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Nuisance Trees

Trees can be a great feature to your home, but they can also become a nuisance. Here is some useful advice on how you and your neighbours can manage nuisance trees.

Advice on nuisance trees

The Manawatū District Council generally does not control the effects of nuisance trees on private property. Instead, Council defers to the Property Law Act.

The Property Law Act 2007 says property owners are responsible for any nuisance or damage their trees cause to neighbours, even if the trees were planted before they bought the property. If a neighbour's tree is causing a nuisance, you have a range of options available, from a friendly chat through to a court order.

You should first approach your neighbour and try to explain the problem as you see it, as you might be able to reach an amicable solution.

If you do seek a court order to have a tree trimmed or removed on your neighbour's property, in most circumstances you will be required to meet the cost of the work. You will also have to provide evidence of the nuisance and convince the court of the merits of the action you seek.

There are a number of well-qualified arborists in Manawatū who can provide good advice and services to deal with tree issues.

Roots, branches and leaves

The biggest issues with trees is when they cross the fence and affect your property. This may be blocking drains, dropping leaves or branches affecting your property.

Where tree roots block your drain the problem belongs to your neighbour, if the issues was presented to a court they would probably order removal of the tree. If the tree roots affect your garden you can dig them up and remove them, however do not use poison. If you kill the tree you will be liable as your rights stop at the fence.

If a neighbours tree drops leaves in your homes gutter you trim any branches back to the fence line, if the leaves come over from the tree on their side you could ask them to cut-back or remove the tree. If they decline you could get a court order.

If there are branches growing over the fence the law allows you to trim them back to the fence line.  If it is a big tree and you use an arborist this is a cost to you, you cannot claim it back from the neighbour.

Sunlight

If your neighbours trees are blocking sunlight from your house and garden you can insist they be cut back. If they decline you can take legal action and show the court that the tree has an adverse effect on your property or enjoyment of it. If the court agrees, the neighbour will have to cut those trees back.

Fruit

The fruit growing on a tree belongs to the owner of the tree. If your tree branch grows over the fence your neighbour is not entitled to take fruit from it. However, in the interest of neighbourly relations, and health of the tree, it is probably better to let them pick the fruit. The neighbour could exercise their right to cut off the branch at the fence line.

Fence damage

Where a neighbours tree is damaging the boundary fence they are liable for the cost of repairing the fence. If the problem is an ongoing nuisance the law says that the cause of the ongoing nuisance must be removed.

Obstructed views

Trees grow and overtime they can obstruct a view from your property. There is no direct requirement for the neighbour to remove or trim them. If negotiation with the neighbour fails, you can apply to the court for removal or trimming. The Court can consider the obstruction, but also other issues such as the value of the trees to the wider community. This process could be costly, and you may not win, so it is important to consider how much the tree is affecting you and your property and what the tree owner can reasonably be expected to do on his or her own land.