Well, this can be thorny subject in more ways than one! Before things get out of hand here’s a bit of advice.
You are legally entitled to cut off any branches overhanging your property at the point where they cross the boundary. Technically they belong to your neighbour and you should offer them back. Or if you are feeling lazy and don’t like them very much just throw them over the fence! 🙂 Check that there isn’t any tree preservation order associated with anything before you start cutting as in that case you need permission from the appropriate authority before doing it. Our neighbours hang a washing line from a branch of a tree that we have in the garden. We are often tempted to cut the branch…
If anything overhanging causes damage or injury to you, your neighbour could be sued for compensation if you make a claim for damages.
Local authorities in England and Wales can intervene where a tree on private land is at risk of causing damage. It can make it safe on behalf of the owner of the land where the tree sits and reclaim the costs from the owner. It can also do this at your request where you don’t know who owns the land. You can also ask the local authority to inspect the condition of the tree. Departments responsible for this vary. They will only take action if they believe that the tree is on the point of causing damage.
In Northern Ireland, local councils only have powers to make a dangerous tree on private property safe if it is overhanging a public footpath or road. If a dangerous tree is overhanging a neighbour’s property, you will have to try to resolve the matter with the owner of the tree or consider legal action.
If the roots of your neighbour’s tree have spread into your property they can be removed using the least damaging method available, unless there is a tree preservation order on it – see below. If you have to enter the tree owner’s property to do this, you must give reasonable notice.
Your neighbour could also consult their insurers, if there is a possibility that their property may be damaged by the roots. If the roots have already caused damage, the tree owner is liable to pay compensation but it must be shown that the tree owner knew, or ought to have known, of the danger. Our neighbour’s tree was shown to have caused damage to their neighbour’s property and the insurance paid up. It’s easier to get an insurer to pay up than sue your neighbour.
If your neighbour’s evergreen or semi-evergreen hedge is more than two metres high and is blocking out light you can complain to the local authority. You can prune but you can’t cut down. The local authority will expect you to have discussed the matter with your neighbour and may charge you a large fee to consider the matter and both you and your neighbour can appeal. You will need to take advice from a solicitor if you cannot find a resolution with your neighbour and don’t want to pay the authority.