Overhanging tree a nuisance for neighbour

| 17/05/2016

Ask Auntie, CNS Local Life, Caymanian statusMy friend has a neighbour with a HUGE tree planted adjacent to her boundary garden wall and it overhangs her property. It likely has roots extending under her garden and into her house foundations/cistern. It drops its leaves a couple of times a year and is growing rapidly. Is there any legal remedy (I have offered to come in at night and poison the tree but she doesn’t want to get into a confrontational situation with her neighbour)?

Auntie’s answer: This turned out to be a very interesting question and one that was not easy to answer. I did a substantial amount of investigating, contacting the departments of planning and agriculture, a real estate professional, and then a lawyer. At the end of all that, I did reach a conclusion, which I will share with you, but first remember that Auntie is not a lawyer. I will offer you my best advice based on the information I gathered, but I strongly suggest you contact a lawyer before you take any action.

In addition, if anyone out there can offer any more clarity on this situation, by all means, write to let me know.

Meanwhile, this is what I have found: there do not seem to be any relevant Cayman laws that deal with encroaching trees, which means that British Common Law takes precedence. Here is where it gets interesting.

In simplest terms, the tree belongs to the neighbour, even the branches that overhang your friend’s property. (Note that from here on I am replacing “your friend” with “you” to make it easier to read). If you cut the encroaching branches, the owner can actually ask you to return them, though I doubt he or she will. But if there is fruit on the branches, they may want those back.

Common sense should prevail here and I think it would be a good idea to talk to the neighbour before cutting and determine if they want what you remove. But if the tree is protected under the law, do not touch it.

However, any leaves that fall on your side are your problem; you cannot ask the owner to come by to rake them up.

As for roots, you seem to be allowed to chop back whatever encroaches on your land; however, again you should inform your neighbour that you are doing that. But it would be best to get an expert in to deal with it because if you damage the tree you could be held legally responsible. And, clearly, that also prohibits you from poisoning the tree, so don’t even think about doing that.

There are more ins and outs to this issue but that is the gist of it.

Though you do not touch on the relationship – or lack thereof – with the neighbour, my advice would be to try to talk to the tree owner about the situation and see if you can come to some amicable solution. Otherwise, as I mentioned above, you should seek legal counsel.


Category: Ask Auntie

Comments (4)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    That doesn’t sound right to me. So overhanging fruit does not belong to the individual whose property is being invaded but the trash of the leaves is the responsibility of the individual.

    And yet, if the tree is damaging your property, you have no right to cut the tree back? I’m cutting the tree, the roots and anything on my side of the property. Especially if the tree is destroying my fence that I put up because I was there first.

    Now I am not related to this particular scenario, but I can tell you I do have a similar problem. I am finding recently the law protects criminals and does not protect the innocent. This just doesn’t sound right to me. From what Auntie is saying there is no recourse.

  2. Anonymous says:

    if the tree is overgrowing your yard then they have no say for you to cut that section off the tree. The roots may destroy your wall though. Was the tree there before you built your house?

    • Anonymous says:

      My friends house was there years before the neighbours house was built & the tree planted. The neighbour refuses to remove the tree.