A Thorny Issue

Overgrown and messy trees can be the source of unwanted neighbourly friction. If your neighbour has overgrown trees interfering with your views or sunlight, or even dropping leaves onto your section, you do have rights, but you need to tread carefully.

Who is responsible for what?

Property owners are responsible for any nuisance or damage that their vegetation causes to neighbouring properties. However any tree branches or roots that cross a property boundary may be cut or trimmed by the neighbour. BUT if you damage or destroy the tree when doing this, the owner could claim compensation. Your right to deal with the tree ends at the boundary. Your neighbour could actually claim damages if you kill the tree.

If the issue is causing damage to your property eg roots blocking drains, or running lawn, it may be better to go to the disputes tribunal rather than cut out the roots if there is a danger of killing the tree.

Always remember that the local authority should be contacted prior to major pruning of any tree in case it is a protected tree.

What about the costs?

Any cost associated with trimming branches or roots is borne by the person doing the trimming, unless the matter is taken to the Disputes Tribunal or District Court (eg. where the tree had caused damage).

If trees from a neighbouring property are blocking your view or affecting the enjoyment of land, and this cannot be resolved by trimming the offending growth, you can take the matter to the Disputes Tribunal for compensation, or go to court.

The District Court may order the removal or trimming of trees growing or standing on land which are adversely affecting a neighbour’s property. This is a discretionary order, and must be fair and reasonable, and necessary to remove or prevent:

  1. Actual or potential danger to life, health or property
  2. Undue obstruction of a view
  3. Undue interference with the reasonable enjoyment of the neighbour’s land

Some practical options

  1. Talk to your neighbour & ask them to trim or remove the tree(s).
  2. Trim the offending branches and roots that are on your side of the boundary.
  3. Check the District Plan or Certificate of Title for the property to see whether there are any rules relating to the use and appearance of the neighbouring land. These rules may limit the height of trees or for owners to keep property in a tidy state.