If you are lucky enough to live in the tropics, you will know that the wonderful weather means that vegetation grows quickly and can soon get out of hand. Tree disputes among neighbours are not uncommon and can cause tension and ill-feeling in a neighbourhood. This article addresses the most common tree issues that occur between neighbours and what you can do to resolve them.

By Kirsten Lesina

Overhanging branches

If your neighbour’s trees overhang your property, you have two options to address the issue. The first option is to utilise the common law right of abatement – this means you can remove any branches which overhang your property. You do not have to return any branches or fruit which you remove from your neighbour’s tree.

The second option is to serve your neighbour with a Notice for Overhanging Branches. This gives your neighbour 30 days to remove the branches and if they don’t respond, you can either remove the branches yourself or arrange for someone else to remove them. You can then apply to QCAT to claim up to $300 from your neighbour to contribute to the removal costs.

Interference with use and enjoyment of land

Trees can become a point of tension between neighbours when they interfere with the use and enjoyment of one neighbour’s land. Trees can interfere with the use and enjoyment of land if they:

  • interfere with television reception or solar panels;
  • create a substantial and ongoing accumulation of tree litter;
  • obstruct a view in some circumstances;
  • shade sunlight from windows in some circumstances; or
  • cause damage to your property (e.g. tree roots damaging a fence or concrete path).

In order to try to maintain good neighbourhood relations, it is generally best in the first instance to raise the issue directly with your neighbour. If your neighbour does not agree to negate the nuisance, you can apply to QCAT for an order to resolve the issue. QCAT has a wide discretion to make orders that suit the particular circumstances of each matter. Examples of orders QCAT can make include:

  • to remove a tree;
  • to trim or lop a tree annually; or
  • for compensation for damage to property.

If you make an Application to QCAT, you will be sent to dispute resolution to attempt to resolve the dispute without the need to appear before the Magistrate or Tribunal Member.

Tenants and Landlords

Tree disputes can become more difficult to resolve when one of the properties involved is a rental property. If you are renting a property and a neighbour’s tree interferes with your use and enjoyment of the property, you should contact your landlord or real estate agent in the first instance and ask them to take action to address the issue. If your landlord or real estate agent does not take the requested action, you can make the relevant application to QCAT yourself, although you will need to provide evidence that your landlord or real estate agent refused to act.

How we can help

If you have an issue with a tree on your neighbour’s land, we can provide you with advice on how to proceed and can assist you with drafting a QCAT Application if required. Please contact our friendly solicitors if you need assistance.