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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 5 Aug 2020 | 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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If its damaging your house get a solicitor involved as the tree owner needs to pay for any damages and work needed to repair what his tree has done. This is by law
Rob54231 - 5-Aug-20 @ 5:01 PM
My neighbour has a rose bush at the front of our terraced properties and it overgrows over to our side of the drive every year making it very difficult for me to get children in and out of the car! I cut it back last year as it was awful but this year husband is saying I need to ask first because of the flowers on it. Is this right? We don't get along with them so I'm not really wanting to have to knock on the door to ask permission to cut it back! Any advice greatly appreciated!
kbakes - 5-Aug-20 @ 8:47 AM
Where do I stand? My neighbours silver birch trees and conifers are taller than my house, over hang my land, block out light and are damaging my roof. Where do I go for help? I’m not council I own the house in question Help - he’s an awful, selfish little old man
Clare - 1-Aug-20 @ 6:35 PM
I have tree growing wildly behind my fence at back of garden. It is pushing my fence down. The land the tree is growing on is owned by a building company. I wrote to them, have made several calls and left messages, asking them to cut the tree. They are ignoring all my messages. My neighbours also have trees growing, owned by building company, with branches going in their gardens. The building company is not maintaining any of these trees. What should we do next?
Cazz - 19-Jul-20 @ 8:53 PM
We had a sycamore overhanging our garden.The tree surgeon told us that if the tree had grown up after any Tree Preservation Order had been put in place then no permission was required to fell it.However, you can go onto your local government website and check this out.
JR47 - 17-Jul-20 @ 3:19 PM
We have 3 large sycamores on council owned land that overhang the top of our garden by up to 15 feet. We live in a conservation area. 3 times in the last 15 years we have paid to have the trees sided but only so far up. Council in this time has never maintained them, they are now so large branches regularly fall into our garden during bad weather and nothing will grow as the trees are taking any goodness from the soil. I have had 3 well maintained bushes wither in the last year. Are there any legal obligations I can use to get the council to bette rmanage these trees. I don't see why we keep having to pay out.
BF - 13-Jul-20 @ 9:44 AM
We have tree that has been on the property longer than we have lived here, it’s trunk and roots are overlapping our neighbours boundary and now wants it removed. Do we have to have removed as the tree is healthy and instead we could crown it giving them back some light. Thanks for any advice
Howard - 11-Jul-20 @ 7:28 PM
I have a neighbour, who gave me consent to cutting the overhanging branches of his tree. However he refuses to take the branches back and tells me I must and legally have to dispose of them. This is a cost that I have to pay. Is this correct?
Ave - 9-Jul-20 @ 3:18 PM
My neighbour has planted a fruit tree right against the fence and the small plums fall constantly on my side.This attracts wasps and their are loads now near my patio doors.Can I do anything about the tree ... we do not talk to each other.
Magd - 8-Jul-20 @ 2:32 PM
My nextdoor neighbour has a large tree that overhangs my garden the branches die and drop into the garden some are large and hert when they land on you can l cut back
Terry - 3-Jul-20 @ 4:15 PM
Network rail want to come on my property and remove trees that are over hanging the adjoining fence
Sandy - 1-Jul-20 @ 3:39 PM
Our neighbour cut branches from our over hanging tree, then dumped them into our garden over the fence.We are Military so live in our military quarter. This above problem happened in our own home where we are not living. Our neighbour knows we only visit occasionally .... but now not since March.Our other neighbour informed us of this happening and took a photo for us. We have investigated that she should "offer us the branches" but we are not obliged to take them, then it is her responsibility to dispose off them. We have written to her to tell her all about this and that she is now "flytipping".She has not responded to our letter - 2 weeks ago now and the branches are still there. Not very neighbourly !!She asked the other neighbour for our email address but we have not received any correspondence from her. What do we now do ? Help
em - 28-Jun-20 @ 1:28 PM
the house next to mine is vacant and for sale. there are 30ft high conifers on the boundary which overhang my property. can I cut the branches back to the boundary and put them back into the neighbouring garden without the owners consent
toe - 28-Jun-20 @ 12:09 PM
Hi, I had a tree growing on my garden which was outside of my property and the fence is cut like that. It is also in an alleyway to the other neighbours house, my next door neighbour has decided to remove my tree without discussing with me what can I do? Please help
Rita - 28-Jun-20 @ 8:53 AM
my neighbor decided to trim my trees branches. that over hanged the fence line. But he trimmed them back to the trunk. Which is 6 feet from the fence line. He did this without my consent. I contact the city and they informed me it basically a civil matter. What can I do has a home owner. other then getting a expensive lawyer. I'm in California and I can't find any codes. That would protect a home owner. The neighbor got what he wanted. I'm stuck with a tree that trimmed way back.
john - 27-Jun-20 @ 7:14 AM
My laurels on my side of four adjoining propertieshave way overgrown the property lines and have been doing so for many years - long before I moved here. I honestly welcome the neighbors trimming the branches off on their sides! But I have one very rude neighbor who doesn't want them cut at all due to privacy screening they create on her side. Now I can easily cut off the branches from my side of the property but it leaves them dead on her side. Help! I don’t want to anger the neighbor but the branches are destroying the fence line and it needs to be repaired. Does the neighbor have any rights to my plants considering how long they may have been there? Can she make me leave the overhanging limbs or the ones growing through the fence lines in place? These nice but overgrown laurels are beyond huge and need drastic taming. What is my next step?
Katie - 26-Jun-20 @ 8:27 AM
My neighbour allows her trees and shrubs to grow into my garden, including an oak tree which grows 25 foot into mine and neighbours garden, she has said we can cut them back but we are all pensioners and can't afford to pay for this, the oak drops a lot of dead wood which is a safety hazard. What can we do. 6 Gardens back on to her garden.
Pat - 25-Jun-20 @ 4:00 PM
My neighbour tree is over the boundary of my property and the branches are very close to rubbing of my gutters and roof of my house can I ask the owner of the tree to get the tree cut back and get them to pay for this? Thanks
Mojo - 24-Jun-20 @ 7:16 AM
Hello, if i cut the overhanging branchs of my neighbours trees shoud i put the cut branches back in their garden
Paulette - 16-Jun-20 @ 11:01 AM
I have a big tree in my garden. My neighbour asked if he could cut over hanging branch I said yes and he could put it over fence but when I returnedhe had cut more and thrown a hell of a lot back in my garden.we had words and is taking back half what he threw over. Now he is saying he wants to cut more branches over his side . Can I refuse to except branches back please help
Jane - 16-Jun-20 @ 6:18 AM
Good day There is a tree in a garden (council residents) which overhangs into our road and is and I’m constantly having to clean my car due to birds mess am I legally entitled to lop the branches thank you
Harryboy457 - 15-Jun-20 @ 5:40 PM
We have a neighbour's conifer, the trunk & branches of which grow over our party wall. This growth is at height, it is also over our swimming pool, so cones & branches can fall into the pool, which is an H&S. Hazard! There is no TPO on this tree, what can we do ?
Kev. - 15-Jun-20 @ 12:25 PM
Our neighbours trees are conifer. which is very tall and makes a mess of our garden as the branches hang all over our side. There is one main branch which is coursing the problem, however the branch does not come over our side until very high up, although the small twig like ones do. Do I have a right to still cut the main branch down?
SUE Q - 5-Jun-20 @ 3:06 PM
We live next door to a nhs run card home, they have large trees who’s branches are now overhanging our garden, they block the sun from the garden in the summer and cause substantial leaves to fall in autumn, we are having trouble getting advice on if these can be cut back, does anyone have any advice?
Sheri - 16-May-20 @ 8:13 AM
I have a sycamore trees branches hanging over into my garden and it blocks the sun until 3.00pm in the afternoon and also masses of leaves fall into my garden every day the tree is in between my garden and British gas land can I prune the tree back to my fence line or do I have to ask permission of British gas to do this
Smudga56 - 14-May-20 @ 12:28 PM
My drain in my drive way is clogged up with roots from a tree that is in the city tree box. I have been trying to get them to cut the tree down and unstop the drains by removing the roots since 2014 to no avail The roots have torn up my driveway and flooded my basement on several locations.What can I do I can't afford.the cost Sat
Glo - 14-May-20 @ 4:25 AM
My neighbours cherry blossom tree is causing huge problems in my garden. I have had to throw away garden furniture and it is causing untold damage to my drainage and patio area. What are my rights regarding this ? I am unable to use my garden as it’s just constantly covered n falling blossom during the shedding season. I have tried to speak to my neighbour and she is not prepared to remove the tree.
Tracy - 11-May-20 @ 4:27 PM
My Neighbour has gone past the border by 2-3ft into our garden front and rear to cut a hedge and the worse is they have completely butchered the Lilac Tree that was in full bloom.Not only was tbe tree 27 years old and Beautiful but it has made no difference to her "light" to her garden and we are without a tree that may take 3 to 4 years to even get buds on it.Are there legal options I have?
Liz - 11-May-20 @ 2:07 PM
My neighbour has a huge blossom tree which is right next to the fence and very close to our conservatory.The Branches are now at least half way across our garden. You can no longer see the back bedroom window if you stand at the bottom. Are we allowed to cut back the branches to the fence without asking them?
Trace1 - 8-May-20 @ 4:49 PM
Our neighbours trees are conifer that has grown much taller than our house. Anyway as it grew it is now like three or four separate trees, all very tall. Then it died, strangled by vines, (because her garden is just a mess) about five years ago. We have exhausted all the protocol we can, but she is old and doesn’t want anything to do with us. A couple of weeks ago one of these tree like parts, fell into our garden in the night. We manages to get it cut up and sorted out, however the rest looks as if it is going to fall on our house. We have a nice garden but I’m frightened now to use the garden. It is really dangerous. Would we be allowed to cut it down our selves as it is a huge health and safety issue?We have been in touch with the council but they said it is a civil matter. I would be so grateful for advice as I am vulnerable, because of ill health and the garden is my only only safe place at the moment, because of lockdown. I would be very grateful for some direction, as what to do? Thank you Audrey Smith
Aud - 7-May-20 @ 7:39 PM
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