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How To Resolve Tree Disputes With Neighbours

Dec 16, 2022

Trees offer many incredible benefits to us. They offer shade, increase the value of our property, give to the environment and many more. Sometimes, they can also be the root cause of many neighbour disputes that can leave everyone feeling a bit prickly and can often turn into a nasty legal battle. If you happen to find yourself in this situation, the Queensland Government has existing rules and regulations for resolving tree disputes with neighbours. Let’s discuss the steps you can take to address these challenges and get you back on the barbie list!

What Is Considered a Tree Dispute?

A tree dispute is any disagreement between neighbours involving trees on their respective properties. They can include:

  • Trees that block sunlight, solar panels or TV reception
  • Branches that are overhanging on fences
  • Branches or fruit dropping on yards
  • Branches or Roots that cause damage to properties

It is important for both parties to be familiar with and understand their rights and obligations within applicable laws before attempting to resolve the dispute themselves.

What To Do When Resolving Tree Disputes Between Neighbours

Suppose you find yourself in a tree dispute with a neighbour, there are some steps you can take to resolve the issue as amicably as possible.

Talk To Your Neighbour

Speak directly to your neighbour to discuss your concerns. Approach them calmly and clearly explain why the tree is causing an issue for you. They may not be aware that the tree is causing a problem, so give them time to understand the situation and consider any proposed solutions before taking further action. 

Get Acquainted With Your Local Tree Laws

Queensland has specific laws that relate to protecting trees. The most relevant law for resolving tree disputes between neighbours is the Neighbourhood Disputes (Dividing Fences and Trees) Act 2011. Here are some of the vital information you should know:

  • A tree-keeper, who, in most cases, is the registered owner of the lot the tree is growing on (it can be an individual, body corporate or organisation), has an obligation to maintain any trees situated on their property and to ensure they do not affect the neighbour’s land or structure (e.g., fence). However, they are NOT permitted to damage or interfere with trees on another person’s property. 
  • What you can legally do, even without your neighbour’s permission, is to exercise the common law right of abatement, which means you can remove overhanging branches and roots from your boundary line. When doing this, ensure you comply with applicable tree and vegetation protection orders. You also have the choice to return the discarded tree parts to your neighbour or dispose of them.
  • Before investigating and seeking legal action, you can send them a letter of notice to address the issues and give them reasonable time to take and correct action.

Seek Professional Advice From A Tree Consultant

If talking with your neighbour does not seem to resolve the matter, engaging a Tree Consultant can help you with the next steps. They can assess the situation, recommend tree maintenance services that may alleviate the issue and offer an unbiased view of the situation.

You also have the option to send an application to Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT), a body that can enforce a legal decision or order regarding the matter. Tree Consultants are able to produce the appropriate Arborist Reports you may need to support your application.

You can engage a solicitor that will be able to effectively advise on appropriate and fair action, how to protect your rights and ensure that any legal proceedings are conducted fairly, efficiently and effectively.

Resolving Tree Disputes Between Neighbours: The Earlier Addressed, The Better

Tree disputes between neighbours can be tricky, but they do not have to lead to an all-out conflict or costly court cases if handled properly. Ultimately, it’s always best practice for both parties involved to remember that in any tree dispute, compromise is key. If you need Tree Consulting services, please contact us.

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