Trees. They can look beautiful, really add to your garden and surrounding area, and have untold benefits for nature and the environment. So how do they cause so many disputes? I am regularly contacted by people who have difficult disputes with their neighbours that are caused by trees on someone’s land.

So, what issues can trees cause, and how can you resolve them?

Trespass

Tree roots and branches, particularly of older, larger trees, can often spread on to neighbouring land. So, what can you do if your neighbour’s tree reaches over the boundary to your property?

Firstly, as with all neighbour disputes, we would always advise you start by having a neighbourly chat. Your neighbour may be willing to remove the tree or pay to prune any overhanging branches. If there are overhanging branches, you may cut them off. These branches should then be offered back to your neighbour. Again, having a chat with your neighbour before you do this can stop disputes starting.

Roots are a slightly more complicated matter. If your neighbour’s tree’s roots come on to your land, you are entitled to remove them. However, you will be liable for any damage caused to or by the tree as a result. Further, you are unlikely to notice the roots unless they are causing problems. This brings us on to…

Nuisance

In some cases, trees cause more issues than merely encroaching over the boundary. For example, the roots may come on to your land and cause issues with the plants in your garden, or even the structure of your property.

There are a few options available to resolve these issues, which again, where possible, should start with a discussion between you. Perhaps you could agree to jointly instruct a tree expert to look at the issues and advise how to resolve it. If the dispute worsens, mediation can be very successful in neighbourly tree disputes.

If relations worsen between you and your neighbour, you may have a claim against them in negligence and/or nuisance. You may have a claim for damages (compensation for any loss you have suffered) or an injunction (an order to the neighbour to resolve the issue).

Trees on boundaries

If a tree is on the boundary between two properties, it is likely that it is the responsibility of both neighbours jointly. In these situations, you should make joint decisions about what happens to the tree. If one of you fells the tree without permission from the other, you may be liable in trespass. If you are not sure if a tree is on the boundary, a surveyor may be able to help.

Protected trees

The Local Authority protects some trees, groups of trees and woodlands by making Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs). This is in order to preserve the beauty of specific trees and ensure areas of woodland are not destroyed. Further, Leeds has a number of conservation areas (including sections of the city centre). To carry out any work to a tree under a TPO or in a conservation area, you must have the local authority’s permission. If the tree is dangerous, diseased or dead, you may be allowed to carry out urgent works without permission.

Your Local Authority will be able to let you know if your property is in a conservation area or there are TPOs in place. Also, these will often be reported in your local search when you buy your property.

Disputes over trees can become difficult, especially when they are with your neighbours. Our property disputes team can help. Call us for a FREE initial discussion on 0800 988 7756.

This article originally appeared in Leeds City Dweller Magazine.