By Scott Williams

Disputes with our next-door neighbours is something we try and avoid at all costs. One common cause of neighbourly disputes that we seem to provide a lot of advice about concerns the trees and hedges that can impact adjoining properties.

If you are a property owner or occupier who wants to know more about what rights you have when it comes to settling issues about neighbouring trees or hedges then here is a summary of the things you need to know.

What issues can you claim?

Firstly, the affected neighbour needs to determine whether the tree or hedge impacting them is eligible to be claimed through the Trees (Disputes Between Neighbours) Act 2006 (Trees Act). Neighbours who disagree about a tree or hedge on adjoining properties can be brought to the Court when:

  • The tree has caused or is likely going to cause damage to the affected neighbour’s property or injury to any person. Examples of damage or danger to the affected property include:
    • Overgrown roots which may be breaking paths or blocking pipes
    • Overhanging branches
    • Falling leaves/fruit or falling branches
  • The hedge is severely obstructing sunlight or a view to a window of an adjoining home.

Alongside the above conditions, there are other prerequisites the affected neighbour needs to achieve to make sure their claim can be made, such as:

  • The tree or hedge in concern must meet the definition of a tree or hedge as stated in the Trees Act.
  • The tree/hedge must be on the land adjoining the affected neighbour’s property.
  • The tree/hedge must be on private property in an urban zone.
  • The person making the claim must be the owner or occupier of the land that adjoins the land on which the tree or hedge is situated.

How can you resolve the dispute?

If you’ve responded “YES” to the above criteria, here are the next steps to go about resolving your neighbour tree dispute.

  1. First things first, the optimum outcome is to resolve these types of disputes privately and amicably with your neighbour. Approach your neighbour in writing addressing the above concerns regarding the damage, danger or obstruction and work through them from there.
  2. If resolving the dispute privately isn’t an option, do not take matters into your own hands and resolve the issue yourself - serious penalties may apply.
  3. Approach a legal advisor to guide you through the steps on how to apply to the Land and Environment Court for an order to remedy or prevent the damage, injury or obstruction.
  4. The Land and Environment Court will provide an order which must be actioned by the neighbour causing the impact.

Overall, the best advice we can offer anyone is going about it the old-fashioned way by getting to know your neighbours and establish a good relationship so you can openly talk about any worries when they arise.

Need extra information or resources?

If you’re looking for detailed information or resources with how to manage your neighbour tree dispute you can take a look at the legal acts; Including:

  • Trees (Disputes Between Neighbours) Act 2006
  • Dividing Fences Act 1991

If you would like to discuss any questions you may have with respect to if you’re eligible to claim a neighbour tree dispute or require support remedying a neighbour tree dispute, please contact Scott Williams on 02 6583 0427 or swilliams@dohlaw.com.au.

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