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Problems with neighbours' tree
some examples of some of the problems that can arise with trees in
neighbours' gardens and what can be done about them.
A large tree in my neighbour's garden looks dangerous, what can
The owner of the land on which the tree is growing remains
responsible for the tree, its condition and any damage it may
cause. With this in mind, you should make every effort to contact
the tree owner, asking them to deal with the problem.
My next-door neighbour is allowing her tree to grow too big and
I am afraid that in a strong wind it will blow over and fall on my
house, car or even me.
Trees are not necessarily dangerous simply because of their
size. For example, the giant redwood is one of the tallest trees in
this country (it can reach heights of up to 40m) but it is notable
for falling over only when the roots have been severely injured or
damaged. Regular inspection should highlight areas of potential
weakness, so that specialist advice may be sought from a tree
expert. Remedial work can then be undertaken to reduce any threat
identified to a reasonable level.
There is an ash tree in the park beside my house. Last summer
one of the branches which overhangs my garden fell off and crashed
into my greenhouse. There was no wind at the time and the branch
did not appear to be decayed. I contacted the council, which owns
the park. It said that the tree was inspected only three weeks
earlier and no problems were reported. Who is going to pay for the
Since the tree had been inspected recently and provided the
courts were satisfied there was no negligence (the inspection had
been thorough and any remedial work carried out was satisfactory),
the council is unlikely to be considered liable and would therefore
not be responsible for the costs of repair. However, if your home
insurance policy covers such damage your insurance company may pay
for the repairs.
Can a private tree overhanging the pavement or road be pruned,
as it is causing an obstruction?
Trees obstructing the pavement or road should have adequate
clearance for the safe passage of pedestrians and vehicles. Medway
Council sometimes serves notice requiring tree owners to prune
their trees to clear the obstruction. This can be done without
further consent if it is a tree protected with a Tree Preservation
Order but work must be limited to what is necessary to clear
the obstruction. If you have been served with a notice and do not
comply with it, Medway Council may do the work without further
notice and charge you for it.
My next-door neighbour has a horse-chestnut tree which
overhangs my property. Recently, a large branch fell from the tree
onto my garage, destroying the roof. I had noticed that the branch
had a crack in it several months earlier and wrote to my neighbour
asking him to cut the branch back. He didn’t reply and took no
action. Is he responsible for the cost of the repairs?
Since a potential defect had been drawn to the attention of the
tree owner, it is likely that he could be regarded as negligent by
the courts and is therefore liable for the damage, because
appropriate action was not taken. However, if the owner of the tree
had sought advice from a tree expert, then provided any
recommendations had been implemented, the tree expert may be liable
in negligence for failing to recognise the potential danger.
A tree is overhanging into my property from my neighbour's
garden. How do I get it cut back?
You cannot legally force anyone to prune back trees that
overhang your property. You should ask the tree-owner to prune it
back. If they refuse, you are legally entitled to prune it yourself
but you can only prune back as far as your boundary. Pruning beyond
the boundary or crossing the boundary to carry out pruning is
considered trespass. The vegetation you prune off is still
technically the tree owner’s property and you have to offer it back
to them, although they do not have to accept it. In the event that
the tree owner does not want the vegetation, you would be
responsible for its disposal. You are not allowed to simply put the
tree material back over the boundary fence into their garden.
Before any work is undertaken, check there is not a Tree
Preservation Order on the tree and that it is not in a Conservation Area. This
information can be obtained from Medway Council's tree officers on
I think the tree in my garden or neighbours garden is causing
subsidence or cracks in my house wall. What should I do and can I
This is not a matter for the council and you should engage a
qualified surveyor or structural engineer to carry out a
comprehensive survey to provide you with clear evidence and
proposals for remedial action. There are many other things that can
cause damage to buildings other than trees and an independent
appraisal is vital if the end result could be an insurance claim
and/or litigation. Responsibility for the maintenance and care of
trees rests with the owner of the land on which they are growing.
If a tree is causing damage to your property, the tree’s owner is
liable for any claims for compensation and you must contact them
My television reception is interrupted by the branches or
leaves on a tree. What rights do I have and what can the council do
Unfortunately the purchase of a television licence or satellite
system simply provides a permit to use the equipment with no
guarantee or legal right of reception. When deciding on the system
you intend to use and the location of any aerial or dish, please
consider existing trees and their potential to grow larger. Medway
Council does not heavily prune or remove trees to deal with this
issue. Using a high gain aerial or a remote aerial or dish for the
signal can sometimes achieve better reception.
Leaves, fruit and seeds fall from the tree outside my house,
land on my property and are a nuisance. Is there anything the
council can do to stop this?
These are all seasonal problems that pruning cannot generally
solve. Medway Council will prune trees where the work complies with
best practice but will not disfigure or fell trees to
deal with these issues.