Tree disputes between neighbours – A different branch of law.

Do you have issues with trees on a neighbouring property? Are your neighbour’s trees causing damage to your property or impacting your views?

Trees on private property in NSW are governed by the Trees (Disputes Between Neighbours) Act 2006 (the “Act”). This Act provides avenues for property owners where a neighbour’s tree has either:

a) Caused or is likely to cause damage to the affected neighbour’s property or injury to any person; or

b) A hedge (which is defined to be 2 or more trees that are planted and rise to height of more than 2.5 metres) which blocks an owner’s sunlight or view.

Is your view valuable?

Each view from a property is different. As such, the Court seeks to look at each view separately when determining whether they are impeded by trees or hedges. The case of Tenacity Consulting v Warringah Shire Council [2004] NSWLEC 140 outlined a series of steps in assessing whether a view is able to be impeded:

Step 1: The Court will assess the view that is affected. Simply put, what is the view of?

Step 2: The Court will consider which part of the property the view is from and whether it is a standing or sitting view.

Step 3: The Court will assess the impact of the trees/hedge on the view.

What can you do? 

To avoid costly disputes with neighbours, it is always best to have a discussion with the neighbour relating to the impacting tree. In fact, the Act requires evidence of this occurring prior to hearing any application in the Land and Environment Court.

What if I’m barking up the wrong tree and my neighbour refuses to cooperate?

In the circumstance that your neighbour refuses to negotiate with you regarding a disputed tree, you are able to file an application with the Land and Environment Court to have your case heard. The Court is able to make such orders as it thinks fit to remedy, restrain or prevent:

  1. Damage to property or injury to persons;
  2. The severe obstruction of sunlight to a window of a dwelling or any view from a dwelling on the applicant’s land.
What will the Court consider?

The Court will consider a variety of factors in making its decision, including, but not limited to:

  1. The location of the trees in relation to the boundary of the land;
  2. The height of the trees;
  3. Whether interference with the trees requires consent from other authorities; and
  4. The intrinsic value of the tree.

It is always best to speak with your neighbour directly to avoid any disputes and come to an agreement. In the event that a dispute arises, you should seek legal advice prior to taking any action against your neighbour.

Whilst cases in the Land and Environment Court are mostly self-represented, it is important to understand your legal rights first and speak with a legal professional. Our team at Southern Waters Legal can help guide you in the right direction to resolve any neighbourly disputes. If you would like further information or specific advice in relation to a dispute please do not hesitate to contact our team on (02) 9523 5535.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is provided as general information only. It is not intended to be legal advice and it should not be used or relied on as legal or professional advice.