Know your boundaries

Problems often occur between neighbours over boundaries, specifically the height of hedges or trees. For example, if you think a hedge is too high or branches from your neighbour’s trees are overhanging into your garden. It’s always better to try to resolve things informally if you and your neighbour disagree about a problem with a tree or hedge, it’s best to try to resolve things informally.

If you rent your home, talk to your landlord about the problem. They might be able to deal with the disagreement on your behalf.

Your neighbour can cut any branches that are overhanging into their garden as long as they only remove the bits on their side of the boundary. Your neighbour could report it to your local council if you do not check if it is protected by a Tree Preservation Order, you’ll have to ask the council for permission to cut the tree even if it’s yours or face a fine.

If the trunk or main stem of a tree or hedge is on your land, you own it. If it’s on the boundary between properties, you’ll need to check the legal documents you got when you bought your home. They’ll indicate where the boundary is and might say who’s responsible for the tree or hedge.

You can buy the documents from the Land Registry if you don’t have them – it only costs a few pounds. It might be a good idea to buy the documents for your neighbour’s house too – they might give information that’s not covered in yours. If it’s not clear where the boundary is, you can get help from RICS – they work with surveyors who can help with property problems.

Talk to your neighbour face to face if you can – make a note of what you agreed. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to them, write a letter or ask someone to contact them for you. Keep copies of any letters or emails you send or receive.

It’s not unusual for us to be selling a house where there’s a disagreement or dispute about a tree or a hedge and the neighbours sometimes come into visit us without the vendor being aware. They can be rather frustrated and expect us to be able to get involved on their behalf and ask the seller to deal with the problem. However, our advice is always to find a compromise, for example sharing the cost of pruning a hedge even though you think your neighbour owns it. It could help you keep a good relationship and might be cheaper than paying a solicitor to resolve the disagreement.