Information about the responsibility of trees on private property.
Frequently Asked Questions
I have a tree growing in my garden. What are my responsibilities?
All trees in private ownership are the responsibility of the owner of the land on which they grow; whether or not they are subject to statutory protection. If you have freehold ownership of land upon which a tree grows you are responsible for it, unless you have leased the land to a third party who, through the terms of the lease, has accepted this responsibility. The Council does not have responsibility for and does not undertake work to privately owned trees.
The owner of a tree owes a duty of care to all third parties and is at all times liable for any nuisance or damage the tree causes. If you are aware of a defect in your tree and damage subsequently results, you may be held liable for negligence. The duty of care extends even to persons who may trespass onto your land.
The branches of my neighbour's tree extend over my property, what can I do?
Common law allows you to prune trees that are not protected by a Tree Preservation Order or are in a Conservation Area and hedges overhanging your land and the roots growing under your land up to your boundary without the consent of the owner, but you must not trespass on to your neighbour's land to do this. In addition you must offer to return the wood and any fruit attached or which has fallen on to your land.
You do have a duty of care for the tree and may be liable for damages if any work you do, or ask others to do for you, causes the tree to die or become dangerous.
If the tree is protected by a Tree Preservation Order or is in a Conservation Area common law rights do not apply and consent must be sought and obtained in writing from the Council before any work takes place, this includes to branches which extend over your property. You can apply for the necessary consent and do not have to rely on your neighbour to do this.
My neighbours have planted a tree very close to our boundary. Can they do this?
There is no law preventing any person planting or growing a tree anywhere on his/her property. Neither is there any restriction upon the size to which they may grow it.
However any person who plants a poisonous tree so close to a boundary that its branches grow over that boundary and are eaten by a neighbour's livestock, may be held liable for damages. If however a neighbour's livestock reach over to the tree owner's side of the boundary to eat the leaves, the tree owner will not be liable unless he/she has a legal responsibility to maintain the boundary.
My neighbour's tree is blocking my light. What can I do?
There is no prescriptive right to light. Any case in respect of loss of light must be proven in the Civil Court. If successful, an injunction may be served by the Court requiring the offending trees to be reduced in height or restricting their further growth. Court action is likely to be expensive.
My neighbour's trees are blocking my view. What can I do ?
Nothing except speak to your neighbour and ask him/her to remedy the situation. There is no right to a view. Experience suggests that keeping good, friendly, relations with your neighbour is more likely to lead to a satisfactory outcome or at least an acceptable compromise. Offering to pay for the work needed to solve your problem may help but the owner of the trees has the final say. The Council will not become involved in mediation or advising you or your neighbour on these matters.
My neighbour's tree is causing damage to my property. What can I do?
If you believe your property to be suffering direct or indirect damage by tree roots, you are best advised to consult an arboricultural consultant (tree care specialist) or a building surveyor. There will usually be evidence of damage such as deformation, bowing or cracking of walls, uneven surfacing or blocked drains. If this is the case you should notify your building insurer who may initiate further investigations and negotiate with the tree owner and their insurer. In cases where damage is proven, the tree owner or their insurers are likely to be liable.
The Council will not take sides in any dispute over trees which it does not own. If you need help in any matter you should consult a solicitor or your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
I don’t know who owns the land on which the tree stands, what can the Council do to help?
The Council does not keep records of land ownership except for land owned by the Borough Council but you can establish land ownership information from the website of Land Registry or you can call 01159 351166. A charge is made for this information.
Enquiries in respect of whether land is owned by the Borough Council should be made to:
Head of Law and Administration
Stafford Borough Council
ST16 3 AQ
Tel: 01785 619000
Fax: 01785 619119
We publish advice on a range of matters including through Frequently Asked Questions on the following topics:-
- Who has responsibility for trees in Stafford Borough?
- Tree Preservation Orders
- Trees in Conservation Areas
- Trees believed to be dangerous
- Damage to property alleged to be caused by trees
- Employing tree consultants and contractors
- Looking after your trees
- Problems with high hedges
- Hedgerow removal
Please note that information contained on this and other pages relating to trees is written for the benefit of tree owners and the general public. procedures. It is for guidance only and is not a statement of the law. You should consult a solicitor if you are unsure of your legal rights or obligations.