In most cases, it’s best to try and resolve disputes with your neighbours in an informal setting. However, this isn’t always possible, especially if you cannot agree on who is responsible for offending issues.
A common cause of debate is the boundary lines between two properties. For instance, you may be wondering who has responsibility for a tree or hedge that grows on a boundary between your and your neighbour’s properties.
In this article, we’ll explore common disputes that arise from trees and hedges on boundary lines. We’ll look at how you can find out who is responsible, as well as ways that you can resolve any issues that occur because of the tree or hedge.
Who is responsible for trees on a property boundary?
You are responsible for trees and hedges if the main stem or trunk is located on your land. If the trunk or stem is located on your neighbour’s land, they are responsible for the tree or hedge.
If a tree or hedge is located on the boundary between two or more properties and it is unclear where the main stem or trunk is located, you will need to consult the legal documents for your property to see if it is your responsibility or not.
In some situations, you may be able to share the maintenance of trees or hedges on a boundary line if both you and your neighbour are in agreement. This can help ensure that you are both happy with the state of the tree or hedge that borders both your properties.
How to find out who owns the tree?
You should have been given documents detailing your land ownership when you purchased your property. However, you can also purchase the documents from the Land Registry if you can’t find them or require another copy. You can also buy the documents for neighbouring properties to identify whether they are responsible for trees on the boundary line or not.
The documents will show the boundaries of your property, which can help you identify which trees and hedges are legally classed as being on your land. This will tell you which trees and hedges you need to maintain and which ones are your neighbour’s responsibility.
You can consult the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) if you are still unsure about the boundary lines of your property. They will speak with surveyors to help you solve any boundary disputes with your neighbours. You can also contact Citizens Advice or contact your local council if the dispute persists.
Can you cut overhanging branches?
If there are branches or roots that cross over onto your land, you are able to trim them, even if the tree or hedge doesn’t belong to you. However, you can only trim them up to the property line, as the rest of the tree or hedge belongs to your neighbour. Your neighbour could take you to court for damages if you trim parts of the tree or hedge that are located on their property.
As the branches technically belong to your neighbour, you can ask them to dispose of branches that you cut because they were overhanging onto your property. However, you may need to dispose of them yourself if your neighbour is unwilling to throw the branches away.
You may need to contact your local council for permission if you live in a conservation area and want to trim parts of a tree or hedge that crosses over onto your property. This is also the case if plants are protected by tree preservation orders. A tree preservation order is implemented by local authorities to protect specified trees and other types of vegetation and means that they cannot be cut, uprooted or otherwise changed without prior consent.
The highways authority may request that you trim a tree or hedge if it borders a road and becomes an obstruction to motorists. The authorities have the ability to legally enter your property without your permission and complete the work if you refuse to do so yourself. You may also be charged for the work.
Can you pick overhanging fruit?
According to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), you cannot pick and keep fruit that is growing on branches that overhang onto your property. They also state that windfall fruit cannot be collected and kept, even if the fruit falls onto your property. You must ask your neighbour’s permission if you wish to pick fruit from overhanging branches or windfall fruit.
Although picking or collecting fruit from a neighbour’s tree isn’t considered stealing, you would be accused of trespassing if you entered your neighbour’s property to reach the fruit. They would be in their right to confiscate any fruit that you had taken when you were on their land.
Fruit trees that grow in public spaces or common ground have slightly different rules. In most cases, you should be able to pick fruit that has fallen from the branches. However, it’s a good idea to speak with your local council or the owners of the land to make sure that they are happy for you to forage for and collect windfall fruit.
Any fruit or fungi that you forage from public land can only be collected for personal use. You cannot sell the food or any products made from it, or use the fruit or fungi for commercial use. Fruit and fungi shouldn’t be consumed if you aren’t certain whether it is edible or not.
What if my neighbour’s tree blocks out light?
If a single tree on your neighbour’s land is blocking light to your property, you can try to negotiate with your neighbour to trim the tree. You are not allowed to cut back the tree yourself if the tree is on your neighbour’s land because this could be considered criminal damage.
In the case of a hedge or two or more trees blocking out light, you can approach your local council to help with the matter. Although the council can’t dictate orders concerning trees and hedges on private property, they can issue orders to cut back foliage if it is causing an issue for the public or other property owners (including you).
You can ask your council for a complaint form if there are two or more offending hedges or trees that have grown over two metres tall and are affecting your enjoyment of your property or garden. The trees or hedges must also be evergreen or semi-evergreen.
Who is liable for damage caused by a tree?
Your neighbour may be responsible for damages if a tree or the branches fell because they were negligent. For example, if a tree was previously damaged from a storm, your neighbour didn’t take action, and a branch later fell onto your property. They are also responsible if the tree roots cause damage to your property. You can sue your neighbour for damages, although you will need to prove the cause and extent of the damage.
When making your claim, you would need to provide evidence that the tree was unsafe due to disease or previous damage. You may be eligible for compensation if you were injured because of your neighbour’s tree or your property is damaged.
No one is responsible for the weather, however, which means that if a previously healthy and safe tree falls into your garden due to high winds, your neighbour may not be responsible for any resulting damage. You may be able to make a claim on your property’s insurance to help pay for damages and cite ‘natural causes’. Your insurance policy will specify whether damage from trees is covered.
It’s advisable to contact your neighbour if you think a tree is becoming unsafe. You should write your concerns in a letter and request that the safety of the tree is formerly checked by an arboriculturist (tree surgeon). Make sure to keep a copy of the letter for your records, including a record of when you sent the original letter.
In some extreme cases, you may be able to get a court injunction that requires your neighbour to deal with the unsafe tree. The injunction may also require the local council to take action, especially if the tree is deemed a threat to public safety.
If the neighbouring property is rented, it’s a good idea to contact both the tenants and the landlord. Some tenancy contracts require tenants to maintain trees, although the lease may state that they are the responsibility of the landlord.
Who can help in a dispute over a tree on a boundary?
While your first step should be to contact your neighbour about any issues, this may not solve the problem. If you cannot reach a solution via an informal discussion with your neighbour, the next step is to reach out to the local authorities.
You should consult your property’s legal documents (which can be obtained from the Land Registry) if you and your neighbour can’t agree on who owns a tree or hedge located on a boundary line. The person who owns the tree is responsible for any issues or damages that occur due to the tree.
You can complete a complaint form and send it to your local council if you think a tree or hedge has grown too tall or has become unsafe. Some councils ask for a fee before they will process your complaint.
Another route is to try and resolve the dispute with the help of a mediator. This is an impartial individual who has no invested interest in the case and is formally trained to help solve disputes. Your local council may be able to help you find a mediator, or you can contact a mediation service to find a local mediator in your area.
You may need the assistance of a solicitor if a tree damages your property or you are injured. Your neighbour can be taken to court and ordered to pay compensation for any injuries or damages caused by their tree.
Who is responsible for leaves falling from overhanging branches?
Although your neighbour may own the tree or hedge, they are not obliged to clear any leaves that may have fallen onto your property. In the same way, you aren’t responsible if a tree on your land sheds leaves onto the neighbouring property.
If the leaves begin to cause damage (such as blocking drains), the affected party can contact the owner of the tree and ask them to help resolve the issue. This could involve trimming the tree back so that it doesn’t shed as many leaves.
You are able to cut back branches that overhang onto your property, but you must ask your neighbour to trim back branches that are on their side of the boundary line.
Can I force my neighbour to cut his tree?
A tree on your neighbour’s land is classed as their property, and therefore they are not obliged to cut a healthy tree if you request them to do so. However, you can contact the relevant authorities if you think a dangerous tree may cause injury or damage your property. You can sue your neighbour for any repairs, damages or injuries if their tree is responsible.
It’s a good idea to try to talk with the tree owner if you feel there is an issue with a tree or hedge on the boundary line between your properties. You can try to talk with them in person, write them a letter or email them. It’s advisable to keep a record of the dates that these discussions took place, as well as their responses, in case you need them for future reference.
You are responsible for trees or hedges if the trunk or main stem grows on your land. In instances where a tree sits on the boundary between two properties, you will need to consult the legal documents of the property to find the listed tree ownership.
It is a tree owner’s responsibility to make sure that the tree is in a good condition and isn’t likely to damage property or cause injury to anyone. You can contact your neighbour if you think a tree may cause damage to your property or cause injury. If the issue isn’t resolved, you can seek the help of the local authorities.
If a neighbour’s tree overhangs onto your property, you are entitled to trim back the branches up to the boundary line. You are not allowed to trim the branches any further than this, as the rest of the tree is on your neighbour’s property. Any fruit that grows from overhanging branches still belongs to the tree’s owner too.