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Who Is Responsible For Overhanging Branches

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  • Admin
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  • UK Law, Overhanging Trees, Tree Branches
  • Posted date:
  • 24-11-2022
Who Is Responsible For Overhanging Branches

Have you ever wondered, Who is responsible for overhanging branches? Arborescence Tree Care offer trusted tree surgery services throughout Northampton, Milton Keynes, Bedford. This article looks at the UK laws regarding overhanging branches and your rights surrounding them.

Trees and the law

Trees are one of the best ways to add a little atmosphere and structure to your garden. 

However, their size and potential to cause damage or frustration for neighbours can make them a contentious addition to your property. 

Therefore, if you plan on adding any trees to your garden, it will be useful to understand how UK law relates to trees. With these in your back pocket, you'll know your rights and responsibilities concerning your tree ownership.

This article is not an alternative to professional legal advice. We aim to provide a basic guide to the most frequent legal questions gardeners and homeowners have regarding their trees. 

Neither is this an official legal document and if you have any complex legal questions, always seek professional advice. 

 All of the laws and legal rights discussed are relevant to the UK and combine aspects of Common Law and Statute Law. 

The difference between the two being that the former pertains to decisions made by judges in Courts of Law used as precedents, while Statute Law refers to laws passed by parliament.

Tree Branches - Who Is Responsible For Overhanging Branches?

Who owns a tree growing on a boundary?

If the base of the tree's trunk sits on the boundary between two properties, then the tree is jointly owned by both property owners. In legal terms, the two owners are known as "Tenants in Common". 

If either owner wishes to make alterations to the tree, they must have permission to do so from the other joint owner.

For example, if one owner wishes to fell the jointly-owned tree, they must request permission from the second owner. If they fell the tree without securing permission, they are liable to be prosecuted through similar mechanisms to trespassing. This goes for any alterations an owner may want to make to a jointly-owned tree.

Professional surveyors can make a determination if it's unclear where the tree sits on the boundary between two properties.

What Is The Law On Overgrown Trees?

Who owns a tree growing on a boundary? Tree Surgeons Northampton, Milton Keynes, Bedford

Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

Having a tree entirely on your side of a property boundary isn't the end of the story for ownership rights. Despite the benefits they bring to a garden, from providing a shady spot to relax in to fruit-bearing trees that provide delicious food, there are ways a tree on your side of a boundary can cause a nuisance for your neighbours.

Overhanging trees are one of the most common issues homeowners will have with their neighbours. Whether it's the increased hazard if a piece of the tree falls into your neighbour's garden to littering their garden with fallen leaves, there's plenty for you and your neighbour to quarrel about. Not to mention the potential for attracting wasps, bees and other insects.

With all this in mind, it's evident that knowing your rights concerning your trees is so important.

Establishing Ownership of Trees

Ultimately, if a tree was originally grown on your side of a property line, the tree is yours. Regardless of whether the branches or roots have encroached onto a neighbour's private land across the boundary, the tree belongs to you. Your ownership extends to any branches, fruit or flowers that overhang the property boundary. If your neighbour takes any cuttings, flowers or plucks fruit from your tree, this is an offence under the Theft Act 1968.

Of course, if you're on the other side of the argument, it's unlikely that your neighbour will take issue with you picking fruit or taking cuttings from their tree, so long as you have a good relationship with them. However, if they catch you, they are legally entitled to request you return whatever you have taken from their tree, meaning you cannot simply throw your trimmings away. 

Your Rights on Trees & Overhanging Branches

Overhanging Branches

So long as the tree in question is not under a tree preservation order or within a conservation area, you are within your rights to cut back any overhanging branches to the point of the boundary line between your two properties. If your neighbour's tree is under a preservation order, you'll need further clarification before cutting any of its overhanging branches. Additionally, your neighbour can ask you to return any branches or fruits you cut back.

This is a bit of a one-way situation. While your neighbour can ask you to return any branches or fruits you take from their tree; you have no right to ask them to clean up any leaves that fall into your garden during the Autumn. The only exception to this would be for your guttering. If your neighbour's tree is causing serious damage to your guttering, not just blocking it, you can request that they pay to have the leaves cleared or to pay for the cost of the damage their tree caused to your property.

If your neighbour refuses to rectify the damage caused, you are legally within your rights to sue them and force them to pay. However, you cannot cut down any branches on your neighbour's side of the fence if they are the tree's owner. Unless you have permission, you are not entitled to enter their property to perform branch removal. This would be trespassing, and you could face prosecution.

Tree Roots

Roots are one of the rare exceptions in the ownership of large trees. Again, so long as the tree is not protected under a tree preservation order, you are within your rights to dig up and remove any roots encroaching onto your property. 

Roots can cause significant damage to properties, such as subsidence. If your property suffers subsidence or any other damage from tree roots, you may need to bring in a competent tree surgeon or structural engineer to rectify the issue.

Of course, you should always discuss any damage your neighbour's tree has caused to your property with them. However, regardless of whether they are willing to solve the issue, the tree owner is the person responsible for paying for any damage it causes. Therefore, if you have to hire a tree surgeon or structural engineer, your neighbour will have to pay the bill. Your neighbour can either pay for the service up-front or claim it through their home insurance policy. 

What can I do if a neighbour's tree blocks out my light?

Under UK law, some properties have certain rights pertaining to the natural light they receive. The Rights of Light Act 1959 states that if a property has received daylight for the past 20 years, they are entitled to continue receiving that daylight. 

Therefore, if your neighbour builds a fence or has a tree that begins to obstruct your property's access to natural daylight, you can apply to the courts to restore your access.

If you take this route, you can also request an injunction to prevent any future fences or garden elements from blocking your access to sunlight. 

These rights usually apply to garden fencing rather than trees since even a large tree grows more slowly than the sudden appearance of a fence, with the gradual loss of light less noticeable. Rather than the Right to Light Act, most trees that block daylight from properties are dealt with under the High Hedges Act.


If you want assistance in tree pruning or removal from your property, please contact our professional team of arborists today.

We offer tree surveys and tree removal in Northampton, Milton Keynes and Bedford.

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