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Rules on Trimming Overhanging Trees

Cutting your neighbour's encroaching tree often gets law-abiding consumers in hot water. So what are the rules on trimming overhanging trees?

Most citizens expect the law to allow reasonable cutting and trimming of overhanging trees.

The same goes for encroaching foliage of on the borders of adjacent residents.

But, take a moment before you rush outside with a step ladder and secateurs to start pruning trees and bushes.

A recent news item highlights the somewhat conflicting legal protection around the country. In fact, you may be breaking the law if you cut your next-door neighbour’s overhanging tree.

There are some basic steps to take before you start trimming. Check this list of consumer rights and rules on cutting encroaching or overhanging foliage.

Consumer Rights for Cutting Branches

1. Ask your neighbour to cut the parts that overhang your land.

2. If that fails you are almost certainly within your rights to clip it or snip it. Even so, the law only grants you permission to remove them back to the dividing line or border.

3. Note that some trees are protected by Tree Preservation Orders (TPO). Contact your local council authority for permission before you attempt to do anything to trees with TPOs.

Note: Another section explains the process for appealing against a high hedges decision, the deadlines, and how long it will take to get a final decision.

Powers of Local Authorities

4. Some encroaching trees may be dangerous or may cause damage to property. In this case you must contact your local authority.

In England and Wales the authorities have powers to act against potential damage-causing trees on private property. If they decide the tree is likely to cause damage, they can take several courses of action.

The owner of a tree which is likely to cause damage can also request the local authority to make the tree safe. But, the property owner is liable for the authority’s costs for doing so. If requested to do so, they can act on ‘imminently’ dangerous trees if the land owner is unknown.

What if a neighbour refuses to fix a tree that threatens to cause property damage? Contact the nearest council. They may serve notice on the land owner of that particular tree and recover costs for their services.

5. Some trees are poisonous and may cause a health risk, such as yew trees. Tree owners of trees which present a health risk are liable for compensation for any injuries or damage caused by that tree.


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Consumer Rights and Rules about Trimming Overhanging Trees in the United Kingdom