Nuisance Neighbour (Issues over Trees)

Hi
I have a rental property in southern suburb for about 10 years, the house was built in early 70s. There are 3 big trees around my house in front and backyard. And there is a huge gumtree outside of my property in between my and neighbors house. I had my tenants complain only ONCE for clogged sewer lines about 6 years ago because of the roots, which was resolved as per their request.

Just recently, neighbour (same one sharing the council tree) contacted my real estate agent and verbally abused them to get all those 3 trees cut down as well as pay off her $600 plumbing expenses. Also she threatened she’s sick of paying plumbing expenses every year and if trees are not cut within 2 weeks of her call, she will take a legal notice. She claims she has to incur heavy plumbing expenses because of the trees on my property.

I have no idea about what should be done? How can the neighbor prove if it’s my trees causing issues to her, when my property has had no sewerage damage in last six years? I did contact council and it was of no help as they said, the neighbor has all the right to take it to court?!? Anyone has any suggestion? I am not in a state to get those 3 trees cut down as well as pay her $600.
Thanks

Comments

  • -2 votes

    Is the tree affecting her in your property or hers?

    • +1 vote

      Her property obviously! My tenants have not had any plumbing issue from the trees.

    • +1 vote

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think what dylanando was trying to ask was is the tree in your boundary or your neighbours (not who it is effecting)?

      If it's on your property, then they have every right to file a complaint. Just because they haven't complained in previous years doesn't mean they haven't just had enough, obviously why they're making a fuss now.

      I'm surrounded by gumtrees (widow makers) and not one of them is on my property. Not only have they destroyed my gutters, my grass doesn't grow and is covered in gum nuts and the one closest to our rear yard has dropped numerous large branches, the largest being close to 15m in length!

      When they built on the property behind us, they fudged the arborist report to claim the tree in the middle of the block was a danger when it was perfectly healthy and in a much better state than the one right on the fence line. They chopped it down and left the widow maker. I'm all for green skies and the beautiful tree line, but God help my neighbour if this boundary tree loses a limb on one of my kids one day.

      •  

        I hated those damn things.. We had to get 2 chopped down, was sick of the roof sounding like it was going to collapse every time there was a strong win, as well as cleaning out the gutters, then them being absolutely full within a week.. Pity though, they looked so nice :/

        •  

          It is. I really love our leafy green area, but I hold my breath every time it gets windy near us. The area is littered with ghost gums too and as much as I love them, I really wish they got rid of the dying, nuisance fence line one and not the proportionally perfect one that infringed on their building plans. Now it just looks like a half of a canvas with a crippled looking tree just creeping in on the edge of the scenery, saying "love me tooooooo."

          I'm definitely sick of cleaning gutters. I'll be making some inquiries when we finish the outdoor renovations and I replace all of my gutters. I'd be lucky to have one that doesn't have pinholes through the base of it and I'll be damned if I'm going to let it happen to new ones.

  • +8 votes

    Maybe you will be famous for being the first person to get sued for having trees with roots.

    … or worse, cut down trees you like and pay your neighbour.

    •  

      would be shocked if they were the first to be sued for this. It isn't like it is a new law that you are liable for damage from your trees roots ands branches.

      •  

        Only if you're negligent or reckless or didn't maintain the trees reasonably (i.e. lopping diseased branches, etc). Damage from naturally growing and healthy tree branches and roots aren't anyone's liability.

        •  

          Everything I have read disagrees with you. You are definitely liable if it is your tree.
          "If the intruding roots or branches have caused damage to the neighbour's property (for example, roots cracking pipes or branches damaging gutters or poisoning animals) the neighbour can ask the tree owner to pay the cost of repairs or compensation. If the tree owner is unwilling to pay, the neighbour can apply to the Minor Civil Actions division of the Magistrates Court for a court order that the owner pay. "
          https://lawhandbook.sa.gov.au/ch31s06.php

          https://legalanswers.sl.nsw.gov.au/neighbours-and-law/trees-...

          •  

            @gromit: Operative words from the SA Act:

            the neighbour can ask the tree owner

            And that they can apply to the court. Not that they're necessarily entitled to it. Again, they might be under some circumstances, but it's not automatic and certainly not in all cases.

            In a lot of cases, OP can't even do anything themselves without council approval, especially for bigger trees. If that's the case, OP's certainly not going to be liable - the neighbour would need to apply to council to lop back the branches or roots.

            •  

              @HighAndDry: you are outlining exceptions, which I don't disagree with, but that is wholly different to your statement of "aren't anybody's liability", unless you have circumstances that prevent the liability then you definitely can be made to pay.

              •  

                @gromit: You call them exceptions, I call it the default unless special circumstances apply. Semantics. Don't take my statement out of the context of my entire comment. For example you said:

                You are definitely liable if it is your tree.

                Which is totally false. The neighbour can ask, and they can apply to the Magistrates court. But just because they do doesn't mean they're automatically successful.

                •  

                  @HighAndDry: The DEFAULT is you are liable. you are the one using semantics to twist it. By your definition liability does not exist ever as all cases can have different outcomes in the court.

                  • +1 vote

                    @gromit: No, literally damage caused by trees just being trees is noone's liability, as I said at first. That's not semantics, that's how it works. If you want to claim damages from someone, you need to prove it (ergo, NOT the default).

    • +2 votes

      Its actually quite common.

      Same thing happened to us. Annoying part was how angry the neighbour was from the outset. Caused by trees, an act of nature, yet she called council and wrote nasty letters and got verbally abusive over it! She could have just asked nicely and explained the problem. She claimed she was angry as it had happened in the past etc.

      We refused to pay her plumbing but cut the offending tree to keep the peace.

  • +22 votes

    If the tree is on council land between your houses why is it your problem. If its on your land there is nothing she can do about it, if its on her land she can pay to get it cut down. Either way its not your problem.

    She can get the roots cut out on her side of the land if she chooses, its not your financial responsibility, neither is her repairs for her plumbing.

    •  

      She wants the 3 trees cut down that are on my property.

      • +43 votes

        It is your property, she cannot force you to do anything to your property unless you are breaking some kind of law, and last i checked having trees is not illegal.

        • +2 votes

          quite the opposite in many councils. Many Sydney councils have minimum tree coverage, and may in fact reject any request to cut down trees.

          As others have said, you cannot force someone to do anything on your property, and you also cannot force anyone to do anything on their property. If the tree is encroaching on their property, they have every right to chop branches / roots on her side of the fence.

          simplez.

        • +3 votes

          Not sure where you're getting your info from but a neighbour near my parents were given council orders to have a very large tree removed due to numerous complaints from their rear-facing neighbour. It was a build up over less than a handful of years but they didn't have a choice in the end. They had even paid for any ongoing damages to their neighbour along the way but the neighbour had enough and wanted it gone. It was a nice tree too!

          Quite surprised by it but more surprised by the number of positive votes you received for incorrect info.

          • +1 vote

            @db87: Maybe your parents don't live in the same suburb as garetz?

            Been looking around for land to build a house for a while and trees are an absolute nightmare to navigate as no one body seems to be in charge - CFS will say "these tres don't pose a direct, imminent bushfire threat so we can't say they need to be cut down (screw being prepared, eh?), counil has some say in the matter, but handballs it to the Plants and Vegetation department and then plants and veg just says they aren't the overseers of what you can do on properties, that's up to the council. Ugh.

            It's all dependant on the height, girth and type of tree - if it's a native gum or something, especially a state-specific native gum, you're gonna encounter a lot of resistance in removing it. Australia's a bit weird about trees.

            •  

              @The Gent: Inner suburbs of Victoria. Bayside council.

              Of course if we're talking bushfire prone areas, then it's a whole other issue, but that isn't what OP is referring to. In that case, I'd cut down my trees neighbours trees and any other trees needed if it meant the safety of my property and family. Black Saturday, etc was a bloody shame for a lot of people that actually tried to protect their assets and were told countless times they weren't allowed, bit late when the trees burn down anyway and take everthing else with it, but hey, we didn't hurt anyone's feelings.

              •  

                @db87:

                In that case, I'd cut down my trees neighbours trees and any other trees needed if it meant the safety of my property and family.

                For which, you'd cop a $300,000 fine per offense even in a bushfire risk zone. As I said, Australia is weird about trees.

                I looked into what the ramifications would be if one just illegally cut the trees down. It's pretty steep.

                I do agree with you, though.

                •  

                  @The Gent: Yes, I understand. That side of my argument comes from the frustration of knowing people that can't sneeze on their property without upsetting "someone." Pretty sad when they lose nearly everything.

                  Again, probably a different story if the area hadn't suffered a bushfire, which is where the joke of a government/council comes in. Always reactive and only ever happy to work hard if it means getting as much money out of you as possible.

                  Inner suburbs where we are, forget about it also! They're definitely protected but sometimes ridiculously so. That's where my above case came in at my folks place. Never seemed anything wrong with the neighbouring tree and yet here the council was ordering them cut it down. Not sure what it was but it stood a good 15m plus. It's a shame it's not more clearly outlined.

                  Bit of poison, few dead limbs, arborist report…. Bye bye tree if you ask me.

          •  

            @db87: The council can give these orders. The neighbour can't - they can only just go to the council.

      • +7 votes

        you need to be careful about what may be cut down, trimmed etc.

        In the ACT, for an example.
        even if you planted the tree and it has grown to a specified height, girth at 1 meter etc there are rules around what you can do.
        Some trees are automatically protected once they reach a certain height etc. This means you cannot cut it down without council approval, you cannot do works under the umbrella of the tree as it may be a 'tree damaging activity' etc, therefore cutting roots is also a tree damaging activity and is illegal. Also, Some trees just be the type are automatically protected.

        It would be best for you to look into your local council rules, regulations etc around tree's and what you may be able to do, or what you have to do if the tree is considered protected.

        • -4 votes

          even if you planted the tree and it has grown to a specified height, girth at 1 meter etc there are rules around what you can do.

          And they said Victoria was the nanny state lol

          • +1 vote

            @idonotknowwhy: Best bet would (if you DO want to cut down your trees) would be contact an arborist and they would be able to tell you what you need to do for your locality. But if you dont then IDK…

            Just on the above point in the ACT as well - This is why contacting an arborist would also be good, because yes trees above a certain height do become 'protected' but there are some rules around this. My parents got one cut down that was in this height area, and because of the type of tree (cant remember exactly) was considered a pest they didnt need council / neighbour approval

          • -3 votes

            @idonotknowwhy: ACT is not a state

          • +1 vote

            @idonotknowwhy: Similar rules exist in Victoria. Different councils have different rules around trees. Rules are stricter around the dandenongs for example. Definetly worth speaking to council to find out if it's even legal to cut the trees down.

        •  

          To further this, our council (NSW) used google photos to identify land that had been cleared without approval. They put a letter in everyone's mailbox in the area asking for any information or witnesses so they can prosecute. They had a google maps before and after shot.

          Just be careful if you think they wont notice trees gone in your own backyard.

          •  

            @prinsenhof: All councils get aerial photos every 12 months minimum most get them every 3 months these day much more frequently than Google. They can toggle through all variations to see when something was altered on property very easily

          •  

            @prinsenhof: They use nearmaps. It gives a history with much higher resolution photos than google

        •  

          " This means you cannot cut it down without council approval"

          And i'm guessing here but i bet this approval usually needs money…typical councils

      •  

        Its your property mate, she cant force anything, unless the roots are growing to that side or the branches may be hanging over (in which case cut those parts sure but not the whole tree).

    • +7 votes

      If its on your land there is nothing she can do about it, if its on her land she can pay to get it cut down. Either way its not your problem.

      That's not entirely correct.

      The Land and Environment Court "Trees (Disputes between Neighbours) Bill 2006" applies.

      Read this. https://www.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au/Resident-Services/your-n...

      Basically a property owners trees can't cause damage to the neighbours property (including plumbing).

      OTOH, it's up to the affected neighbour to prove that the 3 trees in question are causing the plumbing issue. Good luck with that unless the neighbour's entire backyard has no vegetation whatsoever.

      The OP will probably have to wear the cost of removing the trees "as a neighbourly gesture" rather than an admission the trees caused damage. Depending on th etree species he may have to get council permission for removal.

      The OPs neighbours plumbing costs will be hers unless she wants to faff around a lot proving it was the OPs trees that blocked the pipe. You'd also think if she's had multiple plumbing issues that she would have broached the subject earlier. Also, her pipes must need relining or replacing (they are in a poor state of repair) if she gets root issues every year.

      • +8 votes

        This is my understanding too.

        Owner is responsible for their trees damaging other properties, but other party has to prove that the owners trees are responsible.

      •  

        Easily enough done for her to prove it. Just dig back from the affected plumbing to your fence line, following the root. Or if that's too deep or there's stuff in the way, cut a sample of the root while fixing the plumbing issue and get an arborist to confirm the species (assuming you don't have another of that type in the area).

        There's a lot that people will do when their way of life (and finances) are being affected.

        I know of one person who asked their neighbour to cut back their tree where branches were hitting his second storey gutters. The neighbour refused, so he hired a tree lopper to cut it back to the fence line and then backcharged the neighbour (which he was legally allowed to do and the neighbour had to pay). He now does this every 6 months as soon as the branches get past his fence line, just to %&*$ with the neighbour.

        •  

          Your mate is probably over-egging the pudding with what he is telling you. The maximum he can backcharge is $300/yr.

        •  

          I have often read that you had the right to prune overhanging branches (as long as they are not subject to tree preservation) but never that you could claim costs.
          After all the owner of the tree cannot safely prune without illegally trespassing.

  • +8 votes

    Her problem, not yours. There's no reason for you to cut them down if you don't want to.

    •  

      But she claims she’s having heavy plumbing issues because of the trees that are on my property like blocked drains,damage to roof,damage to fence due to tree growing through. She has threatened she will get a council official to inspect trees and show her expenses incurred. Otherwise she will have to resolve with legal advisor. And now she has asked me for my contact address

      • +24 votes

        Tell her to go for it.

        • +7 votes

          Exactly. Worst case scenario you have to pay for the plumbing and remove the trees. Best case scenario she pays for inspections and investigations and you pay nothing.

      • +8 votes

        If she can prove it’s your trees that are doing that let her do it. AFTER she proves it she then has to give you a chance to resolve it, which may be pruning it back rather than removal of them all in the first instance.

        Even after all this she still can’t really do much to force you to remove them.

      • +7 votes

        Don't give her anything and demand proof of both the expenses every year with full details according to the reports/invoices written by the plumbers, as well as proof that your trees are the culprit. If she can't cough that up just ignore her completely, she has no chance.

      • +4 votes

        Ask her politely to provide the documentation as proof. She can claim anything, but without documents it means nothing.

        Also, the tree roots may not be from your trees at all! I have had a Jacaranda root from two houses away get into my old sewer pipes.

  • +4 votes

    The situation may vary depending on the state you are in. For example, here is some info for Victoria.

    https://www.disputes.vic.gov.au/information-and-advicetrees/...

    You should be able to turn up something relevant for your state on Google.

  • +3 votes

    I had my tenants complain only ONCE for clogged sewer lines about 6years ago because of the roots, which was resolved as per their request.

    How exactly was this resolved? Did you cut the tree or what?

    Also she threatened she’s sick of paying plumbing expenses every year and if trees are not cut within 2 weeks of her call, she will take a legal notice.

    Did you know that she incurred plumbing expenses every year?
    Did she only tell you now? How are you supposed to know.

    I have no idea about what should be done?

    Nothing to be done, just wait for her to take action. You are not in the wrong. Trees growing bigger are out of your control. Do you own the trees (did you grow the them) or are they the council's?

    How can the neighbor prove if it’s my trees causing issues to her

    Not your problem. Let her prove it.

    the neighbor has all the right to take it to court?!?

    Yes she has that right, but whether she wins or loses is another issue.

    My advice is don't worry, you don't need to do anything.
    Maybe tell your realestate agent to cope with the phone calls.
    I'm pretty sure I read somewhere here or whirlpool that cutting trees without council permission is illegal even if it's on your property.
    Want to give you the specific but don't know which state you live in.

  • +1 vote

    I am in Adelaide. Since I have no idea about legal proceedings etc I do not want to get into this hassle and not quite sure if cutting down the trees would be cheaper now or having the risk of getting all this to court and in case of losing, paying the fines.

    My tenants plumbing request was resolved by getting a handyman and he had some equipment that cut roots from the pipelines.

    I appreciate your detail response. I am getting a bit confidence to leave it to my neighbor and not respond her at all. Let’s see what she can do other than threatening.

    • +52 votes

      EDIT

      Have read here for SA Law: https://lawhandbook.sa.gov.au/ch31s06.php

      This is VERY VERY SPECIFIC to your problem.

      Where the branch or root of a tree comes onto a neighbour's land, a nuisance situation exists.
      In most instances, and unless the tree is a significant tree, the neighbour can remove the encroaching roots or branches. This would usually be at his or her own cost
      The neighbour cannot go onto the tree owner's land and cannot remove any part of the root or branch that is not on his or her property. The branches and roots are technically the property of the tree owner and can be placed back over the fence, taking care not to cause any damage.

      If the intruding roots or branches have caused damage to the neighbour's property (for example, roots cracking pipes or branches damaging gutters or poisoning animals) the neighbour can ask the tree owner to pay the cost of repairs or compensation.
      If the tree owner is unwilling to pay, the neighbour can apply to the Minor Civil Actions division of the Magistrates Court for a court order that the owner pay. In some circumstances a court might order that the owner remove the root or branch or perhaps the whole tree. Advice should be sought.

      Worst case is you will only get a court order to remove the trees at your own cost at a later date.
      This is only after she can prove that the trees are causing the problems.
      Good luck to her. Otherwise just wait.
      YOU WILL NOT GET FINED (unless you refuse the court order).

      •  

        nowadays proving which tree did the damage is not hard given DNA testing for trees is common place now in these situations. But Obviously that is an expense the complainant would have to wear given she has the burden of proof. wonder though if the courts could then also force him to pay those costs.

        •  

          Nope. Her costs of proving it are hers. OP would just have to cut back the trees if ordered to do so, which is what he'd be doing in the first place anyway.

    • +1 vote

      There is a booklet here with info for SA.
      https://lsc.sa.gov.au/cb_pages/publications.php#Neighbours(fences,trees,noiseetc)

    •  

      Have you googled "tree disputes south australia". The first 10 responses are all relevant.

      I wouldn't ignore the neighbours request but I wouldn't bend over either.

  •  

    i would suggest do some more research.
    If they are big trees,The roots would almost certainly be encroaching on her property. likely your liable for damage.

    • +2 votes

      The roots may be encroaching on the property but that doesn't mean they are blocking the pipes.

      You'd have to do an audit of all the shrubs, trees & grasses on both properties to ascertain the root cause of the blockages. Even then, there's an expectation that the drains are in good condition, so even if the OP has to pay for the removal of the roots, he could insist that the pipes be replaced or a suitable root barrier installed to prevent further occurrences.

  •  

    The council didn't really say who was at fault here and I think it is there rules that will apply. Anyone has the right to take anything to court, doesn't mean they will win. People threaten to sue people all the time but rarely do (it would cost a couple of thousand dollars just to walk into court with a lawyer).

    You need some good solid legal advice on this - what does your PM say? What does the council say? You can probably talk to a lawyer for a couple of hundred dollars and get some good advice.

  • +5 votes

    https://lawhandbook.sa.gov.au/ch31s06.php

    If the intruding roots or branches have caused damage to the neighbour's property (for example, roots cracking pipes or branches damaging gutters or poisoning animals) the neighbour can ask the tree owner to pay the cost of repairs or compensation. If the tree owner is unwilling to pay, the neighbour can apply to the Minor Civil Actions division of the Magistrates Court for a court order that the owner pay. In some circumstances a court might order that the owner remove the root or branch or perhaps the whole tree. Advice should be sought.

    If she can prove its your trees she has a good case

  •  

    Can you just cut down native trees like that in SA? We have a nuisance tree in our area (neighbour's tree), but there's no way in the world that the council will allow that gum tree to be cut down. They've previously refused. Any works around is not allowed to damage the root system, etc.

  • +6 votes

    Sounds like these tree roots are the only root she ever gets.

  •  

    Always an interesting read when people make threats without considering the law.

    You got good advice above. I suggest printing and highlighting the relevant sections for her so that she knows what she is responsible for and that she needs to prove she has been affected first. If this goes to court, at least you can demonstrate you've been reasonable.

  • +3 votes

    She sounds like a nutter. I would ignore her and let the council deal with her.

  •  

    The Legal Services Commission of South Australia publishes an online law handbook that comprehensively covers neighbour tree issues, including this issue. Have a look at the ‘Trees’ section:

    lawhandbook.sa.gov.au

  • +2 votes

    Btw, has she told you that you need to knock your house down yet?

    It's blocking the sun and parts of garden isn't drying out. She could fall and hurt herself.

    • +1 vote

      This. Sounds like a previous neighbour I had complaining about trees and leaves. Then complained it was too hot and sunny when it was cut back.

      • +1 vote

        A back fence neighbour of mine once complained about where I placed my clothesline in my backyard. WTF. Neighbours’ craniums come in all shapes and sizes.

    •  

      i think if you had to fork $600 out every year for plumbing costs, due to neighbour's trees you'd be pissed too,,,,

      •  

        How would you know its the neighbours trees? Rather than the council trees, or any of the other trees surrounding your property.

      •  

        She can cut back the roots that are growing onto her property - with council approval if needed. It's her pipes she's trying to protect, trees are natural things.

  •  

    Sounds like shes too lazy to rake her lawn and clean her own gutters.

  • -1 vote

    hire some tree hugging greenpeace protestors

  •  

    Ignore her. It's her property and her problem. She is making these empty threats because she doesn't have a legitimate case.

    Stand your ground. Do not cut down any trees without Council approval, or you could face fines/prosecution:
    Protecting Regulated and Significant Trees in South Australia

  • +6 votes

    If it was my house that was being invaded by roots i would hire a trencher and a chainsaw and cut all the roots off clean at the fence line, problem solved for some time.

    However a responsible neighbor would not impose ongoing damage on another property if it was indeed their tree causing problems. Only the OP really knows how big these trees are if if they are pushing up against fences etc…. If my property was getting damaged i would be hiring an arborist and pursuing the neighbor for costs.

  • +1 vote

    Women and the ongoing problems with their plumbing!

  • +3 votes

    Member Since
    19 hours 34 min ago

    bla bla bla bla…..

  • +1 vote

    I lived in adelaide about 5 years ago. Wanted to cut a gum tree at the time. As I can remember Gumtrees after certain girth was not allowed to cut. So, if yours is huge, will not be allowed to cut definitely. That was with Campbeltown council.

    • +1 vote

      most councils can't even collect the bins properly or rubbish. I doubt they'll notice a tree missing (unless if your neighbour dubs you in)
      most people don't notice things are missing even if it was a large tree.

      •  

        Councils where I live (Brisbane) are fairly quick at following up on dog noise and dog bite complaints though. Bureaucrats aren't exactly overworked. I am sensitive to changes in the tree cover around me, and grieve over assassinated trees, but most people are so obsessed with their cell phones that tree and habitat loss doesn't bother them.

  • -1 vote

    This is a joke. Its like buying/renting a house near the beach but complaining that there is sand everywhere when you walk out.

  • +1 vote

    I'm having this issue at the moment too. Need to pay a plumber each year to use a hydrojet to clean out my drains due to roots of trees. The tree roots could belong to either my trees or my neighbour. I have no idea. I've had two tree cutting men out to do quotes and neither of them could guarantee which trees it could be.

    I don't want any of the trees cut down, and not going to mention it to the neighbour. I will just see how it goes.

    •  

      Just put salt(pool salt is fine) in your toliet every night for at least once a week. Problem solve or use a pill from Bunnings which contain copper sulphate.

      Pool salt is a way cheaper option.

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