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To cut or not to cut

An overhanging branch from your neighbour’s tree can be a real source of frustration. It might be dropping leaves, obstructing your view and taking up space on your property. Worse still, an overhanging branch could be dangerous if it is overweight. This might pose a threat if it snaps and falls, potentially putting you at risk or damaging your property when it comes down. So it leaves you with the simple question: can I cut my neighbour’s trees?

Well, this question isn’t quite as straightforward as it sounds. It depends on a number of factors, such as the state you live in, which council you’re part of, what you mean by cutting it and the kind of relationship you have with your neighbour. We’ll cover each of these below to help you determine whether you can cut your neighbour’s trees.

Can the tree be cut in the first place?

Before worrying about who can cut the tree, you need to find out if the tree can be cut at all. Many trees have restrictions on the type of work you can do on them. Tree protection laws are made and enforced by individual councils. This means the exact legal requirements differ from state to state, council to council. To find out whether work can be conducted on the tree, you’ll need to look up your local council laws to determine whether a permit is required to carry out pruning or removal. Certain species and areas have blanket bans on tree works, while others will simply require a request to the council accompanied by a professional arborist’s report. However, to apply for a permit, you’ll need to know exactly what you mean by cutting the tree.

Tree trimming, pruning or tree removal?

Whether you are allowed to cut the tree or not may depend on exactly the type of service you wish to conduct. Treeworks permits are often required for tree removal, and for significant pruning. However, significant pruning often refers to the removal of at least 30% of a tree’s canopy. If there is just one small branch overhanging your property that represents less than a third of the tree’s overall canopy, council permission may not be required at all. Be careful though, for if the tree is a protected species, then no work at all is permitted. So make sure you first check with the council.

Who can cut the tree?

Technically, you are allowed to trim branches on your property, whether the tree is from your property or your neighbour’s. However, if council permission has been required due to the tree protection laws in your area, then you will have to get this done by a professional arborist. If no council permission is required as it is just a minor trimming, then you are within your right to do it yourself.