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What To Do if a Neighbour’s Tree is Affecting You

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Trees can be a common problem between neighbours and can often be the source of a real dispute and bad feeling. However, there are definitely certain ways to approach this situation and there are some things that you can do legally if you’re unable to reach a solution. You should definitely approach your neighbour calmly and openly, you may often find that they weren’t even aware of the problem in the first place.

Common problems may include:

  • Branches overhanging
  • Branches blocking light, obstructing solar panels and TV reception
  • Falling leaves or fruit into your garden or pool
  • Roots causing damage to your property

How Do I Know Who is Responsible For The Tree?

Mostly it’s the registered landowner the tree is growing on, and they are referred to as the ‘tree-keeper’. However, the ‘tree-keeper’ may also be an organisation or body corporate. In this instance, it can be more difficult to reach someone with authority and it may take more time, but because corporations are legal entities then they will usually be more compliant with rectifying the problem.

What Can I legally Do Myself?

First of all, you should have discussed with your neighbour or the tree keeper. If they are unwilling to resolve the problem and you have kept a record to show good faith, there are certain things you may legally do yourself, but you should inform the tree keeper of this. You can simply exercise your common law right of abatement and simply remove the branches or roots that cross your boundary line. You may or may not offer to return the branches, but you must check to comply with any tree protection laws.

Can I Force My Neighbour to Cut Down a Tree?

You can’t legally “make” them cutdown the entire tree, but you can sue for the cost of damages or proceed as above and deal with just the overhanging roots or branches yourself and sue for the cost of repair.

What if You Can’t Agree on a Solution?

If you don’t want to tackle the problem yourself or go through the bother of suing them (which is understandable and will almost certainly lead to future acrimony) then you can issue them with a SACAT (South Australia Civil and Administrative Tribunal) which can be requested here. The SA government will make a legally enforceable decision on the matter in the form of an order. This will come with its own timeframe, specifics and caveats etc (like what happens if they don’t comply) but in most cases should prompt action. Do note though that just tree litter like leaves, seeds and fruit dropping into your property will not be regarded as substantial enough of a problem to warrant a SACAT.

What You Shouldn’t Do

Try to avoid getting into a full scale argument as this won’t help, even if you know you are in the “right”. Give them the number of your local Arborist in Adelaide and suggest they get a price and some impartial advice. Definitely don’t chop the tree down, as not only will this be illegal but it’s also dangerous.