The fruit from my neighbour’s tree is hanging over the boundary fence – am I entitled to pick them?
Any parts of the tree that encroach onto your property still belong to the owner of the tree. This includes fruit, flowers, branches and so on. It is worth having a friendly chat to your neighbour about it, as they may let you keep the overhanging fruit.
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I have a problem with my neighbour's tree. What can I do?
Whether your neighbour’s tree is blocking your sun, its branches are overhanging your property or its roots are growing into your drains, it's always preferable if you can reach an agreement with your neighbour about what to do.
If you can’t come to an agreement informally, you could try mediation – if both parties are willing to participate. Otherwise you can apply to the Disputes Tribunal or the District Court (depending on the nature of the problem) – but remember that these options can ruin any goodwill that may have existed between you and your neighbour.
If branches are overhanging onto your property but not causing damage to your property, you can get those branches trimmed up to the boundary, at your own cost and without your neighbour’s agreement.
If the tree is causing damage to your property your options depend on whether the problem would be resolved by trimming the tree up to the boundary.
If the tree isn’t causing damage to your property or encroaching on your property but you want the tree removed or trimmed (e.g. because it’s blocking your sun) you can apply to the District Court.
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Can my local council help me with my problem with the neighbour’s tree?
Generally your council will only get involved with issues involving a tree on private property if it is a protected tree or it is causing problems near a public road or other public property (for example its branches are overhanging the footpath).
For example if your neighbour’s tree branches are overhanging your property but the council has classed the tree as protected, then no one can trim those overhanging branches without first permission from the council, and no one can remove the tree unless they get resource consent from the council.
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Can I trim branches from the neighbour’s trees if they are hanging over my boundary?
If the branches of your neighbour’s trees are overhanging your property (this is called 'encroachment') then you are allowed to cut them back to the point where their tree crosses your boundary, at your cost. You are not allowed to kill the tree, for example by poisoning any tree roots that are encroaching onto your property.
Before you do this check with your local council whether it is a protected tree and - for the sake of keeping a good relationship with your neighbour - to talk to your neighbour about it.
Any fruit or cuttings that you have trimmed from the tree still belong to the neighbour, but check with the neighbour before you dump tree cuttings over the fence.
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What can I do if the neighbour’s tree has caused damage to my property?
The owner of a tree is responsible for any damage the tree causes to neighbouring property.
If your neighbour’s tree is causing damage to your property you can remove the branches or roots as far as the boundary, and apply to the Disputes Tribunal (if the damage is no more than $15,000, or $20,000 if both parties agree) or District Court (for damages valued at more than $15,000) to claim for the cost of repairing the damage to your property.
If trimming the tree up to the boundary would not resolve the problem – for example, the tree roots have been block your drains, and will keep doing so unless the tree is removed, you can apply to the District Court for a court order that requires the neighbour have the tree removed and the damage to your property repaired.
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What can I do if my neighbour’s tree is not encroaching onto my property but is blocking my view?
Talk to the neighbour about it and try to come to an agreement about resolving the problem. If this is not possible, you can apply to the District Court for an order requiring your neighbour to trim or remove the tree (as necessary).
The court may make the order if:
- there is a risk or damage to your property or harm to someone
- the tree is unduly interfering with your enjoyment of your property because of falling leaves, fruit, branches etc, or because it is blocking the light or your view
- the tree is interfering with your drains or gutters
The court will not make the order if doing so would cause more hardship to your neighbour than the hardship you'd have to suffer if the court did not make the order.
If the court makes an order that your neighbour must cut back or remove their tree, then generally you are responsible for paying for the work. However the owner of the tree should take reasonable steps to stop the trees interfering with their neighbour's enjoyment of their own properties, so if the court thinks your neighbour hasn’t fulfilled this responsibility they may require your neighbour to pay for some or all of the work.
If your neighbour has been issued a court order to cut back the tree, hasn’t done so within 20 working days and did not get permission from the court to take longer, you can carry out this task yourself. You will first need to get permission from the court and from your neighbour. In this situation you would be entitled to recover the cost of the work from your neighbour.
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My neighbour’s tree overhangs the shared driveway. Am I allowed to trim the branches back?
With shared driveways, the important thing is to keep them clear so that people’s access to their homes is not blocked. If the tree is hampering the driveway access (for example, if the tree has low-hanging branches blocking the driveway, is shedding leaves onto the driveway and making it slippery) then as the tree owner your neighbour is responsible for having the tree trimmed or removed.
It is best to start by talking to your neighbour about the situation and trying to come to an agreement about it. If you can’t agree, you can apply to the Disputes Tribunal for a decision.