The Neighbourhood Disputes (Dividng Fences and Trees) Act places responsibility on a “tree-keeper” to ensure that their neighbour’s property is not affected so as to cause “substantial, ongoing and unreasonable interferences with the use and enjoyment of neighbouring land.”
The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) has the power to issue orders covering all topics related to tree litigation such as overhanging branches, tree limbs and roots.
But if the “interference” extends to damage being caused to the neighbour’s land, QCAT can make orders about the tree itself, including an order that it be removed at the tree-keeper’s expense.
Because “interference” also refers to views and sunlight, the rules have wide significance to every residential block in Queensland.
The law has implications for those whose outlook is being blocked by foliage and those whose much loved tree faces the axe.
How it affects you – in relation to views and sunlight – depends on occupational longevity: your own and that of your neighbours.
You only have a right to the view and sunlight that existed or streamed in at the time you first took up residence. View rights can’t be passed from seller to buyer.
But buyers inherit tree obligations. Even though the trees now obstructing a neighbours view may have been planted decades ago by an owner three or four sales back, the current owner can be required to trim or remove them at your expense if the neighbour’s view or sunlight is substantially affected.
Imagine you buy a new ridge-top home because of the wonderful character added by a sprawling 25-year-old poinciana. Then your neighbour, who has lived there for 30 years, produces picture of his view from decades earlier.
If the growth in the meantime has substantially encroached on his city views, QCAT may order suddenly makes you to chop it down to restore the tree-free outlook depicted in the picture.
On the flip side, put yourself in the shoes of someone thinking selling. The house would be worth a lot more if it weren’t for that pesky tree next door blocking the view to the city or river.
Because of the immediate and potentially costly implications of this brand-new law, Peter Carter has prepared a webinar for agents, developers and owners to be used as a resource to understand issues that might arise in their own situations. It can be found here.
Also note the following upcoming webinars:-
Property Occupations Act – regulations and forms. Be ready for the start of the new residential real estate regime that will apply in Queensland from 1 December. Webinar 12 noon 26 November 1914. Limit 250 attendees. Register now here.
Insurance broker liability. A refresher on recent court decisions dealing with lawsuits against insurance brokers. Webinar 12 noon 17 December 2014. Register now here.