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Tree Disputes with Neighbours: What Aucklanders Need to Know

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What do you do if your neighbor’s tree is hanging over your property line? Can you cut a tree back if it is overhanging on your property?

Of all the things that could occupy your Sunday, the last thing you want to be doing is going to war with your neighbor over trees and branches that infringe upon properties. Tree disputes aren’t inevitable, thankfully. There are things you can do, as a property owner or maintainer, that will leave you (and your neighbors) with peace of mind.

This blog will be cover how these disputes start, what the law says, and what you can do to avoid a “neighbors at war” scenario.

How these tree disputes start

Say your neighbor has a lemon tree. It has been planted close to the property boundary, and its crown hangs partially over your fence. Maybe the roots are damaging the fence structure. The lemon tree yields bright, punchy lemons, which the owner loves. Maybe you even take a couple – after all, isn’t part of the tree on your property?

Unfortunately, in a typical situation like this, both of you are in the wrong. A dispute that could be resolved with a conversation spirals out of control.

Tree Disputes: What does the law say?

The law is reasonably clear-cut in regards to trimming trees or bushes that encroach on your property. According to Community Law, as a property owner, you have the right to cut or trim any branches or roots from neighbors’ trees that encroach.

What you cannot do is pick fruit or flowers from the overhanging tree. Despite the tree overhanging on your property, its product belongs to the owner of the tree.

And what if the tree is damaging your property? Again, the law is clear. The owner of the tree is responsible for any damage the tree has caused. This damage could be to structures, or underground wiring or piping, for example.

What if you are seeking an entire tree removal? If the tree blocks your view or sunlight, you can pursue a special District Court order to remove the offending tree.

What the law doesn’t recognise, however, is how your neighbor may feel if you charge ahead and fire up the chainsaw to trim their precious lemon tree.

Mediating the dispute properly

It is important to discuss the issue with your neighbor first.

We all have feelings about the nature that surrounds us. Indeed, the trees present on a property may have been a deciding factor in the purchase, or the result of years of hard work pruning and trimming. Chatting with your neighbors in a friendly manner may go a long way in avoiding hurt feelings.

And what happens if they still refuse to act? If your chat doesn’t lead anywhere, you can apply to the District Court for an order requiring tree trimming by the neighbor.

What you can do to avoid disputes

Keep a close eye on the trees on your property, and talk regularly with your neighbors. It’s crucial that you understand what is happening above and under the soil, to avoid future problems. Tree trimming is an important part of maintaining your property – both for the health of the tree, and for the sanity of your neighbor!

If you have any questions relating to the rules around overhanging trees, or are looking for an arborist in Auckland, call us on 027 475 2445 or contact us online.

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