Trees and neigh­bours’ rights

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

They give us a bit of pri­vacy, pro­vide homes for our feath­ered friends and are per­fect possies for the kids to cre­ate huts in.

But many of us don’t give trees much thought un­less they be­long to some­one else and are im­pact­ing on our prop­er­ties.

Roots dis­lodg­ing foun­da­tions; leaves block­ing gut­ters; growth spurts block­ing mil­lion-dollar views and po­ten­tially low­er­ing the value of your home.

It’s enough to raise any­one’s blood pres­sure.

Trees can cause neigh­bours con­sid­er­able dis­tress, par­tic­u­larly when they be­long to the friendly folk over the fence. So what are your rights when some­one else’s pride and joy starts cre­at­ing grief for you?

Go straight to the root of the prob­lem and talk to your neigh­bours first to ad­dress any kind of tree-re­lated ten­sion. They might not even be aware there’s an is­sue.

Give them an op­por­tu­nity to fix the prob­lem them­selves. For ex­am­ple: Top­ping their tree rather than cut­ting the whole thing down could be an op­tion if you’re wor­ried about leaves block­ing your gut­ters.

It’s your right as a landowner to en­joy your prop­erty.

How­ever, your neigh­bours have the right as far as their land is con­cerned too. There­fore, no prop­erty owner is al­lowed to take mat­ters into their own hands un­less the tree is on their sec­tion. You do, how­ever, have the right to trim any branches from a neigh­bour’s tree that hang over your side of the fence; this is called ‘abate­ment’. Re­solv­ing dis­putes: You may have to call in the me­di­a­tors if you can’t sort out your dif­fer­ences pri­vately but it’s worth not­ing that this process is vol­un­tary for both par­ties. The Dis­putes Tri­bunal can hear claims for prop­erty dam­age up to the value of $15,000 and dis­agree­ments that it won’t cover (such as the loss of light or views and trim­ming or re­mov­ing the tree al­to­gether) can be lodged at the dis­trict court. This can be an ex­pen­sive process and usu­ally re­quires legal sup­port, so pre­pare to open your wal­let. Pho­to­graphic ev­i­dence is al­ways use­ful. Cut­ting down a tree: Some trees are pro­tected by the coun­cil for rea­sons in­clud­ing species, height or her­itage. Our New Zealand na­tives are pre­cious so even if your neigh­bour agrees to re­move a tree that’s bug­ging you, they may not be able to legally. Al­ways seek spe­cial­ist coun­cil or ar­borist ad­vice be­fore cut­ting down a tree.

Con­tact the coun­cil di­rectly for more in­for­ma­tion about rights when it comes to your neigh­bours’ trees. Who pays? The gen­eral rule of thumb is that if a tree is on your neigh­bour’s side of the fence, it’s their re­spon­si­bil­ity to pay for any dam­ages caused to your prop­erty. If it’s on the bound­ary, you may need to split the cost.

You’re legally al­lowed to trim branches and roots from your neigh­bour’s tree if they have inched over to your prop­erty, how­ever it’s un­likely that you’ll be able to claim back any ex­penses.

The owner of the tree may still be li­able to pay for costs to rec­tify the sit­u­a­tion if the tree is caus­ing a nui­sance rather than dam­age, such as block­ing light or re­strict­ing views.

Call the coun­cil for more in­for­ma­tion about rights when it comes to your neigh­bours’ trees.

Tree trou­bles: What are your rights when trees start caus­ing you prob­lems?

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