Responsibilities of a Tree Owner – a Landowners Guide

A tree belongs to and is the responsibility of whoever controls the land on which the tree is growing, usually the landowner, though it may be controlled by an agent or tenant by written agreement.


A tree owner has a responsibility in law known as the ‘duty of care’. When a tree owner fails to exercise his or her responsibility and harm or injury results, the tree owner may be subject to a claim for negligence.

The National Tree Safety Group outlines the ‘Key Steps in Tree Safety Management’ as follows.


A Tree Strategy

A tree strategy is a plan that guides management decisions and practice, in a reasonable and cost-effective way.


Keeping Records

Records provide the basis for tree safety management reviews and can support evidence of reasonable tree management.



Zoning is a practice whereby landowners and managers define areas of land according to levels of use. This practice prioritises the most used areas and focusing resources where most needed.


Trees within Falling Distance of Roads, Railways etc.

The greatest risk to public safety is from trees within falling distance of vehicles moving at speed. It is both the high usage of roads and the speed at which people travel along them that makes this scenario the most frequent cause of death or serious injury involving trees.


Trees in Infrequently Used Areas

The risk of death or serious injury from trees in infrequently used areas is so low that it is reasonable that these should receive no formal inspection or visual check. However, owners should respond to reports of problems.


Observation and Inspection

The three types of observations/inspections as follows:

Informal observations are day-to-day observations made by owners and employees of a site who have good local knowledge of the trees and the location and see them during the course of their daily lives and work.

Formal inspection is when a specific visit to the tree is made with the sole purpose of performing an inspection that is not incidental to other activities.

Detailed inspection should be applied for individual, high-value trees giving high-priority concern in well-used zones. The detailed inspection is normally prioritised according to the level of safety concern.



Tree safety management decisions need to balance hazard, risk and target with benefits.

For specific advice, with respect to the law, please seek qualified legal opinion.



APN 11 Trees and Hedge in Dispute published by AAIS

NTSG: Managing trees for safety by the National Tree Safety Group and published by the Forestry Commission