Relations with a neighbour can go from good to gnarly surprisingly quickly, and one of the most common reasons for disputes isencroaching or overhanging trees. Whether your yard houses a towering jacaranda or just some tasteful shrubbery, you are fully responsible as ‘tree-keeper’ to look after the entire tree, above and below ground.
If you’ve dealt with branches or fruit overhanging a boundary and dropping into your yard, or had roots creeping under your fence, you’ll understand that it can be a nuisance and cause substantial damage to your residence. Problems can range from serious injuries to interference with television reception or solar panels and even blocking a valued view.
If you are affected by a neighbour’s tree, your legal rights are covered by the Neighbourhood Disputes (Dividing Fences and Trees) Act 2011. However, before taking legal action it is important to branch out and explore a resolution of the conflict with your neighbour on satisfactory terms to you both.
Read through our step by step guide to learn more about your rights and some possible options to consider before seeking legal advice:
- Approach your neighbour to talk about a solution
- Determine who owns the tree – this is usually quite easy to figure out by looking on whose property the trunk is rooted or – it the bases straddles the boundary – which property contains most of the tree base
- If there are over hanging branches within your property, common law does allow you to cut down the branches – but take note of any vegetation protection orders and keep in mind you may be responsible for damage. If trimming is a big job, you might consider engaging a professional tree lopper
- If neighbours are not cooperating you can give them a written notice– this applies to branches which overhang more than 0.5m but are less than 2.5m above ground only, and must include a time in which the branches should be removed as well as a request for a days’ notice informing you when they will be removed and by whom. You must also include an agreement for any workers to enter your property to remove the branches and a quote for the cost
- If you need more specific information about your rights and responsibilities, get legal advice before taking any action
- With branches that are 2.5m above ground and overhang at least 50cm you can apply to QCAT for an order that they be removed at your neighbour’s expense.
- If your neighbour’s tree has grown so much to cause:-
- injury, damage or “a substantial and ongoing unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of your land”
- severe obstruction of sunlight or your views,
you can apply to QCAT for an order that the tree be removed or trimmed at your neighbour’s expense.
If you are successful with legal action by proving that the tree has caused, is causing or is likely to cause damage to property in the near future, or is likely to cause injury, the court can:
- Order the owner of the tree to carry out specific actions such as trimming or removing the tree completely
- Order entry into property to carry out certain actions
- Order costs for work or payment of compensation for damage caused by the tree
If you need more information or specific advice, please call us on 1300 529 529 and we’ll be happy to assist.