Trees and Neighbour Disputes in SEQ- the Lowdown

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Buyer Beware

Buying a property is a stressful business, before committing to a house, we view many properties, we find one that ticks the boxes, we make an offer and then hope it is accepted.  The relief is immense when the sale is agreed; you have a little piece of Australia that belongs to you, including all plants, trees, and shrubs. You move in and can only anticipate that your neighbours will be friendly and there will be no issues.  However, with owning your own home, sometimes comes the unfortunate reality of neighbour disputes and very often the dispute can be caused by trees.  Before purchasing a property, ask if there any ongoing tree disputes and also take into consideration any trees on your neighbours land which look like they may cause you a problem.

Trees Disputes Cause Stress

Being in a situation where you are in a dispute with your neighbour is stressful for all parties and can lower the overall feeling of enjoyment of your home.  There are many varying situations where trees can cause conflict between neighbours including:

  • Dropping a substantial amount of fruit, seeds, flowers leaves or debris,
  • Overhanging branches,
  • Blocking views and sunlight,
  • Refusal to remove potentially dangerous trees,
  • Tree branches interfering with television of satellite reception
  • Interferes with the functioning of solar panels.

There are two ways you can go about resolving the conflict, the first step is by opening lines of communication either by letter, phone or best of all, face to face.  Beginning the conversation and listening to your neighbour’s points of view is a good start will go a long way to preserving neighbourly relations.  However, if you are dealing with an unreasonable individual or relations have become too strained, you have the option of taking the legal route.


The Law and Tree Disputes

It is important to ascertain who is the lawful owner of the tree, in legal terms the owner is known as the Tree-Keeper; this is usually the registered owner of the land where the tree is growing and can be an individual, company or body corporate.  Tree-keepers have certain legal responsibilities to look after the trees which they own and how they must not negatively impact their neighbour’s property. The Queensland State Government’s ‘Neighbourhood Disputes Resolution Act 2011’ comprehensively covers the tree-keepers’ responsibilities for all the tree including roots which spread underneath the ground onto a neighbours’ property and what can be done if these responsibilities are not being taken seriously.

Know Your Rights

If you have an issue with your neighbours’ tree and they are refusing to fix the problem there are legal steps you can take to alleviate the issue. Thirty days’ written notice must be given to the neighbour using Form 3 for them to remove overhanging branches.  This will only apply to branches which are less than 2.5m above the ground and overhang more than 50cm.  If they fail to get the work done within 30 days there is a law which you can exercise called the common law right of abatement where you can remove roots and overhanging branches yourself, to your boundary line.  You are not as is commonly thought, legally required to return what you remove to your neighbours but you are perfectly within your rights to do so if you wish.  If you hire a tree work contractor to do the work for you, this is at the tree-keeper’s expense up to the value of $300 dollars per year.

Vegetation Protection Orders (VPO’s)

Before undertaking any tree work on your neighbours’ tree, always check with your local council it does not have a Tree or Vegetation Protection Order (VPO) attached to it as this means it is protected and you will have to gain permission from your local council to do any work.


Going -to-Qcat

Applying for a QCAT Order

If all else fails and you are unable to come to an agreement with your neighbour or the tree’s branches overhang by at least 0.5 m or are above the ground by 2.5m you can apply for a legally enforceable order from QCAT (The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal).  QCAT will ascertain whether the tree-keeper’s tree will negatively affect your use and enjoyment of your land; if it is likely to injure people or property over the next 12 months.

QCAT can make various orders including an inspection and report to be written by a Level 5 Qualified Consulting Arborist; annual maintenance work to be carried out on the tree and complete removal of the tree if required.  If a tree-keeper refuses to abide by the order without a reasonable excuse they can be fined up to $100,000 dollars.

Tree Experts

At Heritage Tree Care, our experienced and qualified Level 5 Consulting Arborist can advise you on the best steps to take in the event of a tree dispute, write reports and liaise with Council regarding VPO’s.  If you would like to hire a tree care company which provides a quality and professional tree service, who understand the benefits of proper tree maintenance and have the best interests of the customer and the environment at heart, call the Heritage Tree Care experts on 0737155444 for a free no obligation quote.  We cover Brisbane, Logan, Ipswich, Redlands, Toowoomba and Gold Coast area in SE Queensland, Australia