Neighbour Law – To cut or not to cut that tree?

So your neighbour’s trees are hanging over your wall, now what? Act within your rights.

It is general principle that the Property Owner is entitled to the use and enjoyment of the property provided that such use and enjoyment should not cause unreasonable damage or inconvenience to a neighbour, ie, interferes with his right of use and enjoyment.

When a Property Owner plants trees near a communal boundary wall there is a duty on him to ensure that the trees are maintained so that it does not become a nuisance or cause damage to his neighbour.

Start by asking your neighbour to trim the branches hanging over your wall and remove the cuttings.Should the neighbour fail to do so, you can proceed to trim the branches, but you are not entitled to keep the cuttings or the fruit thereon.Your neighbour should be requested to remove these or you can throw them over the wall back into their property.If your neighbour refuses the cuttings, you will be entitled to keep it or to dispose of it.The best approach is always to aim for amicable neighbourly relations, but should this not work out, the court can be approached for an interdict.

Our courts apply an objective reasonable test to assess whether the trees are a nuisance which requires the weighing up of the interest of both parties.The Court will always consider the party’s duty to bear the burden to a reasonable extent and the other party’s right to use and enjoyment of his property.There has in recent days been cases where the Court found that the contribution of the trees to our environment outweighed the nuisance caused to the neighbour.The ruling may thus not always be what is expected and is seeking resolution the best solution.

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