Can we be forced to hack back our tree?

My neighbour has asked me to cut down some tree branches because they might damage her car. Could she make a claim against our house insurance?
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© Merrily Harpur

Question: We have a tree in our front garden with a couple of branches overhanging the driveway belonging to our next-door neighbours, who are tenants.

They agreed to let a woman who lives nearby park in the driveway and she has asked me to cut down these branches because they might damage her car. Is she pushing her luck and, if a branch falls on her car, could she make a claim against our house insurance?

Answer: The tree is your responsibility and you acknowledge it is overhanging your neighbours' drive. Speak to the woman about her concerns — if she thinks the tree is diseased or rotten then you may wish to ask an arboriculturist to inspect it and advise you.

It appears that the lady has been given permission to park on the driveway and it is irrelevant to you whether she is a tenant, licensee or the owner of the property. She has expressed her concerns to you about the overhanging branches and if you do nothing and the branches do fall and damage her car, then you could be liable if you were negligent. She cannot claim on your house insurance but may bring a claim against you, in which case you may wish to involve your own insurers.

Your neighbours — whether its the property owner, the tenants, or them acting through the car owner or some other agent — could cut back any part of your tree as far as the boundary line. Anything they cut off belongs to you and so they can give those parts back to you. If you live in a conservation area or the tree is subject to a preservation order, consent for lopping may be needed — and if you need to access your neighbours' drive to lop the branches, remember to ask permission.



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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.



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