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Trees and Neighbours

18 September 2018

Trees are a common backyard feature. They are home to wildlife, improve the quality of air and add to the beauty of our landscapes. BUT they also cause problems and occasionally fall down.

If a neighbouring tree is causing problems and interfering with the use and enjoyment of your land, what are your rights and how far do they extend?

Rights and responsibilities

Landowners are responsible for ensuring trees are reasonably maintained, however their roots and branches can encroach onto neighbouring land. These can be cut back to the boundary line, however when cutting roots, it is important to take care not to undermine the stability of the tree or the ground around it. If cutting branches or roots kills the tree, the owner may seek compensation.

The first step to resolve an issue is to talk with the owner. This provides the chance to reach a resolution that everyone is happy with. If for example, your concern relates to shading, the tree may be thinned rather than cut down.

Who pays?

Costs incurred from cutting back branches and roots on your side of the fence are your responsibility and unrecoverable. However, if damage has occurred i.e. to your drains or if the tree falls onto your property then your neighbor may have to pay. This includes damage that is caused outside of your neighbour’s control, providing they would have been expected to know the tree was unsafe and did not take any reasonable steps to prevent possible damage.