Last Updated: 26 September, 2020
Trees add interest to gardens by adding height, providing shade and encouraging birds into the garden, but they can also cause problems including blocking light, damage caused by the roots, leaves blocking gutters and branches breaking and falling on to a property. If the tree is in your garden it is straight forward to deal with, but if the trees are in your neighbour’s garden it is more complicated.
We’ve recently dealt with three trees in two of our neighbour’s gardens for different reasons; two were very large and their leaves were causing problems with our gutters as well as blocking the light to part of our house. The other tree did not cause a problem with light, instead we were concerned as that type of tree is known for branches suddenly breaking off and that could cause significant damage to our roof.
The law, and talking to your neighbours
Before you do anything make sure you understand where you stand with the law because the tree does not belong to you, but unless there is a tree preservation order you also have some rights. Some good websites to check for advice in England are Citizens Advice (scroll down to Trees) and Gov.uk. In very simple terms the two things to know are:
- you can cut off any branches hanging over the boundary
- your neighbour owns anything you cut off such as branches or fruit so you must offer to return them
These two points show it is important to talk to your neighbours and get agreement before you take any action. Things you need to agree:
- how much of the tree you’ll cut down; will it be down to the stump or just the overhanging bits
- who will keep / deal with the off cuts
- do you need access to their garden to reach the tree, if so what time and equipment e.g. cherry picker is needed
- do you need to remove anything to gain access such as fences
- who will pay for the work if you are bringing in a professional
Cutting down our neighbours’s trees
We agreed with one neighbour to cut one tree down to the stump and to cut the relevant branches off a second tree; and the second neighbour we cut off the parts that were over the boundary. We paid for the professionals, the access was through our garden (although we needed to remove a fence that needed replacing anyway) and we kept all the wood (which we were very happy to do because of our wood burner).
The benefits of removing the trees are high as we now have more light and less maintenance and we have the benefit of having meeting two new neighbours; and of course we got lots of lovely wood to burn. If you would like to remove some or all of a neighbour’s tree remember there are laws governing what you can and can’t do, and I recommend you talk to your neighbours.