How high can my neighbours trees be

Maximum height of trees near houses

While trees enhance any neighbourhood, they can occasionally become a problem. If they do, it’s usually the result of poor care and management of the tree by the property owner.

Trees near houses law

In my article, Liability for tree roots and branches, I explain where you stand legally regarding the common issues of encroaching tree roots and overhanging branches. But another regular cause of concern is the height of trees on neighbouring land and specifically whether there is a maximum height of trees near houses.

Broadly, concern over the height of a tree falls into one of three categories – safety, light, or TV/Satellite reception. Each of those is covered below.

Neighbour’s trees are too tall

One of the most common questions I encounter is whether there is a law on conifer tree height. While there is no legislation restricting the height of any individual tree species, legislation does exist to restrict the height of evergreen hedges.

High Hedges Act

Often referred to colloquially as the High Hedges Act, Part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 gives powers to a local authority to serve a Remedial Notice on a landowner if:

  • they have an evergreen hedge consisting of at least two evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs; and
  • the hedge exceeds 2 metres in height; and
  • the hedge is a barrier to light to a neighbouring property.

This hedge height law requires you to raise your concerns with your neighbour before complaining to the local authority in writing. For more information on this procedure, see my article: Hedge Law UK.

Dangerous trees on private land

Every landowner has a general legal duty of care to ensure their trees do not pose an unacceptable risk to people or property. If they breach that duty, they will be liable for any reasonably foreseeable injury or damage that results.

Even if you consider your neighbour’s trees too tall, trees are not generally dangerous, whatever their height. On the contrary, statistically, they are very safe, with fatalities very rare. Trees have evolved to deal with various adverse conditions. Among other attributes, they are bio-mechanically equipped to cope with wind loading. However, trees can and do cause damage to property. See: Liability for tree roots and branches.

Dangerous trees in neighbour’s garden

Concern over the safety of a tree on neighbouring land requires careful handling. See: Dangerous trees on private land.

You may wish to seek advice from a tree surgeon. Although you should not access your neighbour’s property without their permission, a tree surgeon can usually spot a problem from a reasonable distance. If the tree is dangerous – in most cases the result of damage or disease – you can then speak to your neighbour armed with the relevant facts.

It’s always worth following this up in writing. If possible, post the letter through their letterbox yourself, keep a copy and note the date and time of delivery. If they fail to take action and injury or damage occurs, you can demonstrate they were on notice of the problem.

Section 23 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976

Section 23 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 provides local authorities with the discretionary power to deal with dangerous trees within their area. The tree must be at imminent risk of causing damage. This legislation also enables them to recover the reasonable cost of doing so from the landowner.

As a concerned neighbour, you may see this power as the simplest solution to the problem. However, landowners are not always readily identifiable or traceable. And even if they are, they may well be impecunious. As a result, exercising this power can end up being an irrecoverable expense for the local authority. For that reason, this is a discretionary power that most local authorities choose not to exercise. Indeed, most say so expressly saying so on their websites.

Neighbour’s trees blocking sunlight

Rights of light (or a right to light) is a legal easement giving a property owner the right to enjoy the light passing over somebody else’s land and through ‘defined apertures‘ in their building – typically windows. But it’s a common misconception that a homeowner can also acquire rights of light in their garden. In reality, the law provides no rights of light in respect of land that has not been built on.

Whether or not it’s a case of a neighbour’s trees blocking sunlight, the law concerning rights of light is not straightforward. See my article, Rights of Light explained.

Neighbours tree blocking satellite signal

It may come as a surprise to hear that being the holder of a TV licence or the subscriber to a satellite service, does not give you the right to a signal to your television, satellite receiver or radio. Rather, it merely allows you to own and use the device. So, if trees on neighbouring land affect your reception, there is no legal remedy available to you. Instead, you will have to rely upon neighbourly goodwill. If you believe that pruning or reducing the tree may solve the problem, you might offer to pay for, or largely contribute to, the cost of the work.

Please note that before undertaking any tree works, you should check with your local authority’s tree officer as to what rules and restrictions apply in your area, and whether you require permission. Specifically, it’s an offence to carry out unauthorised work on a tree that is subject to a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) or is within a conservation area. See: Tree Preservation Order overhanging branches.

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Tree Disputes with Neighbors FAQ

Frequently asked questions to help you deal with troublesome trees on or near your property.


  • Most of a big tree hangs over my yard, but the trunk is on the neighbor's property. Who owns the tree?
  • My neighbor killed my tree. Am I entitled to compensation for the tree?
  • My neighbor's tree looks like it's going to fall on my house any day now. What should I do?
  • Do I have to compensate my neighbors for damages caused by the spreading roots of a tree on my land?
  • If I have more questions about the trees on my property or my neighbor's property, what should I do next?
  • Can I trim the branches of the neighbor's tree that hang over my yard?
  • My neighbors complain that the tree in my backyard is too tall; do I have to trim it?

Most of a big tree hangs over my yard, but the trunk is on the neighbor's property. Who owns the tree?

Your neighbor owns the tree. It is accepted law in all states that a tree whose trunk stands wholly on the land of one person belongs to that person.

If the trunk stands partly on the land of two or more people, it is called a boundary tree, and in most cases it belongs to all the property owners. All the owners are responsible for caring for the tree, and one co-owner may not remove a healthy tree without the other owners' permission. As for who owns any fruit from the tree, however, that's another matter.

My neighbor killed my tree. Am I entitled to compensation for the tree?

Yes. The basic rule is that someone who cuts down, removes, or hurts a tree without permission owes the tree's owner money to compensate for the harm done. You can sue to enforce that right, but you probably won't have to, once you tell your neighbor what the law is.

My neighbor's tree looks like it's going to fall on my house any day now. What should I do?

You can trim back branches to your property line, but that might not solve the problem if you're worried about the whole tree coming down.

City governments often step in to take care of, or make the owner take care of, dangerous trees. Some cities have ordinances that prohibit maintaining any dangerous condition, including a hazardous tree, on private property. To enforce such an ordinance, the city can demand that the owner remove the tree or pay a fine. Some cities will even remove such a tree for the owner.

You might also get help from a utility company, if the tree threatens its equipment. For example, a phone company will trim a tree that hangs menacingly over its lines.

If you don't get help from these sources, and the neighbor refuses to take action, you can sue. The legal theory is that the dangerous tree is a "nuisance" because it is unreasonable for the owner to keep it and it interferes with your use and enjoyment of your property. You can ask the court to order the owner to prune or remove the tree. You'll probably have to sue in regular court (not small claims court) and have proof that the tree really does pose a danger to you.

Do I have to compensate my neighbors for damages caused by the spreading roots of a tree on my land?

Whether you are liable for damages to your neighbor's property caused by the spreading roots of a tree on your property depends on what state you live in. In most situations, a neighbor who is bothered or worried by encroaching branches or roots of a healthy tree won't be able to successfully sue the tree owner. Instead, the neighbor can go ahead and trim the tree himself. In some states, however, neighbors may sue under certain conditions, including:

  • If the tree encroaches onto the neighbor's property, the neighbor may sue to make the owner cut the branches, even if no damage has been done.
  • If the invading roots or branches cause serious harm to the neighbor's property or threaten to do so, the neighbor may sue. "Serious harm" ordinarily means structural damage to property, for example damaged roofs or walls, crushed pipes, clogged sewers, or cracked foundations.
  • If a tree encroaches on neighboring property, the neighbor may sue if the tree was planted, not "wild."
  • A neighbor may sue only if the tree is "noxious," in other words if it both causes actual damage and is inherently dangerous or poisonous.

In many other states the law is unclear. In these states, a case might be successful if the tree:

  • does substantial damage to the neighbor's property, or
  • seriously interferes with the neighbor's ability to use and enjoy the property.

In addition to finding out what the laws are in your state, there are other questions to answer in getting to the roots of this dilemma. What's the cost of the damage to the neighbors' septic system? Do you like these neighbors and want to keep a good relationship? How about splitting the cost? If you love your tree, how about your having the roots cut back professionally so that the neighbors don't damage the tree if they exercise their right to trim back the roots to your property line?

Sometimes, no matter what the law dictates, it's better to spend money to fix a situation instead of paying the same money to a lawyer and losing a neighbor.

Can I trim the branches of the neighbor's tree that hang over my yard?

You have the legal right to trim tree branches up to the property line. But you may not go onto the neighbor's property or destroy the tree itself.

My neighbors complain that the tree in my backyard is too tall; do I have to trim it?

Welcome to the club—neighbors who have a dispute about trees. To avoid an unpleasant dispute (or your neighbor trimming your tree on their own—and possibly botching the job), talk with your neighbors and find out exactly how much tree trimming would do the trick.

If it's not too much, and doesn't affect the health or aesthetics of your tree, consider making the trim. Your neighbors might be willing spring for the cost of the tree trimming (or at least split it). But you should hire a professional tree service to do the work , to assure a quality job that keeps your tree healthy and aesthetically pleasing.

If you are firmly opposed to trimming your tree—perhaps it screens your view of your neighbors' unsightly back yard—check your local tree ordinance to make sure the law is on your side. You might be violating local law if your tree (no matter how beautiful) presents a hazard to your neighbor (for example, if dangerous limbs hang over the neighbor's property), violates any height limits or view ordinances, or straddles the property line. If you're breaking the law by refusing to trim your tree, the results might be more than a bad relationship with your neighbor; you could find yourself in court if your neighbors sue you for interfering with the use and enjoyment of their property,

You can find out local tree rules by contacting your building or planning commission or checking local ordinances online. If your house is part of a homeowners' association with CC&Rs, make sure you check these rules, such as restrictions on tree heights.

See these articles on Neighbors and Trees for advice on handling tree disputes with neighbors. The book Neighbor Law, by Attorneys Emily Doskow and Lina Guillen, provides extensive advice on tree-related law and liability issues involving invading branches, damage from an unsound tree, boundary trees, and more, including how mediation or small claims court can help resolve tree disputes.

SNIP and norms for planting trees from the fence

The necessary information is provided in the current SNiP 30-02-97 "Planning and development of territories of gardening (country) associations of citizens, buildings and structures. " However, gardening associations often operate according to their own charter, so you need to check with the administration for local rules, especially if you have just moved and are planning to install a fence, build, orchard or something else.

SNiP is mandatory, we advise you to follow it. If plants or hedges obscure an adjacent lot, neighbors have the right to sue. Most likely they will win the case.

Why do we need norms for planting trees from the fence

Let's start with the most pressing question: why calculate the distance of trees from the fence at all? Why were landing standards developed, embodied in a separate SNiP?

It's simple: firstly, trees are not always decorative low bonsai, often they are large fruit-forest species with lush crowns, sometimes they are tall pines. They have a powerful root system, branches can hang over the fence and end up on the territory of their neighbors. To maintain the integrity of the garden plot, planting rules were developed. Although the law in Russia is not precedent, there have been cases of litigation for crops that ended up on neighboring territory.

Secondly, overgrown trees can greatly spoil the harvest of neighbors: many vegetables, flowers and berries need sunlight, and an overly rich crown sometimes obscures half of a standard summer cottage of six acres.

Thirdly, the root system feeds on the resources of the soil where the garden is planted. And because of them, it becomes difficult to carry out earthworks.

At what distance to plant trees from the fence

In planting norms, SNiP relies on the height of the tree.

  • Tall people must stay 4 meters or more from the fence.
  • Medium height - at least 2 m.
  • Low and shrub - 1 m from the neighbor's fence.

The rule book does not specify which plants are considered high, medium, low, which creates difficulties during litigation. A neighbor planted birch trees, the height of which can reach 30 meters - are they considered tall? SNiP does not answer this question, lawyers refer to Article 67 of the Code of Civil Procedure of the Russian Federation “Evaluation of Evidence”. In other words, each dispute is resolved separately, the court will evaluate the evidence in the aggregate and figure out which of them is more significant.

Consider how much the crown shade the yard. If the tree is just above the boundary fence, you don’t have to worry too much.

Distances from trees to buildings and other communications

Mighty roots, growing, destroy the foundation, brickwork, cut asphalt, destroy paths, power poles, pools. They can harm underground communications, break the pipeline.

Therefore, it is important to observe not only the distance of the trees from the fence, but also their location relative to the buildings.

For example:

  • the distance from a tall birch tree to a permanent building (cottage, for example) must be at least 5 meters,
  • to an outbuilding (barn, livestock buildings) - at least a meter,
  • to a garden path - 1 , 5 m or more,
  • to communications - from 2 m. But remember: non-compliance with SNiP can lead to the fact that some garden work will have to be done again, spending time and money on this. Which could go for something else - for example, to install a new beautiful fence.

    Features of installing fences in TSN

    At the same time, we recall the rules for erecting fences in gardening partnerships, because the law is especially strict on them. Fortunately, these rules are simple and few of them.

    • It is necessary to fence off neighbors with a transparent fence up to 1.5 m. Chain-link mesh, 3D mesh are ideal, picket fence, polycarbonate can be used.
    • You can protect yourself from the street with a high solid fence - for example, with a solid corrugated board. Height can also be any.
    • If you plan to decorate between creepers, remember the main rule: the fence should not create a shadow.
    • Local authorities may amend the set of rules, statutes sometimes differ from SNT to SNT. Check with the administration!

    What distances still need to be taken into account

    And finally, let's talk about how to arrange various buildings on the site so as not to violate the rules.

    Place an outdoor country toilet at a distance of 15 m from the house and 8 m from a well, sauna, shower, from a neighbor's fence - at a distance of at least 1 m.

    Locate a barn, pigsty, poultry house, greenhouse at least 4 m from the neighbor's fence.

    Garage, shed, sauna, summer kitchen - at a distance of one meter from the fence.

    The distance from the house to the fence that separates the yard from the street must be at least 5 meters.

    Building regulations in the private urban sector are not so strict because the land is not intended for agricultural use. However, high vegetation and fences, proximity to outdoor toilets and a chicken coop can interfere with neighbors. We recommend discussing serious construction and economic decisions with them - this will help to avoid courts, quarrels, scandals and other unpleasant situations.

    We recommend documenting any decisions, even if relations with neighbors are currently idyllic. The owner may change, and with it the attitude to a rapidly growing garden, a deaf fence, or currant bushes planted along the hedge will change. Documentation means a certified receipt.

    We hope our article answered your question, how many meters from the fence you can plant trees.

    At what distance to plant trees from the fence

    Before you start planting a tree or shrub, start building a greenhouse or a shed, you need to carefully read the requirements of SNiP. You can dispose of your own site at your own discretion, without interfering with the lives of neighbors. The standards that determine the distance from the neighbor's fence to green spaces and buildings are based both on the rules of good neighborliness and on sanitary and fire safety requirements.

    Rules for planting trees on the site in relation to the fence and the neighboring plot

    Back to the table of contents


    • 1 Why it is necessary to plant green spaces in accordance with the regulations
    • 2 At what distance to plant trees and shrubs
      • 2.1 To the fence of the neighboring plot
      • 2. 2 To various structures
    • 3 Distance from the fence to the house and various buildings
      • 3.1 Distance from the house to the fence
    • 4 Location of the sauna on the plot
    • 5 How far should the toilet be installed
    • 6 Distance from the fence to the garage
    • 7 Distance between outbuildings

    matter, and one should not neglect the standards for planting trees from boundary lines. It is very important to observe the planting distance and take into account that over time the crown and root system of the tree grows and increases and can create many problems:

    If the location of plantings does not meet the standards, the neighbors have the right to remove the branches and roots of the plant from their territory without the owner's permission.

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    At what distance to plant trees and shrubs

    There are norms for private and suburban buildings. The general recommendations of SNiP 30-02-97, which determine at what distance to plant trees to buildings and the fence of a neighboring plot, are indicated below.

    Scheme of permissible tree planting distances from the fence

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    To the fence of the neighboring plot

    The height of the plant depends on how far it is planted from the neighbor's fence.

    • Tall trees should be planted from the neighbor's fence, retreating 4 m. These are trees with a trunk height of more than 15 m: spruce, pine, birch, oak, apple tree, pear;
    • Medium-sized trees are planted at a distance of 2 m from the borders of a neighbor. They have a height of up to 10 m: cherry, plum, viburnum, hazel;
    • Shrubs, dwarf varieties of fruit trees are considered low-growing, they can be planted 1 m from the neighbor's plot.
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    To various structures

    Planting trees to a house or outbuilding should be at a certain distance:

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    Distance from the fence to the house and various buildings defining the distance from the building to the fence.

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    Distance from house to fence

    According to SNiP, you can build a residential building no closer than 3 m from the boundary line. At the same time, if there are elements protruding by more than 0.5 m (roof overhang, veranda, canopy), then the countdown is from them.

    According to the rules of fire safety, houses are built at the following distance depending on the material:

    • Houses made of stone and concrete - 6 m;
    • Stone or concrete houses with wooden floors - 8 m;
    • Wooden houses - 15 m;
    • In combination of a stone or concrete house with the same house, but with wooden floors - 8 m;
    • Stone and concrete house and wooden house - 10 m;
    • Stone and concrete house with ceilings and wooden house - 10 m.

    Another standard concerns the location of the house relative to the fence and the road or driveway.

    The house is built no closer than 5 m from the fence located on the red line, and - 3 m if it is not a road, but a driveway.

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    Location of the sauna on the site

    The construction of the sauna depends on many nuances. Before the fence of the neighbors, the bathhouse can be built at a distance of 3 m. At the same time, the bathhouse is located 5 m from the neighbors' house.
    If a separate sewer drain is provided, the bathhouse is built 2.5 m from the boundary line, but a distance of at least 8 m is maintained from the house. than 1 m from the neighboring plot. At the same time, there should be no sources and wells with drinking water nearby: the toilet should be 12 meters or more away from them. The same distance must separate the toilet from the residential building. From the bath or shower, the toilet is located 8 m.

    If the toilet is located inside the house and a pit latrine is provided, its location largely depends on the type of soil and the depth of groundwater.

    Rules for the location of the toilet on the site

    To prevent sewage from entering drinking water, a cesspool is built 20–50 m from the well and well, the distance to the neighbor’s fence should be 1–3 m.

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    Distance from the fence to the garage

    Starting the construction of the garage, you need to know that the allowable distance to the neighboring fence should not be less than one meter. By mutual agreement with the neighbors, the adjoining of the garage to the boundary line is allowed. A double garage is not uncommon, but if there is a change of ownership, the written consent of the previous owner will not be legally binding.

    Instead of a garage for a warm summer period, a shed can be arranged in a summer cottage. It is allowed to build close to the fence.

    The garage on the border with the road is located 5 m from the red line and 3 m from the road. At the same time, it is not recommended to build a garage in line with the fence: it must be moved at least 1 m beyond the line of the site.

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    Distance between outbuildings

    Construction of such outbuildings as a greenhouse, summer kitchen, shed or chicken coop is also regulated by SNiP:

    • A shed and a place for walking livestock and poultry can be built 4 m from the fence of an adjacent plot and 12 m from a residential building;
    • It is permissible to build a greenhouse 1 m from the boundary line;
    • The summer kitchen is no closer than 1 m from the neighbors' fence.

    Site planning is a responsible process and does not tolerate trifles. You should not repeat the mistakes of many owners of private houses and summer cottages, who have come down to litigation. Armed with the appropriate knowledge, you can protect yourself from many problems if you equip your site in accordance with building codes.

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