The end of summer is often a key time for disputes between neighbours since trees and hedges have often grown extensively during the year, writes Ross Pierrepont, a lawyer at Tallents Solicitors in Newark.
Views or light may be restricted, or branches may be overhanding or encroaching on your property. However, there are a lot of myths about what you can and cannot do in these situations, so here’s some guidance before you seek legal advice.
Can I cut off overhanging branches?
As long as the tree is not covered by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) or in a Conservation Area (you can check with your Local Authority), and you can carry out the work without trespassing on your neighbour’s land, then you can trim back overhanging branches without permission. You must offer the trimmings of any trees or hedges back to your neighbour, or dispose of them properly – don’t throw them back into your neighbour’s garden!
You should be careful not to over trim the tree or cause damage which may make the tree unbalanced in high winds, or cause it to die. In this case you would be liable for the damage caused. This also applies to cutting any roots which may encroach onto your land.
As a rule, we would encourage you to speak to your neighbour before cutting back branches or roots and consider employing a tree surgeon or arboriculturist who would undertake liability for the work done.
Can I pick and eat fruit from an overhanging branch?
You might think possession is nine tenths of the law but, in this case, the fruit on the branch belongs to your neighbour. This also applies to windfall fruit, so you will need to seek their permission if you want to keep or pick fruit from overhanging branches.
Can I be sued if my tree causes damage?
The tree and liability for it, belongs to whoever owns the land and it doesn’t matter if you planted the tree or not. As a tree owner, you might be liable for negligence if the tree loses a branch and:
• Someone was injured or harmed as a result
• The injury was foreseeable (i.e. you knew the tree was dangerous and this might happen)
• The person injured or harmed was someone to whom the tree owner had a duty of care
• The injury or harm was a breach of that duty.
There are no rules as to how often a tree must be inspected for safety but if something is wrong with the tree that would be obvious to a layman, then you will be considered liable, should something injurious happen. If you have any concerns regarding a tree or hedge, then you should ask a tree surgeon or arboriculturist to provide you with a full inspection and recommendations.
I’m having a dispute with my neighbour over a tree / hedge, what should I do?
In the first instance, it makes sense to ensure that you and your neighbour have a frank and open discussion about what should be done to solve the problem amicably. However, if you are unable to agree on a way forward then you may wish to consult a legal expert as to your position.
At Tallents Solicitors, we understand that legal solutions can be costly, so we offer a fixed-fee dispute resolution meeting with one of our experts, so you can understand the strength of your case.
Available at our Southwell and Mansfield offices, you can arrange an up to 1-hour meeting with one of our litigation lawyers to discuss your individual circumstances for a fixed-fee of just £100 +VAT. You’ll receive verbal legal advice and we will follow up with a letter confirming that advice to you.
Just call us on 01636 813477 or 01623 666700 to arrange a confidential appointment.