Last edited 29 Sep 2016

Tree rights

Trees have often been the cause of disputes between neighbours. A summary of some of the rights and remedies relating to trees is presented below.


[edit] Branches and roots

  • The owner of a property has the right to lop off any branches that overhang their property. They do not have the right to take preventive action by cutting back a neighbour’s tree before it overhangs their property. Any lopped branches must be returned to the neighbour.
  • Fruit on overhanging branches belongs to the person who owns the tree and strictly speaking in law should be returned to the owner.
  • The same legal right in respect of overhanging branches is applicable to tree roots on a neighbour's land.
  • In the case of a dispute, the Access to Neighbouring Land Act allows a party to apply to the courts for consent to access neighbouring property to carry out essential maintenance.
  • There is no right to a view (although it is possible that a restrictive covenant against ‘annoyance’ can be used to protect a view) although there can be a prescriptive right to light (the right to receive sufficient light through an opening such as a window, to allow ordinary comfortable use and enjoyment of a dwelling, or ordinary beneficial use and occupation of other buildings), see: Right to light for more information.
  • There is no right to top a neighbour’s trees or hedges other than any elements that overhang neighbouring property.

NB Some trees are protected by tree preservation orders (TPO's). The principal effect of a TPO is to prohibit the cutting down, uprooting, topping, lopping, uprooting, willful damage to or willful destruction of protected trees or woodlands. This applies to roots as well as stems and branches. The local authority should keep a register of TPO's. See Tree preservation orders for more information.

[edit] Subsidence

  • Mature trees take up 4,000 litres of groundwater a day in the summer, and tree roots can spread out to a distance equal to the height of the tree. Consequently a situation can occur where neighbouring buildings suffer subsidence. A house owner can bring a successful court action against a neighbour if the cause of the subsidence can be proven to be caused by a neighbour's tree.

[edit] Public rights of way

  • The owner of land that is designated a public footpath or bridleway has a legal responsibility to keep the full access clear of trees, shrubs and obstructive vegetation.

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