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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

Author: Jeff Durham - Updated: 3 September 2015 | 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 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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Leave a Comment, Ask for Advice or Share Your Story...
[Add a Comment]
Guilty feeling - Your Question:
We had trellis on our side of the garden with our neighbours ivy growing right over it and creating a wall always needed trimming, so we told them we were removing the trellis and building a cladding fence would remove the ivy from our side, and thin it. They said they would not want to loose the height and had spent years making their garden feel enclosed up to heights, and I made the point it was our trellis holding it up, and we needed to render the wall as it was crumbling. I did not know what our rights were to cut it down to the level of the party wall. Taking the trellis off without ripping the ivy was hard, and when off most of it collapsed. The neighbour had confirmed any mess in their garden we would clear up which we said yes. However as it collapsed our garden took the option to cut it down to the level of the party wall. Our only other option would have been to throw the hanging plant into their garden. Now they think we are neighbours from hell. I felt so guilty I offered them 10 - 10 litre flowering bushes to give them the height in pots for the winter. I would like to suggest they put up their own trellis to not rely on ours. We are at our expense going to put on coping stones to top of the wall, and would rather their Ivy does not grow on our new fence. What rights do we have to do this.

Our Response:
If the trellis was on your side and not attached the wall, you were within your rights to do whateve you like. You are entitled to trim any ivy that grows over your side of the wall.
ProblemNeighbours - 3-Sep-15 @ 12:27 PM
sam - Your Question:
I have a semi detached house of which a large conifer sits right in the middle (very slightly more on my side) of the front of the property. It is causing damp and sewage issues to my house and my neighbour assures me hers is fine so is happy to leave the tree where it is. I want or down asap can I go ahead and remove it and also am I liable for the whole cost of I decide to do so?

Our Response:
Your first step however, should be to determine who owns the tree. Even if it appears to be "across" your boundary it will in fact be "owned" by either you or your neighbour depending on whose land on which it was originally planted. If you can't establish ownership from your research - who has taken responsibility for maintaining the tree in the past (e.g previous owners of the property etc). If you can establish that you own the tree, then you are within your rights to cut it down and will be liable for the cost. If your neighbour owns the tree, you cannot force them to cut down the tree but are within your rights to cut back any growth as far as the boundary (at your own cost).
ProblemNeighbours - 3-Sep-15 @ 10:59 AM
We had trellis on our side of the garden with our neighbours ivy growing right over it and creating a wall always needed trimming, so we told them we were removing the trellis and building a cladding fence would remove the ivy from our side, and thin it. They said they would not want to loose the height and had spent years making their garden feel enclosed up to heights, and I made the point it was our trellis holding it up, and we needed to render the wall as it was crumbling. I did not know what our rights were to cut it down to the level of the party wall. Taking the trellis off without ripping the ivy was hard, and when off most of it collapsed. The neighbour had confirmed any mess in their garden we would clear up which we said yes. However as it collapsed our garden took the option to cut it down to the level of the party wall. Our only other option would have been to throw the hanging plant into their garden. Now they think we are neighbours from hell. I felt so guilty I offered them 10 - 10 litre flowering bushes to give them the height in pots for the winter. I would like to suggest they put up their own trellis to not rely on ours. We are at our expense going to put on coping stones to top of the wall, and would rather their Ivy does not grow on our new fence. What rights do we have to do this.
Guilty feeling - 3-Sep-15 @ 2:16 AM
I have a semi detached house of which a large conifer sits right in the middle (very slightly more on my side) of the front of the property. It is causing damp and sewage issues to my house and my neighbour assures me hers is fine so is happy to leave the tree where it is. I want or down asap can I go ahead and remove it and also am I liable for the whole cost of I decide to do so?
sam - 2-Sep-15 @ 2:58 PM
Jkj - Your Question:
Hi next door to me has a big apple tree in their back garden, the tree does hang over my fence but that's not my problem. The thing is it gets covered every year in wasps , it's got to the point that I can't go out side or open windows due to this as I'm very allergic to wasp stings. I have put up with it for six years but I don't want to miss the summer or being in my garden. I have just come out of hospital after being stung while hanging out washing. What can I do about this ? I know you can get wasps every where but this is not just the odd one or two it's fifty or more ( yes I'm that sad I did count them on just 8 apples). Any help with this please.

Our Response:
Have you discussed this with your neighbour? Is the apple tree the only thing that is attracting wasps? Have you tried any of the many wasp deterrents available? There are also several insect repellents which will also repel wasps (especially the tropical deet containing ones).
ProblemNeighbours - 2-Sep-15 @ 1:54 PM
Hi next door to me has a big apple tree in their back garden, the tree does hang over my fence but that's not my problem. The thing is it gets covered every year in wasps , it's got to the point that I can't go out side or open windows due to this as I'm very allergic to wasp stings. I have put up with it for six years but I don't want to miss the summer or being in my garden. I have just come out of hospital after being stung while hanging out washing . What can I do about this ? I know you can get wasps every where but this is not just the odd one or two it's fifty or more ( yes I'm that sad I did count them on just 8 apples) . Any help with this please.
Jkj - 30-Aug-15 @ 6:06 PM
I live next door but one to a wood. The trees are now very large and are growing across my neighbours garden and almost reaching mine. Both our gardens are now very shaded by the trees as they are completely blocking the sun, and this affecting my plants and grass. My neighbour had obtained permission from the council to have the trees dealt with as they are subject to a TPO, and she has asked us and her neighbour on the other side of her to share the costs. However, I was wondering whether the land owner is obliged to pay some or all of the costs? Thank you.
keeley - 29-Aug-15 @ 2:00 PM
I have an Oak tree that partially straddles my driveway from my neighbours property. The tree is clearly my neighbours. The issue is that the thick heavy branches are now due to be cut back (pollarded). The branches are starting to interfere with phone lines etc. This task will require professional help. Is my neighbour obliged to foot the bill?
8695 - 28-Aug-15 @ 6:35 PM
@fmagenni. I agree, many people want to cut back branches etc, merely because they cannot be bothered to sweep up leaves etc.
Mrs Mop - 28-Aug-15 @ 2:27 PM
Hi I am one of those people who stewards a tree which overhangs an open space area.Whilst I can understand people wanted to flex their rights, unless a tree actually causes a nuisance why would you wish to trim it back simply because it projects onto your property?Trees grow where they will, if it is not actually causing a nuisance, let it be is my advice.Clearly problematic trees that are diseased, dangerous or causing a nuisance or blocking sunlight can be dealt with sensibly by speaking to your neighbour. From the custodian of a decidous tree which was doing no harm whatsover which has been 'faced off' for no good reason other than the property owner wanted to. Thanks tree lovers!
fmagenni - 28-Aug-15 @ 9:44 AM
moira - Your Question:
I live in a housing association house a tree fell on my car which was situated in the car park, my car has been damaged but the housing association say they are not liable to fix my car! Is this correct advice?

Our Response:
Was the tree on Housing Association property? We advise you to contact your insurers. They will definitely be able to claim it back from the HA if they are at fault.
ProblemNeighbours - 27-Aug-15 @ 2:03 PM
Kez - Your Question:
Ive got massive trees in my garden which were already there before we moved in.we are in housing association house and they say we have ti maintain them.theres no way they can be maintained and its so expensive is there any help we can get?

Our Response:
Have you got an idea of what kind of maintenance is required? Most trees do not need a great deal of looking after. We don't know of any grants for looking after trees unfortunately.
ProblemNeighbours - 27-Aug-15 @ 10:36 AM
My mum has a large tree in her garden. Her neighbour has always cut back branches large and small when they overhang their property - doing so via their property. However he has started to remove fence panels to cut the tree on my mum's side without permission. He has now gone one step further and butchered the base of the tree where it branches out to the ground (not the trunk part) with what looks like an axe - without permission. There are also bizarre markings on the tree trunk, and I'm pretty sure this is where the neighbour is deliberately trying to damage the tree so that my mum has no option but to take it down. My mum is very concerned that the neighbour has now made the tree unstable and worried she will have to pay to rectify this even though it's through the neighbours doing.
Davalia - 26-Aug-15 @ 8:38 PM
Mo - Your Question:
My neighbour has a large tree at the back of her garden which overhangs my property. Up till now I've tried to keep the branches that can be reached on my side trimmed back but now a very large branch has partially broken away from the tree and is dangerously overhanging into my garden. The only thing stopping it from falling is BT wires. I'm frightened to allow my grandchild into the garden to play. I have approached my neighbour but she thinks if the danger is affecting my side if the fence it's up to me to pay for the tree to be cut back. I would be grateful for any advice. By the way I live in Scotland.

Our Response:
If she is aware of the danger and it does actually cause some damage, then of course she will be liable for the cost of repairs. Firstly contact BT, they may be able to force the "tree owner" to cut back any branches that threaten to damage their wires.
ProblemNeighbours - 26-Aug-15 @ 2:29 PM
i live in a housing association house a tree fell on my car which was situated in the car park, my car has been damaged but the housing association say they are not liable to fix my car! Is this correct advice?
moira - 25-Aug-15 @ 7:30 PM
angela - Your Question:
Blackberry bush and ivy from neighbours growing over and through my fencing and causing damage, I have spoken to lettings agent and they have spoken to the owner but no joy, can I seek legal action for repairs to my fencing.

Our Response:
There is nothing to prevent you from cutting back any growth that encroaches your side of the fence. If the fence actually belongs to you, your neighbour is not supposed to attach or growing anything against your fence. You can request that they remove it but the only way to enforce this would be through legal action.
ProblemNeighbours - 25-Aug-15 @ 10:17 AM
Ive got massive trees in my garden which were already there before we moved in.we are in housing association house and they say we have ti maintain them.theres no way they can be maintained and its so expensive is there any help we can get?
Kez - 25-Aug-15 @ 7:28 AM
My neighbour has a large tree at the back of her garden which overhangs my property. Up till now I've tried to keep the branches that can be reached on my side trimmed back but now a very large branch has partially broken away from the tree and is dangerously overhanging into my garden. The only thing stopping it from falling is BT wires. I'm frightened to allow my grandchild into the garden to play. I have approached my neighbour but she thinks if the danger is affecting my side if the fence it's up to me to pay for the tree to be cut back. I would be grateful for any advice. By the way I live in Scotland.
Mo - 24-Aug-15 @ 4:59 PM
Blackberry bush and ivy from neighbours growing over and through my fencing and causing damage, i have spoken to lettings agent and they have spoken to the owner but no joy, can i seek legal action for repairs to my fencing.
angela - 22-Aug-15 @ 9:58 AM
Sue - Your Question:
My neighbour's fence has been broken for up to a year now and leans quite badly in to their garden. They have now secured it by tying the fence to MY conifer trees. Am I within my rights to cut the string? This is very annoying as they do it when I go out, very sneaky!

Our Response:
Rather than simply cutting the string, why not talk to them? Let them know that you do not want the fence attached to the trees. Ask them to consider a suitable alternative.
ProblemNeighbours - 17-Aug-15 @ 12:29 PM
My neighbour's fence has been broken for up to a year now and leans quite badly in to their garden.They have now secured it by tying the fence to MY conifer trees.Am I within my rights to cut the string?This is very annoying as they do it when I go out, very sneaky!
Sue - 16-Aug-15 @ 8:58 PM
Is it my responsibility to have to pay to have my neighbors huge laureltree hedge pruned that they refused to do that is encroachingover on my side of the propert by two feet. This Laural Bush is completely filled with huge blackberry bushes intermingled into the Laurel bush. I have told them that it is not my responsibility to have to trim their bush that belongs to them and that they are to do it. They told me they will not and that it is my responsibility to pay to have it trimmed. I also mentioned that they have full permission to come on the property of mine and cut back the bushes properly and get rid of the blackberries and twined into it. I mentioned that they should be paying for this. And I also told them that the Lauralbushes are on their property and not mine and therefore they are responsible. And that my husband cannot do this job because he had a heart attack Long ago. The Laurel Bush goes 150 feet down the side of our property. And it has not been maintained properly. The former owner never looked after the laurel hedge properly. Was never able to talk to them about it. And I gave up. What the biggest problem is; how to get blackberries out of the Laurel Bush? And it's so dangerous to have to try and do it. Also the Bush is 25 feet up in the air or more. It is way out of hand and it is approximately 2 1/2 feet wide to 3 feet. I also offered to pay for the removal of all that Laurel bush but in the end they refused. At first they had agreed and then at the very last second they changed their mind. Now I will have the ongoing problem of having to fight for them to clean up that hedge every year. So please tell me what my rights are? With my husband not being healthy and myself not being able to do this job, which I tried, will I have to pay every year to get it done? So now that I have to get this mess fixed up I will send them the bill for having to cut back to my property line. I know it's been more than generous to offer to get it cut in the first place as they had said they had absolutely no money since they just bought the house. I even suggested that they could pay me down the road part of it but that was no good either. So now that they've changed your mind I feel that it's only fair that they pay for this mess that has to be cleaned up and it has to be done by a professional. Please answer my question; is it my responsibility to have to pay to have this mess cut back to the neighbors property line? I live in Richmond canada. Thank you and I'm really looking forward to the answer.
Denise - 16-Aug-15 @ 5:59 AM
I wonder if anyone could advise me please, I am a council resident the person next door is private, at the end of her garden behind her boundary she has cut down lots of trees, that's not a problem to me the problem is she dumped all the tree trunks behind not only hers but my boundary wall, hope that makes sense, anyway anyone can now jump onto the logs and get into my garden.
Hev - 15-Aug-15 @ 9:36 AM
My next door neighbor's 25 feet tall cherry tree has about 40% of its branches protruding on my garden. The tree trunk is immediately against the fence separating the properties. I don't know my neighbors, they haven't been there that long and I have been told they are renting the property, not owners, so presumably they are not worried about the tree. I am aware that I am entitled get the protruding branches cut down, but as the council here charges to take garden refuse away, can I simply throw the cut down branches over the fence into their garden? This is what I'd like to do and after the tree is their or the landlord's property? Additionally, in the autumn, due to the normal prevailing wind direction, we get about 90% of the tree's leaves in our garden, which is a considerable amount. I normally bag these up and put them out for the council refuse collection. However, now the council charge, can I throw these back into their garden?
Gutts - 12-Aug-15 @ 11:53 AM
My next door neighbours back garden has never been mowed for years ,the weeds can be seen above my six foot fence, what can i do about this
eddie - 12-Aug-15 @ 10:01 AM
My neighbor has an Canadian oak tree that is close to my boundary, although the branches have been cropped back the roots to the tree has cracked by drive way. Although I have no proof of this at present I suspect the my foul sewer has been damage bythe roots. My neighbor is totally uncooperative. What can I do about this situation ?????. Incidentally my drains have blocked twice in the past 12 months.
ap - 10-Aug-15 @ 12:52 PM
One of my neighbours has 2 very large trees in their garden. They only over hang on to my land a little but they are large and block out all of the sunlight to my bathroom so my bathroom is always very dark. Do I have any rights asking them to cut them down?
Laur86 - 9-Aug-15 @ 6:06 PM
The next door neighbours tree has now nearly overtaken 40% of our garden blocking out the sunlight causing leaves and fruit debris I my fish pond they say they can't afford to have the tree cut back to their boundary can Isle them legally look after their tree and cut it back in several years I will have no light at all iny garden its growing taller and wider help me please
Tinker taylor - 8-Aug-15 @ 4:56 PM
@gardengnome - your question:

"I have got Ivy growing over from my neighbours wall onto my wall and its starting to grow into my window. What can I do. My neighbour has told me not to cut it as its theirs."


our response:
You are entitled to cut back any growth that intrudes on to your property. The only way to kill off ivy effectively is to completely remove it at all the places it's taken root. By cutting back on your side, you will not kill it off.

ProblemNeighbours - 6-Aug-15 @ 10:09 AM
I have got Ivy growing over from my neighbours wall onto my wall and its starting to grow into my window. What can I do. My neighbour has told me not to cut it as its theirs.
gardengnome - 5-Aug-15 @ 12:23 PM
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