Published: 03-07-2018 | Updated: 04-09-2018
Ownership of Trees that have been planted on or near to a property boundary is not always apparent. The encroachment of tree branches or tree roots onto one of the adjoining properties often results in damage or injury and so it is important to know where to find the answer to ownership and/or maintenance responsibility. This article addresses the issues involved and explains how you should proceed.
Ownership of Trees
Ownership of trees belongs to the owner of the land upon which they are planted. The whole of the tree is owned by him, including parts of the tree that encroach on the neighbour's land.
Who Owns the Land?
Ownership of the land can be ascertained by looking at the Title Register for the land concerned. (If there is no postal address the Title Register is obtained using our Map Search). The B section of the Title Register will contain the name and address of the property owner.
Who Owns the Boundary?
Most disputes relating to trees relate to trees that adjoin a property boundary, so the answer to the above question as to who owns the land, is often not as straight-forward as looking at the Title Register on its own.
There are two definitions of boundary:
The legal boundary is a hypothetical line drawn by a person having authority to do so, on a map between two adjoining properties. This is not usually drawn with any degree of precision, however, and marks the boundary in a general way only.
The physical boundary is that observed from a site inspection by looking at the dividing posts, fences, trees, hedges, etc. This may differ from the legal boundary, but would take priority. However, one must also look at evidence in the Land Registry documents that may define the boundary positions more precisely, and interpret them in conjunction with an examination of the physical boundary.
In most cases a study of the documents provided with our Boundary Search will answer the question of boundary ownership, and thus, the ownership of the trees. This would be so, even if the other property boundary was that of an adjoining lane or woodland.
Trees Planted as Boundary Trees
A boundary tree is tree that has a trunk, roots or branches that encroach on the adjoining property or in its air space. Sometimes boundary trees are referred to as border trees.
Where a tree is planted as part of a boundary it will be assumed, unless there is evidence to the contrary (which would usually be shown by our Boundary Search), that the trees are jointly owned and jointly maintainable. This would normally be obvious by noting the boundary line passing through the centre of the tree trunks.
Our Boundary Search contains copies of the Title Registers, Title Plans and Conveyancing Deeds, Deeds Plans, Leases and Lease Plans for each adjoining Property. It also contains a lengthy, illustrated guide book which contains many real-life examples, together with extracts from the documents, and together with full details of legal boundary presumptions that apply where there is no evidence to the contrary. The cost of this search is £89.50.
Obtain Boundary Search
Rights of Non-Owner in relation to Encroaching Trees
Any tree roots or branches that encroach on the adjoining property can be removed by the owner of that property. They can only be removed as to the length of the encroached parts. If the tree has caused damage to the adjoining property there may be a right to sue in tort for damages, although this will be limited by the non-owner's right to help himself as stated above.
Informal Boundary Agreement
Where ownership of the Boundary remains unclear, despite a study of the Boundary Documents, the cheapest way to resolve the issue may be to create an Informal Boundary Agreement, which can then be noted on the Title Register for each property.
Informal Boundary Agreement