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Trees and Hedges

Trees and Hedges - Frequently asked questions

I don’t know who owns the land on which the tree stands – what can you do to help?

We only keep records of land we own or maintain and do not hold records of private land ownership. If you don’t know who owns the land (and the tree(s)), you can carry out a land search through the Land Registry.

I have a tree growing in my garden – what are my responsibilities?

All trees in private ownership are the responsibility of the owner of the land on which they grow; whether they are subject to statutory tree protection. If you have freehold ownership of land on which a tree grows you are responsible for it, unless you have leased the land to a third party who, through the terms of the lease, has accepted this responsibility. We do not have responsibility for, or undertake work to, privately owned trees.

Tree owners owe a duty of care to all third parties and are liable at all times for any nuisance or damage the tree causes. If you are aware of a defect in your tree and it subsequently causes damage, you may be held liable for negligence. The duty of care extends even to persons who may trespass onto your land.

If you are concerned about the condition of a tree in your garden you should seek advice from a qualified tree contractor or arboricultural consultant.

The branches of my neighbours tree are hanging over my property – what can I do?

Under common law, you are allowed to prune any branches from trees and hedges overhanging your land, and also roots growing under your land up to your boundary without the consent of the owner. However, you must not trespass on your neighbour's land to do this.

You must also offer to return the branches and any fruit which is attached or has fallen on to your land. You must exercise reasonable care when carrying out the work, or asking others to do the work to the tree, as failure to do so may lead to you becoming liable for negligence if the work you carry out, such as cutting roots, causes the tree to die or become dangerous.

Common law rights do not apply if the tree is protected by a TPO or is in a conservation area. In this case, you must first make an application and receive consent in writing from us before any work takes place, including work to branches which extend over your property. You can apply for the necessary consent and do not have to rely on your neighbour or the tree owner to do this. We advise anyone that considers pruning a tree overhanging their garden to seek professional advice from a tree contractor or arboricultural consultant.

My neigbours trees are blocking my view– what can I do?

Nothing except speak to your neighbour and ask him/her to remedy the situation. There is no right to a view.

My neighbours have planted a tree very close to my boundary – can they do this?

There is no law to stop anyone planting or growing a tree anywhere on their property. There is also no law restricting the height of trees.

However, anyone who plants a poisonous tree so close to a boundary that its branches grow over that boundary and are eaten by a neighbour's livestock may be held liable for damages. If, however, a neighbour's livestock reach over to the tree owner's side of the boundary to eat the leaves, the tree owner will most likely not be liable unless they have a legal responsibility to maintain the boundary.

Who should I contact if trees, shrubs or hedges from a private garden are overhanging and blocking a footpath?

Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) is responsible for the removal or cutting back of trees, shrubs and hedges that obstruct or endanger highway users. This could be growth blocking a footpath, hanging low over a road, or interfering with street lights, traffic lights or road signs.

You can report a highway problem online  

A tree in a neighbouring garden is blocking my satellite TV signal – can I do anything?

No. There is no legal right to TV reception and interference is not, at present, a legal nuisance as defined in law. You will need to move or re-site your satellite dish.

What can I do if a neighbour’s tree is causing damage to my property?

If you believe your property is being damaged, directly or indirectly, by tree roots, you are best advised to consult an arboricultural consultant or a structural engineer.

There will usually be evidence of damage such as deformation, bowing or cracking of walls, uneven surfacing or blocked drains. If this is the case, you should notify your building insurer who may carry out further investigation and negotiate with the tree owner and their insurer. In cases where damage is proven, the tree owner or their insurer is likely to be liable.

Trees on private property

If you are concerned about the state of a tree on your neighbours land, we suggest you speak to the landowner to draw their attention to the problem and ask them to deal with it. They may not be aware that the tree is a problem and may take action to resolve the issue.

In our experience, keeping good and friendly relations with your neighbour is more likely to lead to a satisfactory outcome or at least an acceptable compromise. Offering to pay for the work needed to solve your problem may help but, in many cases, the owner of the trees has the final say.

We will not get involved in any dispute or mediation over trees which we do not own.

If you need help with any matter concerning trees on private property you should consult a solicitor or your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Related links

More information

  1. Tree Preservation Orders (TPO)
  2. Trees in a Conservation area
  3. Hedgerows and High Hedges
  4. Trees and Hedges - Frequently asked questions (you are here)