Neighbour disputes over trees

Where trees are the cause of disagreement between neighbours they can sometimes lead to long running conflicts. If both adjoining properties are privately owned, and therefore the trees themselves are privately owned, then the Council will not usually get involved unless the trees are the subject of statutory protection.

The most important thing is that neighbours talk to one another about the issues of overhanging trees. Entering into some sort of dialogue with a neighbour can be the best way to get a successful outcome to the issue of a neighbour dispute over trees.

Statutory protection applies where trees are covered by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) or are located within one of the City's designated Conservation Areas. In these cases an application for prior consent to carry out any tree work (including pruning) will be required.

If a frustrated neighbour decides to make an application to the Local Planning Authority, to have work done to their neighbours protected trees and permission is granted, it does not actually mean that they are then legally allowed to carry out the tree work. In most cases the neighbour will still require the tree owners consent to carry out these works.

Common law dictates that if branches or roots are overhanging into a neighbours property then the neighbour has the legal right to prune back the overhanging branches or roots, to the boundary line between the 2 properties. As the branches and/or roots are the property of the tree owner, the neighbour must offer the cuttings back to the owner, who may then insist that the person who cut them has to dispose of the cut material. It should be noted that to cut a branch at an arbitrary point along that branch does not represent good arboricultural practice. To do this can encourage disease to enter the tree and also cause the branch to die-back from the cut point to the nearest growth point. Good arboricultural practice dictates that cuts should be made at suitable growth points to ensure new growth.

In all cases it is important that as soon as an issue involving trees arises neighbours speak to one another about the issues that they have, regarding the trees. Often it is the case that the owner of the trees is completely unaware of the problems they are causing to their neighbour.

In cases where trees are the subjects of protection and both neighbours are in agreement, specialist advice may be available from the Council. This will, however, depend on available resources. In every case it is recommended that a professional tree contractor be appointed to undertake the work. It is also important to advise that those who commission tree work ensure that the work is done to British Standard 3998: Recommendations for Tree Work and that the contractor provides evidence of the necessary indemnity insurance.

My neighbour has some trees overhanging into my property can the Council do something to make them cut them back?

The Council has no powers to intervene when a dispute arises involving privately owned trees. If both properties are privately owned (and therefore the trees are privately owned) then the Council does not get involved.

My neighbour has some trees overhanging into my garden/property/touching my house/garage/roof? What can I do about it?

You have the common law right to cut back the overhanging branches and roots up to the boundary line between the 2 properties and must offer the cut material back to the owners. However, if the trees are protected then you require the permission of the Local Planning Authority before you can undertake the works. There is also the risk (particularly if the roots are cut) that you may be liable for the death of the tree, should the tree works that are carried out be proved to be the reason for the death of the tree.

Can I send the Tree Surgeons bill to my neighbour for cutting their trees that are overhanging into my property?

If you have commissioned a Tree Surgeon to carry out work to trees that you want cut then you will have to pay the bill. It would be advisable to come to an agreement with your neighbour prior to the completion of the tree work with regard to who will pay the Tree Surgeons bill.

My neighbour’s trees are really tall and bushy, and I am worried that they will fall onto my house. Who is responsible/liable if this happens?

If the neighbouring property is privately owned then the owner of the property is responsible for the trees growing on their land. Should the trees fall and damage property, then the owner of the trees maybe liable for any damage that is caused. If it can be proved that the owner of the tree/s did not take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of the trees, then they could be proved to be liable for any damaged caused. However, if the owner of the trees has had them inspected or worked on and the tree failure is deemed to be an accident, then the owner would not be liable for any damaged caused. Even if the trees are protected, then the owner retains the responsibility for the trees.

My neighbour won’t cut back their trees and I can’t afford to/won’t pay for the trees to be cut back. I am really worried that the trees will/are damaging my property. What can be done?

The Council does not have the powers to intervene when it comes to disputes over privately owned trees. The Council can not make a private individual carry out work to their trees. The best advice is to enter into some kind of dialogue with your neighbour, they maybe completely unaware of the problems that their trees are causing. If the cost of having tree work completed is the main reason that your neighbour has not had the work carried out then it might be useful to split the cost of any tree work with them. The owner of a tree has a duty of care to others to ensure that their property does not affect the health and safety of others. Where trees are affecting the fabric of a building, wall or other structure, there may be justification for the neighbour asking the tree owner to deal with a specific problem.

I live in Council owned property, but my neighbour, whose trees are overhanging into my property, lives on private property. What should I do?

The Council has no powers to intervene regarding a dispute over privately owned trees. The Council can not make a private individual carry out work to their trees. The best advice is to enter into some kind of dialogue with your neighbour, they maybe completely unaware of the problems that their trees are causing.

I would like some advice on managing my trees. Can the Council help?

Free tree management advice is available, please use the contact details below to get in touch.


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