WHAT CAN I DO IF MY NEIGHBOURS TREE ARE CAUSING ME PROBLEMS?

Your Rights

You cannot compel a neighbouring landowner unless their trees encroach on to you property to manage their trees or to carry out tree work to your satisfaction unless you bring forward and win a civil action - you could consult an experienced solicitor to see if you have proper grounds to proceed with this.

The Government has been considering introducing new legislation in this area, but this is not yet drafted. Remember that one person's nuisance can become another person's amenity. As disputes between neighbours can develop into an emotionally charged and draining experience, the best advice is to seek to resolve such a situation before it becomes out of hand.

This can be done by explaining either in conversation or by a letter to the tree owner stating how your living conditions are being affected, how this is influencing your enjoyment of life and hopefully thereby reaching agreement to carry out tree work that is mutually acceptable. Keep a photocopy of your correspondence, in case things go wrong. Mediation services are sometimes available - you may wish to consult a Citizen's Advisory Bureau for more information on this.

Root Problems

If you believe that your property may be suffering from either direct or indirect damage by tree roots, then you are advised to consult an arboricultural consultant or a building surveyor. There will usually be evidence of damage such as deformed or cracking of walls, or uneven surface levels or blocked drains. If this is the case, you should notify your building insurer, who may initiate further investigations and negotiate with your neighbour and their insurer.

Leaves

Leaves falling from a tree are held to be a natural occurrence and no responsibility attributes itself to the owner

Aphids (Honeydew)

The same applies to honeydew as for leaves.

Shade and View

There is no effective right to light or a view in English law. The prescriptions act does afford a right to light however it is severely limited and using it in relation to trees is problematic and generally unsuccessful.

Subsidence Damage

Subsidence damage to a structure - particularly a dwelling - can be an extremely distressing experience for the occupier. The causes of subsidence in low rise buildings are numerous and often complex, ranging from leaking drains to underground mine workings and from landslip to clay shrinkage.

Where trees are protected by a Tree Preservation Order or are situated within a Conservation Area, your local Department of Planning and Environment has a responsibility, on the one hand, to protect trees in the interests of public amenity and, on the other hand, to seek to ensure that no individual suffers undue loss or distress from damage resulting from the action of tree roots. Balancing these responsibilities can prove difficult and relies on consideration of all material facts of the particular case.

In the first instance you should contact your building insurer, who will normally appoint a specialist loss adjuster and structural engineer to carry out investigations. Below is a list of key information normally required by Local authority planning departments to make an informed decision about the most appropriate course of action.

  • The age of property including any extension or major alterations
  • Ownership of the tree(s)
  • Nature of problem e.g. cracking, deformation, etc.
  • Historical defect monitoring information
  • Type and depth of existing foundations
  • Log of subsoil composition to approximately 3m below ground level
  • Evidence of tree root presence below foundation level
  • Evidence that roots belong to suspected trees
  • Measurement of subsoil shrinkage potential at and below foundation formation level
  • Plotting and water-tightness testing of drain runs close to building

A plan showing accurate locations of relevant site features including buildings, drains and trees on and/or adjacent to the site and of the borehole sampling locations

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