Tree disputes between neighbours

Posted on Sep 21, 2019 by Peter Mullen   |   Categories: Litigation & Dispute Resolution

Trees and hedges are a common cause of disputes between neighbours. For example, your neighbour’s tree may be causing damage to your property, or a hedge on their property may be obstructing sunlight or views from your property.

If you are unable to reach an agreement with your neighbour about how to resolve the dispute, you may want to seek orders from the NSW Land and Environment Court by filing a tree dispute application.

Such applications are made under the Trees (Disputes Between Neighbours) Act 2006 (the Trees Act) which provides a simple and user-friendly mechanism for resolving tree disputes.

Jurisdiction of the Court
The Trees Act only applies to trees that are wholly or principally situated on your neighbour’s land. The land must also be zoned residential, rural-residential, village, township, industrial or business. This extends to some Crown land but does not include council land.

What is a Tree?
The Trees Act defines a tree as any woody perennial plant, any plant resembling a tree in form and size, and any other plant prescribed by the regulations. This includes shrubs, bamboo and some vines.

A hedge is defined as comprising two or more trees that have been planted to form a hedge and have reached a height of at least 2.5 metres.

What Orders Can The Court Make About a Tree?
An owner of land may apply to the Court for an order to remedy, restrain or prevent damage to property, or to prevent injury to any person, as a consequence of a tree on adjoining land.

The Court can only make an order if the tree has caused, is causing, or is likely in the near future to cause, damage to your property, or is likely to cause injury to any person.

What Orders Can The Court Make About a Hedge?
An owner of land may apply to the Court for an order to remedy, restrain or prevent a severe obstruction of sunlight to a window of their home, or any view from their home as a consequence of trees. Remember, a hedge comprises 2 or more trees. This part of the Trees act therefore does not apply to single trees.

The Court can only make an order if it is satisfied that the trees are causing a severe obstruction, and the severity and nature of the obstruction is such that any proposed action to remove, remedy or restrain the trees outweighs your neighbour’s desire not to disturb or interfere with the trees.

The Court can order a range of remedies. These typically include orders for removal or pruning, rectification of damage, and compensation.

Talk To Your Neighbour First
It is important to remember that the Court will only make an order about a tree or a hedge if the person making the application has made a reasonable effort to reach an agreement with their neighbour first.

If you are experiencing a dispute with your neighbour about a tree or hedge contact Baker Love Lawyers to discuss your legal options.