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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