We Kiwis love our outdoor spaces, but things can get tricky when someone else’s property encroaches on our own property. 

It’s fairly common for a neighbour’s tree (or trees) to eventually grow enough that it crosses the official boundary line and starts taking up space on your property. This is known as encroachment, and can be a real point of contention amongst neighbours. 

So how do you remove the offending branches from your property, without offending your neighbour?

Who owns the offending tree?

Legally speaking, the owner is whoever owns the property the tree is growing on. 

Therefore, if the base of the tree is on the neighbour’s side of the fence, they also own any overhanging branches on your side of the fence. This includes any fruit that’s growing on those branches. 

That means you are not supposed to  go ahead and pick fruit or flowers from their tree, even if they are over your property line. However, it’s a different story when it comes to cutting branches back. 

Managing overhanging branches

If your neighbours branches are overhanging onto your property, you can technically trim them back as far as the property line. 

However, it’s common courtesy and best practice to talk to them first. Most reasonable people will understand that if branches are blocking your light or your view, or are dropping dead leaves or flowers onto your property, that you might want to cut them back. 

Talking to them first can also help you come to an agreement. For example, cutting branches back to the property line might result in a tree that looks lopsided or unattractive. You might be able to agree on trimming the tree back equally and therefore leave it looking aesthetically pleasing. 

Many neighbours can come to an agreement about tree trimming simply by talking it through, but the question often remains: who pays? 

Who pays for tree maintenance? 

Even if your neighbour is happy for the branches to be trimmed back to the property line, they may not be as accepting if it comes at a cost. 

The first and best option is to talk to them and come to an arrangement. Often if you say that you are prepared to pay for it, you are likely to get a more positive reception and find that you can come to an agreement. Perhaps you can agree to share the cost equally between you, considering it’s their tree but you’re the one who wants to trim it. 

Alternatively, you can just let the conversation flow and see if they offer!

If you are unable to come to an agreement and if you are unhappy to cover the cost of tree maintenance, you do have the option of applying to the District Court to order your neighbour to trim (or remove) the tree. 

Keep in mind, the judge will require a good reason for your request, such as the tree blocking your view, risking your property, or filling your gutters with leaves etc. You can read more about the conditions under which a judge might approve your request on the Community Law website

Tree trimming and removal with Armes Trees Solutions 

Armes Trees Solutions provides professional tree trimming and pruning across the Wellington region. 

Using our services will help to ensure the result you’re looking for, while also maintaining the health and beauty of the tree. 

Get in touch today to let us know about the encroaching tree/s and get your free, no-obligation quote for a trim or removal.