As Spring is officially upon us and the growing season the problem of branches of both trees and shrubs extending onto an adjoining property arises.

The basic legal position is that a tree or shrub will remain in the ownership of the land on which it was planted even when its trunk, roots or branches extend onto an adjoining property. However technically the encroachment of branches or roots of trees or shrubs from neighbouring land is a nuisance and if actual damage is caused by the offending branches or roots then a civil action will lie in nuisance against the owner of the trees or shrubs.

There is a right to cut overhanging branches without the need to give any notice to the owner although this must be carried out without going on to the adjoining land since otherwise this would be to commit trespass. The right of removal extends as far as the point where the offending branch overhangs the boundary line.

However, the owner of the land troubled by the overhanging branches is not entitled to keep any fruit growing on a severed branch or indeed the wood itself and this should be placed back on the adjoining land. Should the fruit accidentally happen to fall from the overhanging branches then this can be kept.

The same situation applies to encroaching roots and, particularly if the roots are causing damage, it will be possible to obtain an injunction to restrain the adjoining owner from causing or allowing the roots to encroach on the land or even requiring the tree to be removed altogether.

Should trees or hedges overhang a public highway or footpath and if they endanger or obstruct the passage of vehicles or pedestrians, the local authority and the Secretary of State for Transport have the power to lop or prune such trees or hedges. A similar situation arises if the trees are dead, diseased, damaged or insecurely rooted and are likely to cause danger by falling on to the public highway or footpath.

It sometimes happens that a property is plagued by weeds extending from a badly maintained adjoining garden. The position is the same as with trees and branches. You have a right to remove these offending weeds provided you return them to the adjoining land!

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