The Trees on Your Property: 3 Things You Need to Know

Eugene Vargas

The first time you might become aware of a branch that has intruded onto your neighbour's property is when they cut the offending branch off and place in back onto your side of the fence. This might seem like the ultimate in passive aggression, but is in fact the legally recommended course of action. Your trees are your responsibility, and you can in fact be liable for any damage that they cause. So what are your responsibilities when it comes to the trees on your property?

1. Be Aware of Any Breaching Branches

Carefully inspect the trees on your property that are close to the boundary line. If there are significant overhanging branches, you might want to consider removing these, if you're able to.

If they fall onto your neighbour's property or onto public land under normal weather conditions, you can be liable for any damage caused, particularly if the neighbour has previously made you aware of overhanging branches. If a tree that was in a good condition drops branches or is even uprooted during a storm, you cannot be held liable.

2. Know What Species of Trees You Own

It's advisable to actually identify the varieties of trees on your property, so you know what you're dealing with. Trees are often selected for their aesthetic qualities, even though it was unwise to plant that particular type of tree so close to a property boundary. The trees will probably have been there long before you moved in, but once again, they're your responsibility.

Be wary of trees that have deep root systems, as these can cause problems which you might only become aware of when your neighbour angrily tells you that the roots have breached their underground pipes. Your neighbour can obtain a court order compelling you to pay for this type of damage, so sometimes tree felling by services such as All About Tree Services can be a necessary preventative measure.

3. Uphold Tree Preservation Orders

An older, larger tree may have been granted a specialist heritage listing, known as a tree preservation order, which greatly limits either your or your neighbour's ability to prune the tree.

A preservation order will also prohibit tree felling unless the tree is in such a poor condition that it poses a threat. Contact your local town or city council before getting your saw out of the garden shed—there can be legal penalties for pruning or felling a tree protected by a preservation order.

Your trees are a beautiful, integral part of your property, and yet it's unwise to allow them grow unchecked. It's important to take preventative steps to stop accidents before they happen, but despite your best efforts, accidents can still in fact happen. Check your home insurance to make sure you're covered for any damage to your own property or your neighbour's property should a pesky branch detach and cause some problems.