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Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

Author: Jeff Durham - Updated: 16 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.

Alternatively, you can return them and ask your neighbour to dispose of them themselves should you wish to do so. What might seem a bit of a strange anomaly, however, is that even though any leaves from your neighbour’s tree may 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 these leaves blow into any of your gutters and block 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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@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
hi, we own our house and the next door neighbour is council. we have lived next door to our neighbour for 20 years plus and never had a problem but they have 3 massive trees in the back garden ( and i mean massive) thats forever shredding leaves and blocks all of out light. im really worried if there is a big wind as it would come straight through our roofs if they uprooted. Would i have any rights if i approached the council?? i have tried the friendly approach and asked if they could be topped off or trimmed and the answer was no...any suggestions please.
jedij - 18-Jun-14 @ 5:54 PM
@Sam. If you live on a public/adopted road then Contact your local council about the obstruction. They will take action to: either get the neigbour to cut back the tree or do so themselves (and possibly charge it back to the neighbour)
ProblemNeighbours - 13-Jun-14 @ 10:56 AM
@Ruislipian - you could still cut off any branches that are overhanging your garden.
spring - 13-Jun-14 @ 10:34 AM
My neighbour has planted a conifer ina piece of garden approx a metre deep from front to back,it has now reached a height of ten foot and overhangs the road by at least 4 foot . I have to reverse past this tree which is scratching my car . I can't go any other way as we live on a cul-de-sac , I am disabled and need to get as near my house as possible ,can I get this tree cut back lawfully
Sam - 12-Jun-14 @ 1:50 PM
Hi, I have an alleyway running along the rear of my back garden and there's several trees that are in gardens occupied by residents on another road.The trees are causing a real mess in the alleyway and most importantly my new patio that I've just had laid.As the trees are not owned by a 'neighbour' and run over an alleyway, does that make any difference?
Ruislipian - 12-Jun-14 @ 1:49 PM
hi Jimbob. You don't have an automatic right to sunlight I'm afraid. The general rule for fence height between gardens is 2 metres but that doesn't apply to trees/bushes etc. Someone else made a good a suggestion on another article here on this site...why not invite the neighbours over for drinks/bbq etc - they will notice how much sun they're blocking out. Offer to pay half the cost of getting the trees/hedge trimmed annually to an agreed height. Please post and let me know how you got on with this as I work for a mediation service and we get loads of neighbour issues!
Mediation volunteer - 12-Jun-14 @ 12:32 PM
the neighbourswall is 1.5 mtrs high and the bushes are over 2 mtrs high,over hanging my conservatory stopping light entering in. in the summer we would dineoutside, but now the bushes are so high the sun is blocked off. have we got any rights.
jimbob - 11-Jun-14 @ 2:55 PM
Hi Evie. Don't think you can do much about this...we had a similar issue (we live by a park). The only thing you can do is trim the bits overhanging your garden. We sneakily had a bit snipped of the top too that when unnoticed ;) If you consider the trees may be unsafe that would be a good one to use as the head teacher would never endanger the pupils I guess.
leafytroubles - 4-Jun-14 @ 10:38 AM
My back garden backs onto a local primary school.It has very high trees along its perimeter which overhang my fence significantly.It is hard for me to reach the branches now to cut them back but the head has refused to pay to have them cut back. A number of neighbours have also complained to the school with the same problem. Also in the autumn the leaves blow down my garden and block my gutter drain meaning I am constantly having to remove the leaves from it.I have had to call out dyno rod once or twice as the leaves have blocked the drains up.Should the school pay for this??
evie - 3-Jun-14 @ 1:59 PM
We have a problem new neigbour has built this new house & has 1 big window facing into our back yard,we also didn't get the plans for this & not happy abt our privacy being gorn,so can we just plant in some big high trees to block them do we have our privacy back ?
Sexy - 29-May-14 @ 11:59 AM
I recently moved home and my next door neighbour is not very friendly so I cannot speak with her re a problem I have as my neighbour has planted some fast growing hedging ? and its grown taller than my boundary fence of approx just over 5 foot so it blocking my light and the sunshine gettingthrough tomy back garden is there away to sort this out and is my neighbour allowed to let it grow as tall as it is as it approx18 inches?? thank you
charlesina mcerlaine - 21-Feb-14 @ 1:23 PM
Our friend was chopping wood from one of his trees that had fallen in the recent storms. The gardai were notified to help passing motorist to drive with caution in that area. The gardai arrived in a garda van and helped themselves to the chopped wood saying they were entitled by law to take the wood. Is this true?
Chip - 15-Feb-14 @ 2:01 PM
the swan councils trees grow over my fence and my roof and fills my gutters this is a fire hazard and along the bottom of the fence is about 3 or 4 inces of dry flowers leaves this is on council land if this goes on fire the wooden fencewould go on firethanks
gusty - 15-Jan-14 @ 1:28 AM
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