Neighbours would bicker over anything, even trees. Innocuous as they are, trees are the culprit behind lengthy, hostile disputes between neighbours in Australia.
Branches dropping into your yard, roots causing damage to your property, branches hanging over your fence – all these can disrupt a peaceful day at home and may lead to legal actions. But before taking matters into court, consider talking it out with your neighbour.
Connolly Suthers, a firm handling property law cases in Queensland, says it’s always best to resolve disputes directly with your neighbour. It’s quicker, less costly and less stressful that way. In all cases, proceeding with a legal dispute is the last resort.
If the tree affects you, and you’re addressing the issue for the first time, here’s the best way to approach the situation:
- Find out the best way to engage your neighbour; a hostile position will most likely be counterproductive
- Alternately, write a letter stating the problem clearly, and stick to the facts
- Speak to the landlord if your neighbour is a tenant
- Speak to your neighbour face-to-face for a more personal, casual interaction
- Discuss how the trees are affecting your comfort and enjoyment of land
- Show optimism that you can resolve the issue without escalating it to court
People don’t always respond the way you expect them to, and sometimes a dispute is inevitable. In this case, get legal help to facilitate the resolution or assist you in taking the case forward. Under the appropriate conditions, here’s what you can do:
- Know your legal rights concerning trees growing on a neighbour’s land that affect you
- Exercise the right of abatement – the right to remove disruptive branches and roots
- Give them a notice to remove the problem branches
If your neighbour refuses to comply with an order without a reasonable excuse, they may pay a fine of up to $100,000.
In the spirit of peace and good will, best hope you won’t need the court’s intervention. If, however, you can’t reach an informal resolution, the next best thing is competent legal assistance to advise and support you through the process.