Who pays to cut overhanging branches?

Overhanging tree branches are a common source of neighbourhood conflict. As much as we love a beautiful row of green trees in a neighbourhood, tree branches hanging over a garden can become a nuisance when they block light, block a view, or become a hazard. 

Unfortunately, the rules and regulations for handling overhanging branches aren’t exactly clear cut. So, what’s the best practice when it comes to dealing with trees that overhang onto your property? And who’s responsible for footing the bill?


First steps to take 

If your neighbour’s tree is becoming a nuisance, it’s important that you take the time to familiarise yourself with the laws and regulations in your area. Legislation surrounding this issue can vary pretty significantly depending on where you live, so it’s worth having a read of the specific rules and regulations of your locality. If you’re unsure, contact your local gardener or tree specialist for more information. 

Once you’ve determined your responsibilities as a resident and your neighbour’s responsibilities, you should aim to speak to your neighbour directly about the issue. Sometimes, all that’s needed to resolve an issue is a friendly chat and some peaceful negotiation. Fighting with your neighbours is not ideal and creates a highly stressful and uncomfortable environment for all those involved, so it’s always best to try and resolve all neighbourhood conflicts as quietly and privately as possible. 

Can you trim a neighbour’s tree that overhangs onto your property?

Generally speaking, you are allowed to trim a neighbour’s tree that overhangs onto your property, provided that the tree is not environmentally protected and that you don’t cross the boundary line that separates your property from your neighbour’s property. This is called the ‘right of abatement’, and is done at your cost unless otherwise agreed. It goes without saying that even though you are allowed to cut down on overhanging branches encroaching your property, you should never enter your neighbour’s property without their express permission to do so.  

Always make sure to stay in communication with your neighbour along the way. Although it’s not a legal requirement, taking the time to consult them will go a long way in maintaining goodwill and will help to prevent disagreements in the future. 


Can I make my neighbour remove a tree?

If you’re in a situation where cutting back on your neighbour’s branches won’t resolve the problem, you may be wondering whether it’s possible to ask your neighbour to cut their trees themselves. 

Again, the best step to take, at least at the beginning, is to have a chat with your neighbour to see if they’re willing to remove the tree. As always, conflict between neighbours is always best resolved independently. If you’re still unable to come to an agreement with your neighbour, then the only way to ‘force’ them to remove a tree is to bring about a private action of nuisance, which involves bringing the matter to court. 

In some localities, it may be possible to issue a notice to your neighbour to remove the problem branches, which requires them to take action within a specified time frame. Once again, rules can vary significantly depending on where you are, so it’s always best to double check the rules and legislation in your area before making any moves. 


Who is responsible for a neighbour’s tree falling on the house?

If a neighbour’s tree causes damage to your property, your neighbour may be held liable for any damage that was caused, depending on whether or not the tree was already a recognised hazard. If the accident was unforeseen, then your insurance provider should be able to cover most of the costs associated with repairing the damage. 

If you believe that your neighbour’s tree is unsafe and is likely to cause damage, you should ask your neighbour to organise a time for an arborist to come and assess the tree’s health. Any tree that is found to be diseased or unstable must be removed. If your neighbour chooses to ignore the advice of the arborist or tree specialist, then liability can be directed to the tree owner. However, bear in mind that initiating legal action over these matters can be extremely time consuming and expensive, not to mention highly uncomfortable for all parties involved, so it’s always worthwhile trying to come to a private agreement with your neighbour even if property damage occurs.

Pruning and trimming overhanging tree branches are essential garden maintenance tasks that help to keep your home safe and neat. If there are some overhanging branches that you’d like to get rid of, get in touch with us at Jim’s Mowing in Australia or New Zealand to see how we can help. Call 131 546 (AU) or 0800 454 654 (NZ), or enquire online today to learn more about our safe and efficient garden care services.