Tree disputes are one of the most common types of issues between neighbours. The Telegraph has this week reported that 007 himself, Daniel Craig, is currently embroiled in a dispute with his neighbours about a tree in his back garden.
A tree which is growing on your neighbour’s property or close to the boundary of your property could be causing a nuisance to you for a number of reasons. The encroachment of branches or blocking light into your home may affect your enjoyment of your property. More serious problems that could arise include the roots causing subsidence or affecting the water content of the soil.
If you do find that a tree is causing you nuisance, a discussion with the tree owner may resolve the problem. During this, they may agree to cut back the branches or to treat the tree to minimise the risk of damage. However, in the unfortunate circumstance that this leads to a dispute with your neighbour, what can you do to resolve the problem?
So does your neighbour owe you a duty of care, to ensure that his tree roots or branches do not cause issues? Case law sets out that your neighbour has a duty to do what is reasonable in all the circumstances to prevent or minimise the risk of interference with or damage to your property. However, this duty will only come about where:
Your neighbour is aware that his tree roots or branches are encroaching (or ought to have known); and
There was a reasonably foreseeable risk of damage to your property, as a result of the encroachment.
It would depend on your particular circumstances as to whether the court would constitute the neighbour’s actions as reasonable. However, if your neighbour owes you a duty of care, and is found to be in breach of their duty to you, there may be a claim in negligence (particularly if the tree has caused damage).
Even if there is no claim in negligence, your neighbour maybe liable to you in nuisance. This will happen where the roots or branches have caused physical damage to your land, or has interfered with your enjoyment of the land.
If you are unable to resolve the issue between you, there are various remedies available to you. Mediation is often very successful in tree nuisance cases. Court proceedings, as with any dispute should be a last resort, and a court can order an injunction and/or damages to compensate your loss.
An injunction is used to stop the nuisance by the appropriate method. If branches are encroaching on your property, the court may order the neighbour to cut the branches back. Similarly, if the roots are causing serious problems and subsidence, the court may order the tree to be removed or treated accordingly. If damage has been caused to your property, the Court may also order damages to be paid to enable you to put your property back into the condition it would have been in had the tree not caused any damage.
If you are the owner of a property with a large or overgrown tree, it is important to minimise the risk of future claims by maintaining the tree properly. Where you are concerned with the damage which the roots of the tree could cause, it may be worth seeking advice from a tree specialist.
If you are currently in dispute with your neighbour over a tree or any other nuisance, speak to our specialist dispute resolution team today.