What can I do if I disagree with my neighbour about a tree and who is responsible for it?
If you and your neighbour disagree about a problem with a tree or hedge, it’s best to try to resolve things informally. Problems could include, for example, if you think a hedge is too high or branches from your neighbour’s tree are overhanging into your garden.
If you rent your home, talk to your landlord about the problem. They might be able to deal with the disagreement on your behalf.
Before you cut a tree, check if it’s protected by a Tree Preservation Order. If it is, you’ll have to ask the council for permission to cut the tree even if it’s yours.
Check who owns the tree or hedge
If the trunk or main stem of a tree or hedge is on your land, you own it. If it’s on the boundary between properties, you’ll need to check the legal documents you got when you bought your home. They’ll indicate where the boundary is and might say who’s responsible for the tree or hedge.
You can buy the documents from the Land Registry if you don’t have them – it only costs a few pounds. It might be a good idea to buy the documents for your neighbour’s house too – they might give information that’s not covered in yours.
If it’s not clear where the boundary is, you can get help from RICS – they work with surveyors who can help with property problems.
Try to find a solution with your neighbour
Talk to your neighbour face to face if you can – make a note of what you agreed. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to them, write a letter or ask someone to contact them for you. Keep copies of any letters or emails you send or receive.
It’s often best to find a compromise, for example sharing the cost of pruning a hedge even though you think your neighbour owns it. It could help you keep a good relationship and might be cheaper than paying a solicitor to resolve the disagreement.
If the problem continues
There are different ways to deal with the problem depending on who owns the tree or hedge.
If your neighbour owns the tree or hedge
If your neighbour won’t cut branches hanging over your garden, you’re allowed to chop them off – but only the bits on your side of the boundary. Check if your neighbour will let you throw away the branches – legally they own them.
If you think your neighbour’s tree is dangerous, you can report it to the council – for example if you think it might fall over. They might ask the owner to make it safe or deal with it themselves. Search for ‘trees’ on your council’s website to find which department to contact.
You can find your council’s website on GOV.UK.
Get specialist help from a tree surgeon if the roots of your neighbour’s tree are affecting your home and garden. You can cut them yourself but you must try to limit the amount of damage to the tree, which can be difficult to do. You must tell your neighbour in advance if a tree surgeon needs to go on their land.
Check what to do if you think a hedge is too high on GOV.UK. If you can’t solve the problem, ask your council to help. They can only help if you try and solve the problem yourself first.
If you own the tree or hedge
Your neighbour can cut any branches that are overhanging into their garden as long as they only remove the bits on their side of the boundary.
If they want you to cut your tree or hedge just because they don’t like the way it looks, it’s up to you whether you do the work. You should check if the tree or hedge is dangerous before you decide.
If your neighbour says your tree is dangerous, you could ask a tree surgeon for advice. It’s also worth finding out if your council can check if the tree is safe – you can find your council’s website on GOV.UK. Search for ‘trees’ to find which department to contact.
Your hedge might count as a ‘high hedge’ if it’s over 2 metres – check the definition on the Royal Horticultural Society website. Your neighbour could report it to your local council and you could be told to cut your hedge.
Get help with your dispute
If you’re not sure what to do, you can get help at your nearest Citizens Advice.
Get help from a mediator
If you still can’t agree, you can get help from a mediator – this is someone who doesn’t know either of you and is trained to help people resolve disagreements.
It’s a good idea to ask your council if they can help you find a mediator.
If you still need help, you can look for a mediator on GOV.UK.
You might have to pay for a mediator.
Get help from a solicitor
If the problem continues, you’ll need to get help from a solicitor who specialises in neighbour disputes – but this will be expensive.