Trees and neighbours’ rights
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?