Disagreements between neighbours can range from issues of relative significance such as noise complaints, to seemingly minor issues such as the encroachment of trees onto an adjoining property. Although disputes centred on branches falling onto a neighbouring property or the encroachment of roots may seem insignificant, such disagreements are a regular occurrence, and can be a source of tension between neighbours. So with that being said, what actions can a person undertake in such situations? It’s a good subject matter that is worth further exploration. However, before going further, the best approach to any issue with a neighbour would be to have a dialogue with them first.
Generally speaking, a person may be able to cut any overhanging branches or roots that are protruding from a neighbour’s tree back to the boundary of the land of the person’s property. Any trimmings may still be considered as the property of the neighbour and may need to be returned. Yes, we know that may be hard to fathom, but that may be the case and again, always check with the neighbour. However, what isn’t a great idea is throwing the trimmings back onto the property of the neighbour.
It’s also important to consider that any damage to the tree caused by trimming may result in the person who has trimmed the tree to be responsible for the damage. Therefore, if extensive work is required, it may be a good idea to get the help of a professional. Additionally, a person is not allowed to enter the land of the neighbour to carry out any work unless permission has been obtained beforehand.
What happens if a neighbour’s tree is causing damage?
Damage from either a tree or branches may make the neighbour liable in negligence for any damages if the neighbour fails to address any dangers.
In circumstances where a tree or branches that were not overhanging onto the adjoining property fell onto the adjoining land after trimming, or purposely put onto the property, the person whose land the tree or branches came from may be liable for damages in trespass.
Initiating legal action over a tree may be time consuming and expensive. Additionally, proving negligence, trespass or nuisance may be difficult. Therefore, it’s best to have an open dialogue with your neighbour. However, for anyone who wishes to pursue legal action on the grounds that the tree has caused, is causing, or is likely to cause damage to the property in the near future, or that the tree is likely to cause injury to a person, then there are a number of things that the court may consider, such as:
- where the tree is located in relation to the boundaries;
- whether council consent is required;
- whether the tree has any historical, cultural or social significance;
- whether the tree affects soil stability or any other natural features of the land;
- if the owner has taken steps to rectify any damage to property or injury to persons in relation to the tree.
In the event that the court makes an order, broad powers may be exercised if there is a belief that the order will prevent property damage or injury to a person. The type or orders the court can make may include:
- making an order to the owner of the tree to undertake specific actions;
- entry into the property to carry out the order;
- ordering costs for any works made under the order;
- payment of compensation for any damage to the property.
It’s worth mentioning one final time that for anyone who is undergoing a dispute with a neighbour involving a tree, the best course of action may be to negotiate with the person before any further action is taken.