How to See Eye-to-Eye with Neighbors over Trees
If you have trees growing near your boundary fences, it pays to know your rights and responsibilities and avoid any possible disputes which may arise with neighbours. The likelihood of falling branches or interference with television reception is highly probable and has the potential grounds for conflict.
Avoid future disagreements with neighbours by knowing exactly where you stand regarding legal responsibilities and how to steer clear of any upsetting disputes.
Be Aware of Potential Problems for Neighbours
The tree that provides you with an attractive display along with shade and privacy, may not be so well regarded by your neighbours. Some of their concerns may be such things as:
- damage to roof tiles and gutters from overhanging branches
- cracked paving or blocked drains from invasive roots
- obstruction of solar panels from of blocked sunlight
- interference with TV reception or mobile phone tower signals
It is always much better to resolve any issues directly with neighbours. This is quicker, cheaper and much less stressful than becoming involved in legal actions.
Unfortunately, disputes over trees are brought before the courts time and again. Decisions made by judges are known as common law.
Know the Legal Position
Common law places the responsibility on the tree owner to have any overhanging branches pruned.
The law looks upon overhanging branches as a nuisance because they are regarded as a trespass on the land. Therefore, a neighbour is well within their rights to have them removed.
Liability for compensation costs covering removal is not the owner's responsibility. This will only arise if the owner has been warned of the situation and fails to take action.
Common law regarding trees applies in all Australian States, but New South Wales, Trees (Disputes Between Neighbour's Act) and Queensland, Neighbourhood Disputes (Dividing Fences and Trees) have specific legislation. These Acts give neighbours considerably more rights regarding removal, pruning and compensation.
Take Preventative Measures
Prevention is always the best approach and if possible, and acting before any problems arise is the best scenario.
Think about a Regular Pruning and Care Schedule
Regular pruning of boundary trees is a simple pre-emptive measure. However, if you know little about pruning techniques, it would be more effective to arrange for a professional tree service company to take care of it. You will also gain the benefit of their specialised knowledge about best procedures for keeping your trees from becoming a nuisance.
Fortunately, you can feel assured that normal tree litter such as leaves, fruit, flowers and small pieces of bark are not classed as substantial and are not regarded as a nuisance.
Consider Root Maintenance
An effective means of preventing roots from spreading is to install tree root barriers along your boundary. The barriers are usually constructed of high-density polyethylene guides that direct the tree roots downward thus preventing them from spreading and causing damage.
Be Aware of Specialized Trees
If your tree is a protected species such as Forest Red Gum, Grey Gum or Swamp Mahogany, you need to have special approval to carry out any maintenance services, including topping and branch lopping. Tree preservation rules apply to many native trees and local councils each have rules about pruning. A qualified arborist from your local tree service will be familiar with all the requirements for your area.
Ultimately, it pays to keep on good terms with your neighbours and maintain open communication with them. Uphold your responsibilities as a tree owner by following a few preventative measures.
Agree promptly to any requests for trimming overhanging branches, or removing encroaching roots. By acting speedily you then avoid having to pay for the costs.
If in any doubt about the condition trees or best methods to deal with any native trees, arrange for an arborist's report to be entirely confidential.