Who is responsible for overhanging trees?

Find out what your rights are regarding overhanging trees, how to handle a potential conflict with your neighbour and what to do if the conversation breaks down.

Can I cut my neighbour’s tree?

If your neighbour’s tree overhangs your property, you are allowed to cut it – but only the parts that fall on your side of the boundary. If you cut any further, or cross over onto your neighbour’s property for any reason, you could be found liable for trespassing.

Chopping overhanging tree branch

If the tree is on the boundary between your properties, you’ll need to check the legal documents you received when you purchased your home or consult your landlord if you’re a tenant. These documents will tell you who is responsible for the tree.

Normally, if a stump sits directly on the boundary line between two properties, it is equally owned by both homes. This means any action will need to be jointly agreed. However, the safest thing to do is check.

If you don’t have the documents, you can purchase them from the Land Registry for a small fee.

Do I need to get permission from my neighbour to cut the overhanging branches?

No, you don’t need to get permission from your neighbour. Cutting overhanging branches is classed as ‘abating a nuisance’ which means you don’t need to ask or give notice before you do it.

That said, you may find that some branches can only be removed from your neighbour’s side of the boundary. If this is the case, you will need permission to gain access to their land.

As a tip; just because you don’t have to notify your neighbour doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider it. Not only is it an act of courtesy, but it’s wise to keep relations as friendly as possible (you are living next door to them, after all).

What can I do with the cuttings?

Your neighbour technically owns any cuttings or waste that you collect due to the job. This means you’re obligated to offer it back to them before you dispose of it. Failing to do so is an offence.

If your neighbour doesn’t want the cuttings, then you are responsible for getting rid of them (which doesn’t mean throwing them back onto your neighbour’s property).

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What happens if I damage my neighbour’s tree?

If you damaged your neighbour’s tree in the process of removing the overhanging branches, you could be found negligent under the law. Tree trimming or pruning is no easy feat and a misstep can cause damage to the tree. For this reason, it is important to enlist the help of a professional tree surgeon, who will be able to avoid or minimise any risk to the tree.

What if I think the tree is dangerous?

If you’re worried that your neighbour’s tree is dangerous, you can suggest that they call out a tree surgeon to inspect it. Alternatively, you can report it to your local council. They’ll investigate the matter and either ask your neighbour to make it safe or deal with it themselves.

The situation has escalated – do I have any third party options?

If, for whatever reason, communication breaks down to the extent that you need outside assistance, you do have options.

  • You can head to your nearest Citizens Advice Centre, which will be able to help you.
  • You can enlist the help of a mediator, who will be able to ask for a helpful buffer for the talks.
  • As a last (and drastic) resort, you can involve a solicitor.

Before you decide to cut an overhanging tree, you should try to talk to your neighbour about the problem. Voicing your concerns in a way that allows you to arrive at a common solution (based on a mutual understanding) will always be the best when it comes to nuisance trees. You want your relationship to be as amiable as possible and going in with heightened emotions or a lack of communication rarely bodes well.

If talks fail, then you know you have the route of taking matters into your own hands. But this should be a last resort.