay becoming wider and the pillars are unsafe, so much so that I had to take the top half of the pillars down to avoid any accidents. During the winter the leaves fall into my garden, over my path causing it to very slippery and block my drains, all of this at a cost to me financially and timewise.The council do not seem to care and just shrug off their responsbility.Can anyone give me some advice please?
Andie - 26-Jun-14 @ 11:34 AM
I live in lane that is boarded by very tall lime trees on both sides. They have reached a height of over 30mtrs and their canopies substantially overhang our boundary fence.They are owned by the Highway Agency and they have a tree preservation order on them. Am I therefore unable to cut the branches back to my boundary line due to the TPO? I have spoken to the Highway Agency who have carried out a reduction of the lower canopy however branches above 4.5mtrs from the ground remain and overhang my property. Do I have any legal right to enforce them to cut all the branches back, to the full height of the trees, up to my boundary line?
Des - 26-Jun-14 @ 10:47 AM
I live next door to a wild-life park. The trees in the park near my boundary have grown very tall & the branches hang over my garden --- some almost reaching the roof of my house. I have complained to the Wild Life Trust & pointed out that at this time of year, when the leaves are on the trees, it blocks out some of the sky when viewed from our windows. Also at the other end of the year when the leaves fall, they mostly fall into my garden & block the gutters (costly to have them cleared). I asked if the trees could be trimmed back. Their reply was yes the trees can be trimmed back, but I would have to do it myself & at my own cost. There is no way at my age (83) that I could do this myself & neither can I afford to have it done for me. Does the Trust have no legal responsibility for keeping the trees within boundaries ? especially residential boundaries ? & shouldn't this be an essential part of the park management scheme ? I eagerly await your views. Len Oughton
Len - 25-Jun-14 @ 4:35 PM
My neighbor has 4 very large plum trees.They have grown so tall they block my view, I understand I may not be able to do anything about this, however these huge trees are dropping plums into my yard, since I have about 3 plum trees now growing in my yard which i need to remove, due to the neighbors trees.I really want my neighbor to trim down the trees, so 1.I have a view again and 2. so the fruit does not end up on my side.I will have to pay someone to take these plum trees from my yard.I asked the neighbor a year ago if they would trim the trees they said no.What can I do?
Alice - 24-Jun-14 @ 5:42 PM
@nana. You don't have the right to ask for it to be cut back on the grounds of light, but if it's growing over your garden - you can cut that side back. If it's causing an obstruction on the bridle path and it is a right of way, then the landowner should keep it reasonably clear from obstruction. The latter should be enforced by the county council.
ProblemNeighbours - 23-Jun-14 @ 10:06 AM
I live next to a bridal pathI have a small house and there is a very large coniferwhich has debrived me of lightin my lounge Have I the right to ask the council if they would cut it back .
Nana - 20-Jun-14 @ 11:36 AM
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