Neighbour Disputes: The Legalities Surrounding Trees

When changing the appearance of a property, homeowners may choose to extend or alter the structure of the house itself, work which will require planning permission to avoid breaking any laws. However, when it comes to the garden area, many homeowners are unaware of the legalities involved with cutting down any trees or hedges, causing them to become embroiled in a neighbourly dispute which could cause either party to seek legal action and end up in court.

At Artemis, we try to pre-empt any problems by insisting on a signed neighbour consent form before we begin work, so all parties involved are in agreement of the work. Here are some key considerations you should take into account when embarking on work in your garden to avoid any disagreements or legal disputes with your neighbours.

This information is correct at the time of writing.

You want to cut down a tree in your garden:

What are the legalities involved?

As a homeowner, you are within your rights to trim any branches or roots which cross the boundary from your neighbour’s land or a public road into your property – anything more than this can be considered as trespassing and may result in court action for property damage. Work should be never be done if it causes the tree to decline or become unstable, nor if the tree is protected by a TPO or Conservation Area designation.

If you are a tenant living in rented accommodation, it is typically considered to be your responsibility to sort out the basic garden maintenance e.g. mowing the lawn and cutting back weeds. That said, in most tenancy agreements, the upkeep of any trees is not considered to be your responsibility and will fall under the remit of the landlord.

What are the ownership rules for the trees on your property?

Essentially, whoever owns the land the tree has originally grown from owns the tree itself, even if the branches or roots encroach onto a neighbour’s property. As long as the tree isn’t protected by a preservation order, you are able to cut back any overhanging branches of a neighbour’s tree back to the boundary point between the two properties.

It’s worth noting that under the Theft Act, you are legally entitled to return any branches you cut down from a tree on their land should they request it back.

Will you need to apply for planning permission to cut down your tree?

If you live in a conservation area or your trees/hedges are protected by a tree preservation order made by local planning authorities, you may need to obtain permission from your local council to carry out any of the following works:

  • Trimming
  • Cutting down
  • Topping
  • Lopping
  • Uprooting
  • Wilful damage or destruction

Your neighbour has cut down a tree without your permission:

Ideally, neighbourly disputes with regards to cutting down trees would be resolved out of court to avoid shelling out substantial legal costs and still maintain an amicable relationship with your neighbour. To do so, you may decide to arrange a meeting between yourselves or with a mediator to resolve the situation. During this meeting, you can highlight to your neighbour that the tree was on your land, and present a couple of costing estimates for them to agree to for replanting a new tree or hedge.

During this time, it’s worth creating a plan displaying the correct boundary line and agreed cost, and asking your neighbour to sign this agreement for future evidence.

You want to complain about your neighbour’s high hedge or tree:

Your neighbour is responsible for maintaining their trees and hedges so no damage is caused to your property and they don’t grow too high. According to government advice, if their tree is over 2 metres tall and is affecting the enjoyment of your home or garden, you are within your rights to log a complaint with your local council; it’s worth noting that you may have to pay the council a fee to look into your complaint.

Under the Rights of Light Act 1959, if your property has received daylight for the last 20 years, you are entitled to continue receiving that light. As such, if your neighbour’s tree is blocking the light on your property, you have the legal standing to request that the tree is pruned to restore daylight on your premises.

You are unsure of who is responsible for you maintenance and costs:

Whose responsibility is it to clear up leaves?

The owner of a tree is not obliged to clear up fallen leaves, so the responsibility doesn’t lie solely with one person. As such, you could tackle this task yourself or you could come to some sort of arrangement with your neighbour. The only exception would be if damage is caused as a result of fallen leaves, such as drainage issues; responsibility for this lies with the tree owner.

Who pays for the work if it encroaches on a neighbour’s property?

Where possible, it’s worth compromising or sharing the costs of the tree work in order to maintain a peaceful relationship with your neighbour. Having said that, some tree work can be covered by insurance so the policy in place can foot the bill.

What tree work is covered by insurance?

Before carrying out any tree work under the assumption that it will be covered by your home insurance policy, it’s important to make yourself familiar with the terms and conditions first.  Always check what parts of your property are covered under your insurance (driveways are not necessarily an insured item).

Home insurance typically covers the following tree work:

  1. Subsidence

Most home insurance policies offer subsidence cover as standard. Subsidence occurs when tree roots absorb water from clay soil, causing the earth to dry faster and the soil to shrink which, in turn, can cause the foundations to sink. This is particularly dangerous for trees planted close to the house as it can affect the structure of the property. The following trees are known for absorbing a great deal of water from the soil:

  • Ash
  • Willow
  • Elm
  • Poplar
  • Oak
  1. Tree Roots

If you are experiencing issues with the tree roots, you are within your rights to remove any roots crossing over into your property. It’s recommended that this is discussed with your neighbour prior to any work being carried out. Work should be never be done to roots if it causes the tree to decline or become unstable, nor if the tree is protected by a TPO or in a Conservation Area. Tree root removal requires a fully trained arborist, meaning that it is the tree owner’s responsibility to cover the costs of the work. If your neighbour is the tree owner, it is down to them to decide whether they would prefer to pay the cost outright or claim against their home insurance policy where possible.

  1. Broken branches and fallen trees

If your property has experienced damage from branches or trees which have fallen naturally due to old age or harsh weather conditions, this is typically covered as standard by your home insurance.

You might find that your insurer will foot the bill of removing any broken branches or fallen trees, but they will leave the stump or roots buried underground.

It’s worth noting that you’re not covered if you are carrying out pruning or felling work on the tree, unless an insurance provider has requested the work.

For quality tree services throughout Hertfordshire and the surrounding areas, look no further than Artemis Tree Services. Simply contact us today to discuss your requirements or arrange an assessment at your property.

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Michelle Hyer

Excellent service, tidy, efficient, on-time and someone at the end of the phone for queries! I would highly recemmend x...

1 day ago

Barbara M Grant, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire

Artemis Tree Services Limited is a professional tree surgeon and is highly recommended. The marketplace is peppered with charlatans purporting to be qualified in this specialist area but Artemis con... Artemis Tree Services Limited is a professional tree surgeon and is highly recommended. The marketplace is peppered with charlatans purporting to be qualified in this specialist area but Artemis continues to uphold and deliver the professional status of this important skill. They offer a a high quality service from the very first contact through to delivery of a clean and crafted conclusion. I have no hesitation in recommending their outstanding service. Many thanks to all involved.

4 days ago

Blake Lewis

The contractors that came to prune my tree were very efficient, polite and effective and I would have no hesitation in recommending Artemis to anyone.... The contractors that came to prune my tree were very efficient, polite and effective and I would have no hesitation in recommending Artemis to anyone.

1 month ago

Jo

Just to say thank you for carrying out the work so professionally. The team were efficient, they took great care to ensure nothing got damaged, they were very friendly and informative and left the ar... Just to say thank you for carrying out the work so professionally. The team were efficient, they took great care to ensure nothing got damaged, they were very friendly and informative and left the area tidy. Work carried out: Removal of deadwood

2 months ago

Savas Sivetidis

Good service all round, polite and efficient....

3 months ago

Declan McManus

Efficient, tidy and courteous service - I have used Artemis on a number of occasions and cannot think of any reason to change....

4 months ago

Gaby

Excellent service with polite considerate operators...

4 months ago

Anonymous

very professional, knowledgeable company. where able to provide advice and options as to needed to be done. Clean, tidy and polite...

4 months ago

John

Very professional We have used them a few times and would not go anywhere else...

4 months ago

Francis Emmanuel

This was the second time we used the services of Artemis Tree Services. This time it was to fell and remove a mature sycamore. The team were excellent throughout - from initial enquiries, advice with ... This was the second time we used the services of Artemis Tree Services. This time it was to fell and remove a mature sycamore. The team were excellent throughout - from initial enquiries, advice with what was suitable, scheduling of the work, the tree work itself, the disposal of the felled tree and invoicing. Very pleasant, smart, tidy and courteous.

4 months ago

Pools Sritharan

Excellent service from the initial contact to completion. Professional ans polite at all times. Many thanks for this wonderful experience. Regards Pools Sritharan 18, The Avenue, Potters Bar.... Excellent service from the initial contact to completion. Professional ans polite at all times. Many thanks for this wonderful experience. Regards Pools Sritharan 18, The Avenue, Potters Bar.

5 months ago

Wendy Fry

Very pleased with work done to prune large sycamore tree. Detailed quote provided same day as Billy came to inspect and advise. All work was done promptly, safely with no mess whatsoever. Would defini... Very pleased with work done to prune large sycamore tree. Detailed quote provided same day as Billy came to inspect and advise. All work was done promptly, safely with no mess whatsoever. Would definitely recommend this firm. Very professional from start to finish.

5 months ago

Chris Pooley

If you require any tree work done I can certainly recommend Artemis. The estimator Billy was great to deal with professional and gave great advice. We required a Laurel and Holly tree to be reduced i... If you require any tree work done I can certainly recommend Artemis. The estimator Billy was great to deal with professional and gave great advice. We required a Laurel and Holly tree to be reduced in height and shaped and several leylandia trees at the back of the garden to be reduced in height and tidied up.A detailed quote was provided within 24 hours. On the day of the scheduled work the crew arrived on time and Tom and Charlie did a fantastic job very courteous and making sure everything was left nice and tidy. I would have no hesitation in contacting them for any future work required this is an extremely well run business.

5 months ago

Wendy Farrell

Great service from the get go. Surveyor was brilliant and took his time advising me on the best value for money for the job. The two guys in the day were fab! Not a leaf was left for me to tidy up. K... Great service from the get go. Surveyor was brilliant and took his time advising me on the best value for money for the job. The two guys in the day were fab! Not a leaf was left for me to tidy up. Kirstie Harvey in the office is a legend! Cannot recommend this company highly enough.

6 months ago

Kirk Teasdale

Delighted with the work carried out by what I can only describe as absolute gentlemen. They were prompt, courteous and considerate through out. Would definitely recommend.... Delighted with the work carried out by what I can only describe as absolute gentlemen. They were prompt, courteous and considerate through out. Would definitely recommend.

6 months ago

Mark Stafford

As a retired arborist myself I cannot give this company higher praise. Reasonable quote for the work and their climber was very proffessional and worked in a safe manner. Site was spotless when they l... As a retired arborist myself I cannot give this company higher praise. Reasonable quote for the work and their climber was very proffessional and worked in a safe manner. Site was spotless when they left. All in all a very pleasant experience.

6 months ago

Anonymous

Everything was great from start to finish I highly recommend Artemis. From the initial quotation to the reminders and then the text on the day to say they were on their way everything was perfect. T... Everything was great from start to finish I highly recommend Artemis. From the initial quotation to the reminders and then the text on the day to say they were on their way everything was perfect. The chaps onsite were great, very polite and incredibly tidy. I am very happy with the standard of work and would definitely recommend.

7 months ago

Nick Woolford

From the initial contact through to the finished work, everything has gone smoothly and professionally. The estimator came when he said he would, gave us meaningful and thoughtful suggestions. His d... From the initial contact through to the finished work, everything has gone smoothly and professionally. The estimator came when he said he would, gave us meaningful and thoughtful suggestions. His detailed estimate was produced within hours of his visit. Once we had accepted the estimate we received planned date for the work. On the day the workmen arrived when we were told they would. They were extremely co-operative, helpful and informative. The work procedure without a hitch with everything being competed to a high standard, and all the refuse removed, leaving the garden neat and tidy. We will have Artemis back later in the year to prune the fruit trees.

7 months ago

Anonymous

A fantastic service, at good reasonable prices with total clearace of the site upon completion. Couldn't ask for more....

8 months ago

Anonymous

Just had a tree removed in Ruislip Manor, the guys were done and dusted in just over an hour, I was expecting a mess that I'd have to clean up once they left. The guys ensured everything was spo... Just had a tree removed in Ruislip Manor, the guys were done and dusted in just over an hour, I was expecting a mess that I'd have to clean up once they left. The guys ensured everything was spotless when they left. We're all happy, but my Cat missing the tree!

8 months ago

Asarthan

Great job start to finish. All contact smooth and easy. The team listened to everything we wanted and pulled it off to perfection. Very neat and tidy too! Thank you very much!... Great job start to finish. All contact smooth and easy. The team listened to everything we wanted and pulled it off to perfection. Very neat and tidy too! Thank you very much!

8 months ago