We are often asked what people’s rights are in relation to their neighbours’ trees.

Trees blocking your view

A landowner has the right to the ordinary use and enjoyment of land as long as this does not unreasonably interfere with neighbours.  There is normally no legal right to a view, so a neighbour allowing trees to block your view is probably not acting unreasonably, so you would be unlikely to be able to have the trees removed or topped.

Trees blocking sunlight

You might be able to have the trees trimmed because the shading, if serious, could very likely amount to an unreasonable interference with your enjoyment of your property.

Dangerous trees

If a tree is likely to fall onto your land you are likely to be able to have it removed, because it is likely that it amounts to what legally constitutes a nuisance.

Pruning branches that overhang the boundary

You are entitled to cut overhanging branches and roots back to the boundary.  However, in some cases trees are protected under district plans so you should check with your local Council first.

Who owns the cuttings?

Your neighbour owns the cuttings, and you are entitled to ask them to remove them.  You are also entitled to put them back onto the neighbour’s property, but if you do this, you should be careful not to cause any damage.  Having a discussion with your neighbour beforehand is always best if it is practicable.

In a recent case the High Court has accepted a claim by a property owner in relation to damage to their property caused by tree roots coming across the boundary from their neighbour’s property, as well as leaves and branches falling from overhanging tree branches. The Court has ordered over $10,000 to be paid for repairs to guttering caused by leaves from the overhanging branches plus other damages in relation to the costs the home owner spent on cutting back the encroaching branches and to put a net over their swimming pool.

The Court also awarded $10,000 general damages for the disruption and inconvenience caused to the neighbour by the trees. The neighbour, who owned the trees, was also ordered to pay part of the repair costs for the driveway damaged by the tree roots and for removal of the tree roots and installation of a root barrier. The Court awarded $23,000 costs in addition to the damages.

The Court also granted an injunction requiring the tree owner to cut back any overhanging branches and to keep those cut back to the boundary.  They are to remove any debris that falls onto their neighbour’s property during the cutting back process. The High Court refused to award any damages for leaves that blow over from trees or branches that do not overhang, because the law does not recognise any liability on tree owners except in relation to overhanging branches or tree roots that come across the boundary.  Normal fall of leaves from a tree that blow onto a neighbour’s property do not give rise to any legal right to damages.