What can I do about my neighbour’s trees that 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. Before you do this, it would be a good idea to check with your local council whether it is a protected tree, and to talk to your neighbour about it. Incidentally, any fruit on a tree overhanging your property still belongs to the neighbour.

I have a problem with my neighbour's tree but he won’t do anything about it.  What can I do?

It's always preferable if you can reach an agreement with your neighbour. If this doesn't work, you can apply to the District Court for an order requiring your neighbour to remove or trim any tree on their property which is:

  • causing damage, injury or loss to your life, health or the property, or anyone else you live with, or
  • obstructing your view, or
  • diminishing the value of your house, or 
  • reducing the enjoyment of your property

You will need to be able to produce proof of the above and the court won't make the order if doing so would cause more hardship to your neighbour than the hardship you'd be caused if the Court didn't make the order.

Who pays for work on my neighbour’s tree?

If you have cut back a tree which is overhanging your property, but which is not causing any damage to your property, then you are responsible for the costs of cutting it back. If your neighbour has been issued with a District Court order to cut back the tree, then you are also responsible for paying for the work unless the court decides the neighbour is responsible because of their conduct. 

Can I make my neighbours pay for damage to my property, caused by their tree’s roots?

Tree roots can damage walls, drains and so on. If the roots of your neighbour’s trees have blocked or damaged your drains, then they can be liable for the cost of the repairs to your drains. You have the right to cut off encroaching roots or branches to prevent damage to your property, but would have to return those to your neighbour.  

If you and your neighbour are in dispute about the costs you can make a claim to the Disputes Tribunal (or, if the amount claimed is more than $15,000, the District Court).