There are laws that relate to many common disputes between neighbours including damage or injury caused by a neighbour’s trees.
Disputes about trees generally relate to branches growing over fences, roots spreading across boundaries or other nuisances such as dropping leaves or seed which clog gutters.
It is not commonly known, but property owners are responsible for tree branches that overhang onto a neighbour’s property or for roots that spread across boundaries into a neighbour’s property.
If branches from a neighbour’s tree hang over your side of the fence, you can cut off the overhanging branch and place them on the neighbour’s side of the fence. If it is not practical to cut off the overhanging branches, then discussions should be had with the neighbour about getting a professional to lop the branches.
If roots from a neighbour’s tree cause damage to plumbing and foundations, then you can remove the roots that are on your side of the property. It is prudent to obtain expert opinions from plumbers or engineers in relation to the damaged caused by the tree roots, to help resolve disputes about the cause of the damage.
What can you do?
Currently in Victoria, neighbours are encouraged to informally resolve their disputes. However, often this does not have the desired effect as people are not aware of their rights and responsibilities. Further, matters can escalate quickly making it very difficult to continue living next door to each other.
Dispute resolution is a method encouraged to resolve these types of disputes. Mediation is a cost-effective process and can be attended to in a timely fashion. However, it is important to remember that mediation is not always successful, particularly in long running disputes.
In some situations, the only option to resolve the dispute is to take the matter to court. Court action is often costly, complex and time-consuming. Damages may be available where actual damage to property is shown. However, it is often difficult to prove that a tree caused the damage, especially where expert opinions differ.
The information on this website is of a general nature only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult a lawyer for individual advice about your particular circumstances.
Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.
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