Help! My Neighbour’s tree overhangs my garden

We get quite a few call from people having a few issues with their neighbour’s tree and want to have their neighbour’s tree trimmed back, or even removed. Here is how you stand and what you can (and can’t) do.

Firstly, I would always recommend contacting your neighbour to discuss the issues. The tree is entirely their property (including the overhang) and some people do not consider the way their tree affects the neighbours. You neighbour could be completely unaware of any negative effects the tree may have on you. The tree could also hold some sentimental value or be legally protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO).

Your neighbour maybe unable (physically or financially) to do anything and you maybe able to help out in some way. If its got to a point where you are willing to pay to have a tree surgeon prune your neighbour’s tree then asking the neighbour to share that cost is not a bad thing. It does happen quite a lot in our experience.

After you have spoken to your neighbour (or been unable to do so) you should contact your local tree officer (usually within the local authority planning department) to find out if the tree is located within a conservation area, has a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) placed on it or has any other legal restrictions placed on it. Conservation Areas and TPOs are normally the only ones you need to consider in a domestic garden. If you are not sure contact us or ask your tree officer for more details, we can also help with TPO applications if one is needed.

So presuming there are no conservation area or TPO restrictions what can you do?

Legally you can cut back any part of the tree (including branches) to your boundary as long as it is not detrimental to the tree.

What does that mean?

For example, if you removed a large portion of the tree leaving it unbalanced or severed a structural root, both of which would leave the tree structurally unstable, you could be held liable and possible be negligent if the tree were to die or fall over. But normally removing a few small branches here and there is ok. It could also be deemed that bad or excessive pruning is detrimental to the tree and removing large limbs could affect the stability of the tree.

Legally you should not cut back past the boundary, but if this means that you are leaving a lot of untidy pegs (For example, leaving a 30cm stub sticking out the trunk is very bad for the health of the tree), it also means you are not working to industry guidelines and failing to meet BS3998. Ideally the branch would be shortened to an appropriate pruning point over your garden or removed completely (with permission to do so)

If you are not sure then please contact us or your local arborist.

Can I cross the boundary to remove a branch?

Doing so without the landowner’s permission is trespass. So again its always a good idea to let your neighbour know your plans and seek permission.

Do I have to get rid of the branches myself?

The tree, which includes the branches you have just removed along with any fruit, is your neighbour’s property so taking them away without permission is technically theft so you should offer the branches back to them. However, the are not obliged to take them back and throwing them over the fence onto your neighbours garden rarely helps improve relations.

Interestingly this law dates back to a case where one man picked fruit from his neighbour’s tree for himself. The dispute was taken to court and it was deemed as theft from the neighbour’s tree. On the other had fallen fruit is classed as abandoned so can be kept

 Can I reduce the height of my neighbour’s tree?

The simple answer is no. The height of the tree should should be directly above your neighbour’s property and should not be overhanging your garden

 

If you need to know anything else leave a comment below or get in touch with us.

Further reading: which.co.uk | The Law on Trees [pdf]