"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to changeDarwin"

The problem with trees this Christmas

To clarify, this is not an article about the price of Christmas trees, how to stop your pets from climbing them or how to stop them shedding needles all over your carpet!

A potentially much more costly problem with trees has been illustrated by a recent spate of enquiries concerning disputes over neighbouring properties’ trees, suggesting Christmas spirit may be a little in short supply currently. Neighbour disputes however are not unusual, with issues concerning trees either encroaching or causing damage perhaps the most common.

How to deal with encroaching trees

In those instances where trees are simply overhanging on your property matters can, generally, be resolved relatively easily although it does tend to require you to discuss matters with your neighbour and, where possible, agree on a course of action together. You generally have a right to cut back overhanging branches, although this is not a free for all and does depend on the tree not being subject to a Tree Preservation Order or being located in a Conservation Area. Also trees can only be trimmed to the boundary line and in such a way that the tree and remaining parts aren’t then damaged.

How to deal with property damage from neighbouring trees

Where matters generally become more complicated however is when the roots of a neighbour’s tree encroach onto your property, causing damage by breaking drains, lifting pavings or, in the most extreme of cases, leading to subsidence. In those instances, it’s essential to seek professional legal advice at the earliest opportunity as it may be possible to establish a private nuisance claim against your neighbour. 

Such claims can be complex though; with you needing to prove the tree root caused the damage and that this was both reasonably foreseeable and also avoidable, had practical measures been taken by your neighbour. More often than not these claims also require the involvement of other professionals, including an arborist (tree surgeon) and a surveyor and so do tend to be expensive but, if a claim can be successfully mounted, these costs along with the cost of then abating the nuisance and putting right the damage can be recovered from your neighbour.

What steps should you take if you have a concern?  

If you’re therefore currently concerned with one of your neighbour’s trees; either you feel it’s overhanging or its roots are causing damage to your property, please do get in touch, we will be more than happy to have an initial chat to see if we can assist you.

Article Date: 10/12/2018

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