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People in urban areas may have disputes about trees or hedges on their neighbour’s land. The Trees (Disputes Between Neighbours) Act 2006 provides a process for resolving disputes between neighbours about trees and hedges.
A person who wishes to have a tree or hedge on the neighbour’s land pruned or removed, or who wishes to obtain compensation for damage to their property caused by a tree on a neighbour's land, may apply to the Land and Environment Court to obtain these orders. The application is allocated to Class 2 of the Court’s jurisdiction.
Lawyers can be engaged to advise, prepare documents and/or represent parties in tree and hedge disputes. However, it is common for parties to be self-represented and prepare the application or the response to the application under Part 2 or 2A of the Act. Tree or hedge disputes pages on the Land and Environment Court website assist with understanding the process including:-
Orders for tree disputes under section 9 of the Act include:-
Some examples are for orders to:-
Orders under section 14D of the Act include:-
An order for compensation for the obstruction, however, is not available (section 14D). ( Nadine Behan Neighbours and the law Legal Information Access Centre (LIAC), State Library of New South Wales, 2017, Chapter 8)
It is recommended that applicants undertake:
- an online property search with the NSW Land Registry Services or InfoTrack to determine the title particulars (Lot and Deposited Plan number and full name of all of the owners of the adjoining property)
-a search of the zoning of the property at NSW Planning Portal
It is recommended that if your application needs proof of the cause of the damage from the tree, the type, extent and cost of the damage then relevant expert arborists, builders, and engineers with appropriate qualification and experience be engaged to support the application. Experts in sunlight loss to windows and tree surveying may also be needed. Start with inquiries with peak bodies like Institute of Australian Consulting Aboriculturalists for arborists.
The Young Lawyers (Law Society of NSW) Guide for deciding whether an expert is needed or choosing experts may be helpful (see particularly chapter 4-the duties and responsibilities of an expert).
Consider whether photographs, videos or diagrams like a shade diagram can be provided to provide evidence about loss or damage from the tree or hedge.
Before you prune or remove a tree you must apply for permission from the local council for a permit or a development approval. The type of work or the species, type and condition of the tree may result in exemptions from the need for approval. Land in bushfire prone areas have different requirements-see Rural Fire Service information page.
The Court must be satisfied that the parties have attempted to resolve the dispute before the matter is listed for final hearing. Mediation is not compulsory but it is an effective way to try to resolve the matter. The Community Justice Centre offers a free mediation service.
Generally, costs orders are not granted under Part 3 Rule 3.7 of the Land Environment Court Rules 2007. However under some circumstances, an application for costs may be made separately to the Court. Non-legal costs of preparing the application and other costs such as expert fees must be borne by the parties. Other helpful information (particularly under ‘Trees Act -Understanding the Law’
In NSW, there are a number of places where you can get specialised legal advice on the sorts of legal problems heard by the Land and Environment Court. Find out where to get legal advice and information.
08 May 2023
We acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we work and we pay respect to the Elders, past, present and future.