Everybody needs good neighbours, but what can be done if someone refuses to be neighbourly?

Recent news reports that F1 driver Lewis Hamilton has upset his neighbours over plans to chop down mature trees at his residence in London, which is located within a conservation area, has brought the subject of good neighbours to the fore.

For the most part, neighbours are understanding when garden maintenance is needed, but what happens when a neighbour’s plant is growing across onto your property? And what can be done if a neighbour’s tree is blocking the light into your garden?

Hannah Jones, from DAS Law has the answers to those all-important questions.

Can you cut down branches that overhang into your garden?

The simple answer is yes, however there are a few important points to consider before you start cutting. It is always best to speak with a neighbour and ask them to take action or let them know you plan on cutting the branches that are overhanging into your garden.

If you are cutting any branches, then simply cut them to the boundary line ensuring that it will not kill the tree/foliage as this will otherwise put you at risk of liability for property damage. It is advisable to inform a neighbour that you plan to place the branches carefully back on their land as this is still their property. If you intend to dispose of them, then it is advisable you have your neighbour’s prior consent before doing so.

It is always worth considering whether there is a Tree Preservation Order on any particular trees as this can prohibit activities that can be carried out. However in cases where a neighbour’s tree is causing damage to your property, there could be a remedy to this provided the local planning department have given their prior agreement for you or your neighbour to take action.
Whose responsibility is it to repair or replace an adjoining fence?

Initially it is best to look at property deeds to assess whether it is clear who is obliged to fix a broken fence. In most cases deeds can be found through the Land Registry.

If the deeds are unclear, it may be necessary to consider whether a precedent has been set where one party has normally repaired the fence. If so, arguably you could ask that they take steps to fix it again. It is also possible for neighbours to agree between themselves who will fix a fence and how this would be done.