Straining your eyes? You can listen to this automated AI version of the article here:Walk down your average residential street, and you’ll be surprised by how many trees function as borders between properties. Trees serve many purposes, like shelter, privacy, and protection from noise pollution, which is why many homeowners leave them in place rather than cutting them down.
However, a common problem can arise when trees are positioned between two properties: overhanging tree branches. Are they your problem or your neighbour’s? Find out below.
Who Owns the Tree?
One of the first steps toward managing tree-related issues, such as overhanging branches, is establishing who owns the tree. If you live rurally, lack fencing, or have boundaries that aren’t overly precise, bringing in surveyors to identify the boundaries might help establish your rights and requirements.
Their job is to provide physical markers that outline the limits of your property. Failure to undertake a survey might mean that a tree can be interfered with by the wrong owner, or fencing can be installed in the wrong place in the future.
If it turns out that a tree has been planted in the middle of a boundary, you and your neighbour co-own the tree.
Managing Overhanging Branches
Overhanging branches can be frustrating for any homeowner, especially if they impact their ability to enjoy their yard. If branches or roots are encroaching on your land, it’s within your rights to cut them back to the boundary line in a process known as abatement.
However, managing overhanging branches can require care. For example, you might reach out to the tree owner as a common courtesy to let them know your plans. If you know they take pride in their trees, you might even ask if they prefer to cut the branches themselves.
Before tackling the problem, it’s also important to know that you shouldn’t damage the tree in any way or enter your neighbour’s property without permission. Any cuttings and fruit belong to the tree owner, so you are within your rights to put them back on their property as long as you don’t cause any damage.
What About the Trunk?
While you might be able to remove overhanging branches that extend onto your property, a different set of rules apply to tree trunks. You can’t chop a tree trunk down if it extends onto your property. The tree itself is planted on your neighbour’s property and belongs to them.
However, if that trunk causes any damage to your property, they’re liable for that damage. If you have a particularly problematic tree trunk to deal with, approach the owner to see if you can come to a peaceful solution. And if you have no luck, you may wish to apply to the district court to have it removed from the shared boundary.
Who Pays for Overhanging Branch Maintenance?
Money can certainly complicate things between neighbours, and it’s only natural to be curious about who covers the costs of overhanging branch maintenance. If you choose to cut back the roots or branches on your property, you likely can’t claim back any costs from the tree owner.
However, if your neighbour’s overhanging branches or any part of the tree happens to cause damage to your property, they might be liable for associated costs. This might still apply even if the damage is not within their control (like high winds), and they didn’t take reasonable steps to ensure the tree was safe.
Dealing with Nuisance Trees
Trees don’t necessarily have to be dangerous to be a cause for concern for neighbouring properties. For example, if your neighbour’s tree or its overhanging branches are blocking sunlight from entering your property, the tree’s owner might be liable for the resolution of that nuisance. This is because all homeowners have a right to the enjoyment of their property, and a neighbour might be in breach of that right.
Getting the Council Involved
As a general rule, councils don’t typically like getting involved in neighbourhood tree disputes. However, they can be available if you need them, even if it’s just for general guidance. Councils can provide information about a tree’s protection status before you cut or prune it. They can also provide you with the names of tree care experts to help, such as Pro Climb.
If a tree is causing issues near a road or on public land, councils may decide to issue a notice for its removal or maintenance, especially if it might impact public amenities, views, drains, and roads.
Resolving Tree Disputes
No one ever sets out to have bad blood with their neighbours, but it can happen. If you cannot solve a tree dispute over a cup of tea with your neighbour, you might like to go through mediation and arbitration.
Dispute tribunals are also common for property damage up to $30,000, which might include damage caused by trees to foundations, fences, driveways, and drains. Anything else not covered by dispute tribunals might go to the district court, where the courts can award compensation for damage and orders for a tree’s maintenance or removal.
Talk to ProClimb About Your Overhanging Tree Branches
Whether you or a neighboring property has a problem with overhanging tree branches, it might be in your best interests to talk to tree care experts in Auckland. Contact us to learn more about your maintenance and removal options to maintain a harmonious relationship with your neighbours.