Neighbour disputes with trees
If a neighbour’s tree hangs over an adjoining property, the tree owner should be asked to trim back the tree. If this is not done, the complainant has the right to trim the tree back to the boundary line (but see Tree Preservation Orders below) although any branches and/or fruit removed belong to the tree’s owner and should be offered back to the owner or disposed of with the owner's consent.
An overhanging tree may also be a danger. For example, most parts of a yew tree are poisonous. If any damage or injury is caused, the tree owner will be liable to pay compensation if a person affected brings a claim for damages.
In England and Wales, local authorities have powers to deal with trees on private property which are on the point of causing damage. A local authority can:-
- make the tree safe, if it is on the point of causing damage and are asked to do so by the owner of the land on which the tree stands. The local authority will recover the costs of doing this from the owner
- make a tree safe on someone else’s land, if asked to do so by a neighbour whose property is in imminent danger from the tree and the owner of the land on which the tree stands is not known
- serve a notice on someone who has a tree which is on the point of causing damage to the property of a neighbour and that neighbour asks the local authority to take action. The owner of the tree must comply with the notice. If they do not, the local authority will do the necessary work and recover the costs from the owner. The owner can appeal to the county court against the notice.
If you want the local authority to take action, you will need to find out which department deals with dangerous trees as this varies from one local authority to another. You can then ask this department to check the condition of the tree.
It is up to the local authority to decide if the tree is on the point of causing damage. If they consider it is not on the point of causing damage, they don't have to take any action.
If the roots of a neighbour’s tree spread into a property, they can be removed using the least damaging method available, unless there is a Tree Preservation Order on it - see below. If a neighbour has to enter the tree owner’s property to do this, they must give reasonable notice.
Tree Preservation Orders
If you wish to prevent a tree being lopped by your neighbour, you could contact the local authority to see if they will place a Tree Preservation Order on it.
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