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 roots are damaging the drains). 

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 checking with the council, and no one can remove the tree unless they get resource consent from the council.

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What can I do about the 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.

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I have a problem with the neighbour's tree but the neighbour won’t do anything about it.  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 this doesn't work:

  • if the tree is causing damage to your property, you can trim (as far as the boundary) the tree branches or roots which are causing the problem, and apply to the Disputes Tribunal or District Court to claim back the costs of the work (see the next question); or
  • apply to the District Court for an order requiring your neighbour to remove or trim a tree on their property which is: 
    • causing damage, injury or loss to you, to the property, or to anyone 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 have to suffer if the Court didn't make the order.

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My neighbour’s trees overhang our property and need to be trimmed. Who should pay for this?

If the tree is overhanging your property, but is not causing any damage to your property, then you are responsible for the costs of cutting it back as far as the boundary.

If the tree has caused damage to your property (for example, the tree's growth has damaged your drains, wall or fence) and you cannot agree with your neighbour about who should pay for the repairs, you can apply to the Disputes Tribunal or District Court for a decision.

If your neighbour has been issued with a District Court order to cut back their tree, then you are responsible for paying for the work unless the court decides the neighbour is responsible because of their conduct. The Court may also require that the neighbour compensate you for any damage caused to your property as a result of removing or trimming the tree.

If your neighbour has been issued a Court order to cut back the tree and hasn’t done so within 20 working days, you can (with the neighbour’s or the Court’s permission) go onto the neighbour’s property and carry out this work. 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.