Responsibilities of a Tree Owner - Neighbouring Land
A tree owner has a responsibility, known in law as 'the duty of care', to take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which he or she could reasonably foresee may result in harm or injury to people or property of neighbouring land.
When a tree growing on land owned by 'A' is indirectly interfering with the 'use or enjoyment' of land owned by 'B', this known in law as nuisance, for example by encroaching roots or branches.
Where nuisance occurs, B has the right to remove the roots or branches. This is known as abating a nuisance. Note that any roots or branches (including any fruit) removed must be returned to the owner of the tree.
However, it is important to remember that the occupier of plot B also has a duty of care towards the owner of plot A. B must not exercise their right of abatement in such a way as to cause harm to A, for example by causing a tree to become unstable.
When a tree on plot A is directly interfering with the 'use or enjoyment' of the owner of plot B, this is known in law as trespass. It may be possible for the affected landowner to seek financial compensation from the tree owner. Alternatively, they may seek an injunction to have the offending roots or branches removed.
Where a tree (such as a yew) is poisonous to animals or (less commonly) to humans, the tree owner must ensure that its branches are not allowed to grow over neighbouring land where any poisonous parts may be eaten. Neither must pruned branches or clippings be left where they could be eaten.
For specific advice, with respect to the law, please seek qualified legal opinion. For general advice please contact us.
Veteran Trees: A Guide to Risk and Responsibility published by English Nature