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Problems With Neighbouring Trees: Action Guide

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 22 May 2022 | comments*Discuss
Neighbours Trees Neighbour Branches

If your property shares a boundary with a neighbour's property, there are a few aspects of the law (and good neighbourliness) that you need to bear in mind when growing trees/hedges. This guide covers what you need to know and also what you can do if you are having problems with your neighbour's trees.

Cutting back trees

You have a common law right to cut back tree branches that overhang onto your property. It is however always best to discuss with your neighbour about any trees / hedges you wish to cut back before doing so.
  • The law states that any branches cut off belong to the person on whose land the tree originally grew, so you should ask your neighbour if they want them back, or if they are happy for you to dispose of them.
  • Do not just throw trimmings back over the boundary - this could constitute 'fly tipping'. Ask your neighbour whether they would like any trimmings back.
  • Equally any fruit on trees, even if they are growing on branches which overhang your property, still belongs to your neighbour. You are therefore stealing if you pick these for yourself without your neighbours' permission.

Neighbour cut my trees right back

My neighbour recently contacted me to say she was going to get the overhanging branches from the large tree in my garden removed and that some branches may end up in my garden. I said I didn't have a problem with her removing any overhanging branches.

I got up this morning to find that my trees had been basically chopped down. The overhanging branches were indeed removed but right down to the tree trunk! I now have a line of bare tree on my side. I understand that they have a right to cut back to the boundary line but these trees are not on the boundary line - do I have any rights regarding this situation?

  • If you are pruning a neighbours' tree, be careful that you do not damage the tree further back than your boundary.
  • If you damage the tree on their side, they may claim against you for the replacement cost of the tree.
  • Be careful to check if any trees are subject to a preservation order - your local authority will be able to tell you this. If you cut down a tree with a preservation order, you will be guilty of an offence under section 210 or 211 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

Can we invoice neighbour for tree cutting?

There is a 20 metre long fence between us and our neighbour with a wall of fir trees growing on the neighbour's side of the fence. We hired a gardener to trim the fir tree branches back to the border of the fence. Can we send the Invoice received from the gardener to the neighbour?

If you choose to cut down overhanging branches, or trim trees, you will have to pay for the cost of doing so yourself. Try speaking to your neighbour however as you may be able to reach some sort of agreement in relation to any gardening work required, though they are not obliged to contribute to this cost. Note that you are not entitled to access to your neighbour's property to enable you trim the branches on your side of the boundary without their permission.

Ownership of trees

Sometimes you may be unsure who owns the trees causing you concerns or the trees may be part of a shared boundary and you are unsure who is responsible for their maintenance:

Trees that do not belong to anyone?

We have several very large trees surrounding our garden who we have been told do not belong to any one we want them cut down just a small amount who can we get to do this. We have phoned the council but they've not been much help.

Trees that form part of a boundary

The boundary line between our house and our neighbour's is clear and undisputed. It presently consists of a wire fence. However, there are some very tall cedar trees planted many years ago on our neighbour's side of the boundary, but close to it.

These trees are essentially on our neighbour's land so we do not feel we have a responsibility to maintain them. Our neighbour, however, feels they are our responsibility as they form part of the "hedge" line to the left our property when viewed from the front. Who is right?

A tree belongs to whoever owns the property upon which the tree trunk originally grows, even if the branches or roots have begun to spread onto another property. The owner has a duty to maintain this tree so that it does not cause a hazard. Therefore if branches are broken and hanging precariously, the owner should remove these.

If a tree is planted on the border line between properties, you should check your Property Title Documents to see if these give ownership to one property. If not, you both share the duty to maintain the trees, and these should not be cut down without prior consent from both owners. To check your title deeds visit the land registry website or call them on 0844 892 1111.

  • There is no such thing as 'no man's land'. All land and therefore all trees are owned by somebody.
  • If you can't decide by looking at the original Property Deeds who owns a tree, a court will be able to decide for you. However this is an expensive resolution and so it may be better to simply agree ownership between you and your neighbour.

Damage caused by overhanging trees

Council owned trees damaging my property

Adjacent to my house is some green belt land owned by local council. On this land there are some large trees, 3 of which run adjacent to my property. Last year the council agreed to prune back the lower branches of the trees but only up to 20 ft in height. As a result, the branches at the higher level have continued to grow and some of the branches now virtually touch my property.

There are a large number of leaves coming off these trees and causing blockage to guttering etc. I am also concerned about the potential damage if one of these trees fell in the high winds. What legal position do I have?

You cannot force your neighbour to remove overhanging branches or fallen leaves on your property. However if these cause excessive damage, you can sue them for the cost of repair. It is however always better to try to amicably resolve any disputes with your neighbours before resorting to the courts, which is often a long and potentially expensive process - remember you still have to live next to this person, so an amicable solution will often lead to a more comfortable living environment.

If any damage was caused by a tree from your neighbours' property but this was due to 'an Act of God', such as a thunderstorm, any damage was not foreseeable. Your neighbour will not therefore be responsible for this. If any damage caused to your property is severe, you may wish to contact your Buildings Insurance company about this.

  • Falling leaves, fruit, flowers, and pollen are annoying, but you cannot legally ask your neighbour to prevent this or remove any fallen debris.
  • Liability to remove any fallen leaves etc lies with the owner of the Property affected (or the Tenants if they have maintenance obligations which include gardening).
  • Whilst falling leaves etc are annoying, they are not legally a 'nuisance', which has a very specific meaning.

Right to Light

Neighbouring trees blocking our light

A property we are thinking of purchasing has quite a few trees in the back garden which completely block any sunlight. Some could possibly have preservation orders on them. Is there any way we can have these thinned or removed. Does our right to sunlight override that of a preservation order?

The Rights of Light Act 1959 states that if a Property has received daylight for the last 20 years (the minimum prescribed period), they may be entitled to continue to receive that light. This means that if your neighbour builds a large fence or there are large trees which restrict the daylight your Property receives (for example by blocking daylight reaching a window), you may be able to apply to the courts for your daylight to be restored, or for any injunction to prevent a proposed fence being built.

If trees have a Preservation Order, this suggests that the Property does not have a Right to Light, as it will not have had a continuous period of daylight for at least 20 years. Usually the only way you can prune a tree with a Preservation Order is if it has become dangerous.

  • There is no right to direct sunlight, only daylight.
  • Even if you have a right to light, the amount of light is restricted to approximately equivalent to one foot of candlelight.
  • You do not have any right to a view which is obscured by trees. Equally you have no right to not have a view if trees previously covered an undesirable feature such as a brick wall.

Dangerous Trees

If you are concerned that a tree is diseased or damaged and poses a danger due to having fallen, or being at risk of falling, you should contact the owner of the land on which the tree is growing. If the land belongs to the local council, contact them to request that the tree is cut down or pruned.

If you are unable to contact the land owner or they refuse to take action, contact your local council's Environmental Health Office. The owner is not under any legal duty to take action, but will be liable if a tree they knew to be damaged caused damage to Property or injury to a person.

As prevention is often better than waiting for damage or injury to occur however, the Environmental Health Office may be able to invoke the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 if the tree poses an immediate risk to Property or people. This allows them to serve notice on the land owner to make the tree safe. If they fail to do so, the Environmental Health Office may undertake this work themselves. The land owner would then usually be charged for any gardening required.

More of interest

Sometimes you might need to access a neighbour's property to do essential maintenance on your own...what's allowed and what's not? Read Your rights to access neighbouring land.

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[Add a Comment]
While my neighbour's property was empty before they bought it an oak tree seeded itself and during the two years that they have lived there it has grown to about 15 feet tall.it is right next to our dividing fence, and only about 12 feet away from my extension and 20 ft from their own house.I am worried that it will undermine both our houses.what should I do about it?
BJ - 22-May-22 @ 11:47 AM
I have been dealing with my neighbors almost 3 Years. I Caught them spraying MY trees with poison. Well they finally got more aggressive m the poisoned Every one of them! Even to he ones by my pond. Which Killed 9 Horses and ponies. Not Only did I tell him to Stop. The entire Hedge row is Dead. Plus they stole Every good posts out of them! Which right now they are worth a Lot of money. The Shery was contacted. The State DNR and The State Pericide people who j they sent 2 teams to investigate this. They all wanted to wait until it warmed up. My horses died a Very Cruel painful death! Which I have videos showing how bad. Well now that it's Spring. Obviously they are dead. The neighbors stole all of the good posts. Trespassing on My land, and they stole about 4 ft of My property by moving the property line around 4-6 ft. Yet they did not dispute the trees were Mine. I want compensated for the loss of Our horses. The tree hedge posts that they stole, the value of Each tree. The cost to plant it back IF the ground is not too contaminated,! And Our pond! I feel the Sheriff is Just as Negligent as the crooked thieving neighbors! Who do I call? They also killed a pair of Bald Eagles that built a nest in one of the trees. Hello???!!! Is it Only Iowa that can actually get by making up their Own laws as they go? Paraquat. Crossbow. They were Both used. One neighbor confessed. But when the Sheriff won't do Squat. Neither will the State Nor the Federal EPA! Please I'm begging you to help me and my children and the Huge loss of our animals and Hedge Row that my deceased husband was so proud of. ;( Just because I am. Woman does NOT give them the right to ruin , destroy, and kill Our Animals!
Theresa - 26-Apr-22 @ 5:19 PM
My next door nabourowes her property. So do we ..but she got over grown colfers trees that are way over grown on our part all the way down from the top garden to the bottom ..they are higher then the houseshe cut them down her side but left them to over grow our sidewhich are cutting sun light and braking the fenceand also on our glass green housewhot can we do about it we did ask her but she just turenda blind eye
Pez - 15-Apr-22 @ 12:03 PM
My neighbour's tree had fall down and has landed on my garage causing damage to my garage, decking and fencing. My insurance company are offering a cash settlement however, my neighbour will not allow me access onto his property to rectify the problem. Do I have any legal right to enter his garden to remove the tree.
Jespah - 28-Mar-22 @ 8:35 PM
My neighbor has fruit trees on her property that overhang my property. I have a rat problem and was told that the rats are around because of the fruit trees. The rats have even been in my house. What can I do? How do I find out if they are even allowed to have these trees.
Lu - 22-Mar-22 @ 12:15 PM
We moved into our house just before christmas and have started to trim back all the overgrown plants and trees as its a well established garden but we want more space for our children to play. We cut back a load of Ivy that runs along the fence between ours and our neighbours house so we could walk down the path without being attacked by it but now every few days our neighbour keeps throwing over the Ivy cuttings and branches that must have been growing over to their side. Are they allowed to do this or is it their responsibility to dispose of whats on their side of the fence?
Jen - 10-Mar-22 @ 4:13 PM
Our neighbour wants to remove our tree from the root as they believe the root has caused some damage to their fence. What should we do in this situation please? The tree has been there long even before we move in and gives us some privacy I appreciate your help Thanks
Sepi - 10-Mar-22 @ 12:26 PM
Hi my next door neighbours trees are blocking the sun in my garden we have our Conifer trees trimmed down every 3 years to keep up with them overgrowing but our next door neighbours have lived at there property for 2 and a half years and they haven't done anything in their garden it's all overgrown is there anything that can be done to resolve the tree problem thankyou.
Funkylady - 26-Sep-21 @ 6:29 PM
I have a 100 year old oak tree at the bottom of my garden. The neighbour at the bottom decided to erect a small concrete building around 15 years ago. Now says that the roots are causing subsidence to his building, and he wants to remove it. I said no - the tree’s been there for a long time. Who’s right?
Barks - 24-Sep-21 @ 2:58 PM
My neighbour has a holly tree growing on his side of our boundary but due to denseplanting in his own garden the whole trunk of the tree has bent over our garden searching for light and blocking our skyline.We cannot cut the tree back without cutting the trunk and probably risk killing the tree.. where do we stand in law with this please?Thank you
Ruth - 23-Sep-21 @ 12:45 PM
I live in a false house and my house and garden are lower than the surroundingproperties.The garden behind has 2 trees along the fence line that block out light to mine and 2 neighbours gardens.One is a large Ash tree thathas one branch which hangs over my garden.This is around 20 foot up in the air.Do we have any right to ask if the centre branch could be removed as it blocks light inside my house.The remaining 2 branches would still provide the privacy the neighbour says this tree provides.
Sterling - 17-Sep-21 @ 10:32 AM
my neighbour has cut one of my trees down without my consent, it's on my side of the fence, so she must have lifted the fence to get to it. I now have a 6ft hole in my tree line. what can i do, or do i contact please. she has done this once before and i told her if she ever done it again i would call the police. but is this something the police can help with?
kev - 8-Sep-21 @ 2:19 PM
My neighbour's tree trunk has widened so much it has broken my wooden fence and the concrete support. I wrote to the owner, with photos, asking him to deal with the situation. He did not reply. I wrote again in May. Once again he failed to reply. Do I need to seek legal advice?
PS - 6-Sep-21 @ 12:56 PM
¿Where do you hath goeth the information about the whole common law right to dimension do so a thing?
Cragdomcon - 4-Sep-21 @ 5:39 AM
I have asked my neighbours for 2 years to cut back her trees. In autumn the leaves & berries constantly fall, leaving a mess on my driveway. I have a fairly new car, which I can’t even park on my driveway because of the mess the berries cause to the car! I am now having the overhung branches cut at my expense. I however be leaving the cut branches in her front garden for her removal. Also I need to now have my driveway cleaned because of the mess her trees have caused. Can I claim the cost of having my driveway cleaned, by her?
Maggie O - 31-Aug-21 @ 9:14 AM
I bought house 12 months ago not realising that next door had been abandoned for 5 years. The owner is in a home and my local council have contacted her on my request about the gardens all overgrown. She said she may sell in about 2 years but the trees in the back are now a forest literally right up to the house and overhang my garden taking light from my back bedroom. There is a concrete fence between us but is leaning due to the growth of these trees. They are not protected so can be desktop with. The front is completely overgrown and the trees at the back overhang our gutters. They are dangerously close to the house. My house was empty for 2 years and not much work done in the back garden. I've already spent thousands of pounds in skips and maintenance of house and gardens and cannot afford to spend any more due to being suddenly widowed. I have poor health and dont know what else to do.
Jayney - 27-Aug-21 @ 12:35 AM
My neighbor constantly cuts my trees without my permission.Every year he cuts my philadelphus whilst it blooms and I dont get to see the flowers.One year he cut a pine tree down.We found out that he wanted to build a garage near it.I have my trees cut every year.I spend about £2ooevery october,He always dumps the cuttings back into my gardenI have difficulty removing them as I am 85years old.Today he has cut my holly and dumped the brancehes o n my garden.I s this fly tipping?
BON - 25-Aug-21 @ 4:49 PM
My house and garden was built many years before the land to the rear became a school playing field. In the 1950's a number of sapling trees were planted withina matter of feet from our rear garden. My father and neighbours complained that these will become very large and intrusive. The local county council claimed they could plant them where they wished but promised to keep branches etc away from our gardens, which they did on a regular basis. But in recent years they have ceased to cut dangerous overhanging branches back. Despite numerous complaints, they now just say they are not obliged to limit the trees size. This appears to be grossly unfair. Could we neighbours return to have them regularly cut back and send Warwickshire County Council the bill?
Nick - 16-Aug-21 @ 9:43 AM
Our neighbours have a jackaranda which for years have been pushing the fence over. Have been asking for 10 years for them to clean up their garden only to have their son and his mates trying to also push the fence down hoping their tree falls on our house and assaulting neighbours verbally and physically. Have approached council who have told me they don’t deal with trees that I am to go through citizens advice people.They keep changing their minds 1 minute we can cut tree back then called lower than low lives when we had to cut a branch which was falling off higher up in the tree.
Fed up - 9-Aug-21 @ 11:59 PM
I have in the last two weeks moved into a new property. The neighbour has a tree in their garden which isn't a problem. The problem is that while I was at work they cut the branches of their tree and threw the branches into my garden. It wasn't an accident, they definitely haven't fallen over the fence while cutting as I can see where the branches have been cut and its roughly 5ft from the fence.Can I put these back over the fence or am I expected to dispose of them?
joeD.avies - 4-Aug-21 @ 5:44 PM
My neighbors tree hangs over my driveway causing damage to my cars. The canker worms are eating the leaves and the waste fromthe bugs gets all over my cars. I deal with the tree sap, acorn, leaves andbroken tree branches. What legal action can I take.
Trash - 31-Jul-21 @ 8:04 PM
I have a pl tree, but never get to try to taste them, because of Romanians kids teenagers coming to brake the tree, jums on it, breaking. Under tree we got 2 cars one our another neighbours. I try to talk to them 10 times, and the last time they say fuc... f for me. What rights i have to deal with it? Please help me, because I'm so stressed all the time to dealing with these people?
Gitana - 26-Jul-21 @ 10:37 PM
I have a complaint from my neighbour where they say that the tree that has Berries in it and bats are making a mess in there driveway . We just spent $700 cutting the tree back last year and now they want the tree gone, the tree has been there for a number of years but they have decided to park their boat underneath.Any chance them payinghalf the cost of the removal,where do we stand?
Loz - 25-Jul-21 @ 2:12 AM
My parents have got a row of conifers on their land which makes their border Their neighbour has decided they want a new drive and are demanding they cut them down My parents don't want to get rid of them as it stops them looking into their home They haven't a problem with them giving them a trim Nor have they an issue with them cutting the drinks if they run across their land Surely the neighbour can't make my parents take them down
Curly - 24-Jul-21 @ 7:28 PM
We have a huge willow tree that grows over and into our garden across the boundary line. The debris from the tree is significant and a complete pain! The tree grows so fast and is now 2-3m into our garden. Is it the law that I have to pay to have the tree cut back? Seems completely unfair to me? Any advice would be great.
Sophia - 24-Jul-21 @ 11:51 AM
Hi. I live in a ground floor flat, that I own. The rest of the block are council. Can the branches from two large trees be cut. As they keep my garden in the shad. Also, pigeons use it to have target practice on our washing. Thanks.
Trev - 22-Jul-21 @ 4:28 PM
My neighbour has asked me to cut our boundaries trees down so she can have a sea view which belong t us and we’re planted in2003 before she moved in which we haven’t done for our own privacy the deeds do say no trees shrubs over 5 ft which they r while my husband is in hosp and I’m at a friends being looked after I am reg blind she has cut them down is this legal please
Sue - 20-Jul-21 @ 3:04 PM
There is a brook at the bottom of my garden and the house on opposite side of the brook has this massive weeping willow tree which is on his property but it is leaning way over my side . It is hollow and getting higher with trunk getting nearer my fence plus all the debris that comes of the tree lands in my garden . I am concerned that if it keeps growing at this rate that it could end up with bad weather and so forth that it could be very unsafe . I am a 75yr old woman I am disabled and suffer badly from asthma type hay fever and bad on my feet and have arthritis every where and waiting for a procedure in hospital . I have been to see the man but is adamant he is not going to do anything .He is an arrogant person .I have rang the council had letter sent to him from a solicitor some years ago also from citizens advice but to no avail. The tree is not listed as I had the Environmental people to see the tree.. is there anyone who can help me please I am desperate .Thank youSIT
Suzzy - 17-Jul-21 @ 6:24 PM
Our neighbor has a pine tree that has straws and bulds constantly falling.Which causes a nuisance and a mess of our driveway and cars. We are desperate for a lawful answer on how we should go about getting it solved. We are an elderly couple in our eighties.As soon as it is cleaned, within a few minutes it look as though you have never cleaned it.
Boots - 16-Jul-21 @ 10:29 PM
My neighbours tree trunks Have smashed my fencing and Are now growingon my property I have had new fencing put up but have had to bring them in 20 inches I had planned on putting hedging behind this to Mark my Boundry but my neighbour has now kicked all his fencing into my fencing so it cannot be removed where do I stand can I cut the trunk that is on my property
Chez - 15-Jul-21 @ 5:29 AM
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