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Is it legal to trim your neighbour's overhanging tree?

As part of our Insights series, Is it legal to… we explore the law surrounding the trimming or removal of your neighbour’s overhanging tree.

Overhanging Trees: Getting to the root of the problem

Overhanging trees can be the bane of some people’s lives. As a large majority of us living in East Anglia are surrounded by nature’s finest, we experience this more than our non-rural counterparts. Even though we have great admiration for our trees, they can become a source of agitation, especially when untended.

How do I know who owns the tree?

It is usually quite straightforward to establish the legal owner of a specific tree. A tree, hedge or any form of plantation belongs to the owner of the land on which it was originally planted. Generally, if you are not the owner, you are not entitled to remove, trim or snip the tree – and any action in this regard could invite a civil claim, as a neighbour cannot lawfully interfere with planting beyond their boundary. However, if branches extend over the legal boundary, the neighbouring owner is entitled to remove, trim or snip the overhanging parts.

Where an overgrown, problem tree is subject to a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) or in close proximity to an operational railway line, a specialist approach might be needed. It is advisable to contact your local council if you are unsure about whether a tree is protected.

Can I enter neighbouring land?

Without permission, a person can usually only enter a neighbour’s land in very limited circumstances, for example, if a need for work that constitutes a genuine emergency cannot wait. So in many situations it could be unlawful to access a neighbour’s land to get to offending branches, even if doing so makes it is easier to cut back trees or other vegetation. Not only could such action potentially amount to a trespass, it can also have a damaging impact on neighbourly relationships.

So, what can I do?

You can remove, trim or snip overhanging parts of the vegetation that extend over the legal boundary.

Anything that stems from the tree (whether on your side or not) remains the property of the owner, so you should discuss how to deal with overhanging branches with your neighbour before acting. Some might want the prunings to be returned, or they might be perfectly happy for you to dispose of them!

The smallest issues between neighbours (even ones that were once very amicable) can quickly escalate into litigated disputes destined for the courts. So be mindful of the ramifications of your actions when it comes to controlling your neighbours’ encroaching plants!

How we can help

If you have an issue rooted in this area of law, please contact our Litigation & Dispute Resolution team. We offer initial consultations in which we deliver tailored advice on how to move forward in a way that suits you.

 They can be contacted on 01603 620508 or by email. Fore more information on their range of dispute resolution services, including boundary and neighbour disputes, please follow the link.

This article was produced on the 23rd August 2023 by our Litigation & Dispute Resolution team for information purposes only and should not be construed or relied upon as specific legal advice.