High Court awards neighbours £17k for damage caused by trees

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A trimmed Lawson Cypress hedge

The High Court has ruled that a woman in North London must pay £17,000 in compensation to her neighbours, for damage caused by cypress trees on her property. She said that she hadn't left the trees to grow so large out of malice, but because they were planted by her late-husband and she couldn't bear to dig them up.

So what are your rights if a neighbour's trees are causing you misery?


The case

In this instance, the court ruled that Helen Kane of Dennis Court in Stanmore, North London, should pay £17,269 in compensation to her ex-neighbours, Saquib and Shazia Khan, for the damage caused to their home. Her home insurers will cover the payout.

The Evening Standard reported that Kane had a row of Lawson Cypress Trees planted on her property, which first started to damage the Khan's home in 2006. A tree expert identified the cyprus trees as being to blame in 2007. At that point it would have cost up to £800 to remove the trees.

However, Kane was sentimentally attached to the trees, so they continued to damage her neighbours' home. They say that the damage caused a floor in their home to collapse and they had to move out temporarily for work to be done.

The Harrow Times reported that they took legal action, and the case went to the high court. The judge ruled that Kane was at fault, and awarded the Khans compensation for the cost of expert advice, surveys, remedial work, distress and inconvenience. He reduced the payout by 15% because the family delayed complaining directly to their neighbour.

The Khan's were disappointed with the payout, saying that the majority of the money would go to their insurer and that they would be left significantly out of pocket by the repairs. Mr Khan told the Standard that he had spent £500,000 rectifying problems with the property.

Kane said she could not stand to live at the property without the trees, and has sold up.

So what are your rights when it comes to your neighbours' trees?

If a hedge crosses into your property, you have the right to trim it back to the property boundary - but if you go any further your neighbour could take you to court for damaging their property. The branches and any fruit will belong to your neighbour - so check if they want them back.

Before you start, however, check whether there's a tree preservation order on the tree or if it's in a conservation area - if it is then you'll need permission to do any work. If you have to go into your neighbour's garden in order to cut the tree back you will also need their permission.

If the tree is blocking your light, you have no right to light across your garden. However, you do have rights if it is a hedge, over 2 metres tall, made of 2 or more mostly evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs, and either affecting your property or affecting your enjoyment of your home or garden, then you have the right to ask them to trim it back.

If they refuse, and you can show you made reasonable attempts to persuade them to cut the hedge back, you can contact your council for a complaint form. They can visit, make an assessment, and have the power to order your neighbour to cut the hedge.

If the tree in question is damaging your property, the tree owner will be liable for any damage. You are likely to need to get a specialist survey to identify your neighbour's tree as the cause, then you should contact your insurer to deal with the problem. They will liaise with your neighbour and their insurance company.

House photos guaranteed to put buyers off

House photos guaranteed to put buyers off