Your Common Law rights allow you to remove branches that cross over your boundary without the need to seek your neighbour's permission. Notifying your neighbour of your intentions is always advisable. However, you must not cross the boundary to do so unless your neighbour or the landowner gives you permission. For example, leaning a ladder over the boundary to rest against the trunk of the tree could be classed as trespass. You should not dispose of the branches or any other waste material from the tree over your fence into your neighbour's garden, but first ask your neighbour if they wish to have the material returned to them. If they don't want it, it will be your responsibility to dispose of it. If a tree is protected by a Tree Preservation Order, or is located within a Conservation Area, the Common Law right is removed and you will need to seek formal permission from the Council before undertaking the work.
Technically your neighbour only has a duty to ensure their trees are safe. There is currently no height restriction on trees. If you have concerns regarding a tree ask your neighbour how they intend to maintain it: you may be able to cut the overhanging branches back to the boundary. However, before either you or your neighbour undertakes works to any trees it is important to check the trees are not covered by a Tree Preservation Order, or located within a Conservation Area.
The high hedges legislation was introduced on 1 June 2005 under Part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 and applies to evergreen and semi-evergreen hedges of over 2m in height. Information on this may be found on the gov.uk website. The legislation provides for those who feel that a neighbour´s hedge is hindering the reasonable enjoyment of their property to submit a formal complaint to the Council. The Council will then investigate the matter and may, if considered appropriate, serve a notice on the hedge owner requiring them to reduce the hedge in height. The complaint form is available by request from the Trees section 01274 434605. In most cases a £100 refundable fee is applicable. In most cases, it is possible for neighbours to agree upon a course of action between them without a formal complaint being necessary. This is certainly the preferable approach for all concerned. If you are unable to reach agreement with your neighbours, try contacting a local mediation service.
Tree roots may potentially cause damage to built structures in two ways:
Direct damage – is caused when the physical expansion of tree roots or stem lifts paving stones or cracks walls etc. Due to the weight of a house no amount of physical expansion will affect it - but garden walls and small structures such as garages or outbuildings might be at risk.
Indirect damage – can be caused to larger structures such as houses when trees roots grow underneath the foundations, extract the water there causing clay soils to shrink and the structure to subside. If a building has been built on clay soil near an existing tree, and that tree is then removed, the soil may expand which can cause heave (like the opposite of subsidence). Modern building standards mean that the risk to newer buildings tends to be isolated and the council will expect new buildings to be built to industry guidance and therefore they should not subside due to trees that were in existence at the time they were built. It must be noted that tree related subsidence is fairly rare in the Bradford District because there are few areas of the highly shrinkable clay needed to cause significant structural problems to houses. However, should you believe that trees are the cause of cracking to property then you should consult with your insurers to determine the probable cause.
There are no consistent rules of thumb or credible guidance as to how close trees need to be to cause possible damage although there is such on the internet which the council has found to be quite misleading. Many trees and houses co-exist happily very close to each other.
It is very unusual for roots to physically break drains and associated pipe work. However, tree roots can be opportunistic and if an old pipe with poor joints is leaking into the surrounding soil this will attract the roots that may then exploit the existing weakness. Then, when repairs are required, a proliferation of tree roots often leads to the blame being placed with a nearby tree. However replacement of faulty drains/pipes with modern materials will usually eliminate the leak and stop problems from reoccurring. Again if you believe tree roots have caused damage to structures you should consult your insurers.
Cutting the roots of any tree is generally ill-advised as it may affect the tree's health and stability. If a tree is covered by a Tree Preservation Order, or if it stands in a Conservation Area an application will be required before root pruning can take place. You can apply online.
The loss of branches from trees is not necessarily indicative that there is a problem as usually branch shedding is confined to those branches that were already dead within the crown and limb loss in high winds is usually a natural biological process. However, it can be extremely worrisome and a possible risk to passersby, traffic and property. You should instruct a tree surgeon or consultant to assess the tree for safety and they should advise you how best to proceed which might include pruning to lessen any future potential risk. Please check to see if the tree is protected with the Council first.