Beating around the bush? Part two of the problems with trees that you need to know

In Part 1, we looked at Tree Preservation Orders and other limitations to your ability to cut down or materially prune trees in your garden. Now we will look at a common problem: help, my neighbour’s tree overhangs into my garden!

Tree care and management is generally the responsibility of the person who owns the land in which the tree is situated. In our scenario, the tree is within your neighbour’s boundary, but the branches are overhanging and now intruding into your garden. What can you do?

The first thing would be to speak to your neighbour. It may be that your neighbour is unaware of the situation, or perhaps did not realise that this was causing a nuisance. The owner of a tree has a legal obligation to avoid it causing damage to their neighbour’s property which includes gardens and driveways. Most of these types of issues can be resolved with a simple conversation however, if an agreement cannot be reached, you have rights under common law which means that you can cut these branches back to the mutual boundary.

So you have made the decision to look out your shears, what next? You must keep the following in mind; (1) follow the guidance that we outlined in Part 1 of this series), (2) if at all possible, speak to your neighbour prior to carrying out any works. Importantly you cannot enter your neighbour’s property without consent, so if you need to enter their garden to carry out the works, you need their permission first, and (3) consider how much work needs to be carried out, and don’t get carried away. Significant pruning can lead to the tree collapsing or becoming diseased, so it may be best to have a programme of works in place with a specialist if more than simple trimming is required.

Most issues involving neighbours can be resolved without the need to involve solicitors but what happens if there is a proper disagreement with your neighbour?

There are many examples of such disputes; Lalandia trees are very fast-growing and these are often used by people who are keen to create a sense of privacy in their gardens. The problem is that such trees are so quick to grow that they often quickly reach a significant height blocking out light from their neighbour. As the use of Lalandia became popular there was a spate of “Lalandia Wars” between neighbours especially in leafy suburbs which resulted in a number of legal actions.

Resorting to using lawyers or court actions often polarises issues, creates expense and does not produce a satisfactory solution. There is often value in approaching the Local Authority for their assistance. They will be seen as being neutral and in the case of the Lalandia Wars it was often a breach of the planning laws to let such a tree extend beyond a certain height.

So this week’s MMi Golden Rule is not to let your emotions govern disputes with neighbours about trees. Be reasonable. It is generally better in the long run to compromise or seek the involvement of the Local Authority where technicalities may be involved. Our experience is that in neighbour disputes there is rarely a winner and often two losers.