How to stop your neighbours branching out (into your garden)
The latest in this series of neighbour themed articles relates to tree branches which overhang from your neighbour’s property onto your own.
The general rule is that the tree belongs to the person on whose land it grows. However, if branches of a tree from neighbouring land overhang on to your property you are usually entitled to cut the branches back to the boundary line. Generally you do not need the consent of the owner of the neighbouring land to do this, however discussing what you are planning to do with your neighbour prior to cutting the branches is advisable to minimise the prospect of a dispute.
If you are planning to cut branches from neighbouring trees here are some matters you should consider:
- Removal of branches beyond the boundary line may constitute a trespass. If you are unsure as to the position of the boundary you should obtain legal advice.
- If the tree is damaged when you remove the branches this may also lead to a claim in trespass or damages. If the part of the tree you are planning on removing is substantial it is recommended that you engage a tree surgeon or arborist to complete the work.
- Some trees are subject to tree preservation orders. This means you may need permission from the local planning authority prior to carrying out any work. Failing to obtain this permission and carrying out the works regardless could lead to prosecution and a fine. Such fines can be substantial. In October 2019 it was reported that a property developer, his company, and a tree contractor had been subjected to combined fines totalling £420,000 for felling an ancient giant Redwood that was the subject of a tree preservation order.
- If you think the tree is a potential source of danger to your property or the people living at the property, you should discuss this with your neighbour and contact the council.
- Although you are permitted to cut overhanging branches, these branches as well as what is on them e.g. fruit still belong to the owner of the land on which the tree is situated. Therefore, once you cut the branches, you should return them to your neighbour. Failure to do so may constitute theft and expose you to the risk of a civil claim.
Sensible dialogue and cooperation is always the best approach in such matters and it shouldn’t be forgotten that neighbour disputes which get out of hand are often unpleasant, stressful and costly. If that attempted cooperation falls on deaf ears, it is likely to be sensible then to obtain formal advice.