Destruction of boundary wall by tree

Destruction of boundary wall by tree

Postby johnscales » Fri Nov 15, 2013 12:27 pm

Hi All.

I have a tree just outside my property (freehold and owned by me) which is owned by the local housing association (H/A). The roots of the tree have split the boundary wall such that there is a gap of about 1 inch more or less from top to bottom of the wall following the brick joins through which you can see clean through. The boundary wall of the property sits about 8 meters from the house.
I have been on a round trip via the H/A, the local council and back to the H/A to get the problem resolved.
Today, after 18 months of to'ing and fro'ing I received a mail from the H/A which i'm unsure how to take :

"I have been in further discussions with our legal team to clarify the position. Now that all the information has been acquired it will be escalated to Senior Management for a decision to be made. I will feedback to you within the next ten working days."

It has already been established that the tree is their responsibility yet this e-mail sounds neither positive nor negative in regards to actually stating that they will be doing something about it.
I'll wait the 10 days and see what the outcome is but is there anyone out there who can offer any help or advice should the outcome 'go south' after all this time? I have involved C.A.B already from the outset but they're waiting to see the response from H/A. To be honest they've been pretty darn ineffective up to now and personally I think that 18 months is an absolutely ridiculous amount of time to get to the stage of the email from H/A which I've cut and paste above.
Mind you 7 months of this wasted time was spent waiting for the council to confirm whether the tree was the responsibility of theirs or H/A.
Oh, one last thing. To complicate matters the trees on my side of the road are all just about on conservation land so getting an 'ok' to cut this tree potentially could prove difficult (although that shouldn't be my concern).

Thanks for reading,
John
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Re: Destruction of boundary wall by tree

Postby catapult1 » Fri Nov 15, 2013 3:00 pm

If the tree is dead or dangerous then regardless of tpo it can be made safe.

If you have waited 18 months then a further ten days will fly by lol so just sit tight and see what they say :)
My answers are not of a legal nature, only what I consider to be common sense.
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Re: Destruction of boundary wall by tree

Postby TO » Sat Nov 16, 2013 10:24 pm

Hi

So you know who the tree belongs to, but what about the wall. Is it yours, theirs,or jointly owned. If the wall's theirs they can do with it what they want, and that includes doing nothing. If it's yours, then the Housing Association might well tell you it's your problem, (which it is), if it's jointly owned then the consent of both parties will be needed before anything can be done.

If the problem is getting the wall repaired it doesn't necessarily follow that the tree has to be felled. Felling the tree and repairing the wall are two costs, repairing the wall is one cost. And as you say it's a conservation area, so some consideration will be given to the tree.

If the walls yours and they refuse to help you have two options regards the repair. Take the wall down, and rebuild severing the root that's causing the damage at the boundary. You wouldn't need consent as you are abating a nuisance, but a courtesy call to the Council could save problems later on. A better option would be take the wall down and rebuild it, but leave the roots intact and bridge over them making sure they have space to grow. Keep a good record of the work, photographs, and write to the housing association putting them on notice that their tree has damaged your wall, it has been repaired, and if the tree causes further damage you will hold them fully liable for the costs.

TO
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Re: Destruction of boundary wall by tree

Postby johnscales » Wed Nov 20, 2013 12:58 pm

Thanks for your replies.
Apologies for not coming back to you all sooner as I have been away.
@ To. Yes, the wall is mine. It's been suggested to me previously that the option existed to bring down the wall and repair it having severed the root. In addition I was told to take photos and then to 'bill' the H/A. I understand that I can get a judgement on this course of action through the courts though i'll have to look into how to initiate it.
Thanks again. I will post with the H/A's findings when they come back to me.
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Re: Destruction of boundary wall by tree

Postby TO » Thu Nov 21, 2013 8:49 pm

Hi

The housing association are only liable for any extra cost of repair to the wall that has arisen after they were made aware, or should have been aware their tree was causing damage to it and they allowed the nuisance to continue. They are not liable for any costs of repair prior to being made aware.

Have you told them previously that the tree was causing damage. Have you any record of this. Can you prove it is the tree that is causing the damage. Have you any record to prove the extent of the damage at the time you originally brought it to their attention. Can you prove that there has been continuing damage. Can you prove how much it would have cost to repair the wall at the time you first told them of the damage, and the costs now so the costs of the continuing damage can be assessed.

You will hear what you want
johnscales wrote:It's been suggested to me previously that the option existed to bring down the wall and repair it having severed the root. In addition I was told to take photos and then to 'bill' the H/A. I understand that I can get a judgement on this course of action through the courts
, but even if all the answers to these questions is yes, and you have done everything right, the housing association are still only liable for the increased cost of repair after you originally told them about the damage.

If you are having difficulty sleeping and are bored with counting sheep follow the link below and read it all, or cut to para.38

http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cg ... 01/55.html

My advice would be this. Get proof that the tree is the cause of the damage, professional arboriculturists report in association with a structural engineer. Get some plans drawn up for the repair of the wall, to include minimal damage to the tree by bridging the main roots. Let the local authority know what you are doing by way wall repairs, (which as it's a conservation area may itself need planning permission), and tree cutting to abate the nuisance. Repair the wall doing as little damage to the tree as possible by bridging over the main roots. This will help avoid any potential liabilities you may face from the tree owner, or the local authority. Put the housing association on notice that should their tree cause further damage you will hold them fully liable for any costs incurred in repairing the wall again.

Your insurance company may do all this for you.

TO
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Re: Destruction of boundary wall by tree

Postby johnscales » Wed Nov 27, 2013 12:56 pm

Hi TO and thanks for your advice. It really is greatly appreciated.
I have been ill for the past week with food poisoning so apologies for the delay in replying.
I have kept all correspondence regarding the tree damaging the boundary wall since 31st Oct 2008. It is very clear that the tree is causing the damage and the HA have viewed and agreed that the damage is being caused by the tree. Back then they only agreed to do the following (taken from the mail I received 06/11/2008)

"After further discussion with our tree expert and a second site visit, it has been pointed out to me that in fact by felling the trees the damage will be made worse. To stabilise the situation I now know that we should high pollard all of them, and put them on a three year pollarding and maintenance regime."

It's hard to describe but the tree is actually leaning into a wall that extends on from my own, so much so that it has knocked the top 3 rows of bricks off of this wall.
To come out with a statement which suggests that removing the tree would make the matter worse was quite laughable. I was told at the time that the tree drains away water which otherwise would seep underground and mess with my block paving. Given that the road which i'm on is on a visible slope this is highly unlikely. But they weren't interested in that and proceeded to high pollard instead.
If you say that they're liable to pay for damages resulting from when they were made aware then I think 5 years is a very long time and that they should pretty much cover the complete cost of any works if I indeed have to get them done myself. At least I hope so as when I first made them aware the wall was just 'cracked'. As mentioned previously you can now see through it from top to bottom and I can't see how they could work out what I should pay to cover any cost.
I will follow your flow regarding the steps to take whilst carrying out the works but am not clear on why you say "Put the housing association on notice that should their tree cause further damage you will hold them fully liable for any costs incurred in repairing the wall again." To my mind should I have to carry out this work and pay for it all then it won't be happening again so my expectation would be that they pay for the work which they should have done in the first place. I would happily put them on notice as well. :)
I haven't heard back from them since the mail I quoted at the beginning of the thread but should be hearing from them any day now.
I'll learn a lot about how they are from their next correspondence.
I hope they act favourably as all their mails started out clearly stating that they would take necessary steps to resolve the problem if it was deemed to be their tree. Only since this has been established have they become coy on what their intentions are.
I will find out very soon.

Thanks
John
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Re: Destruction of boundary wall by tree

Postby TO » Wed Nov 27, 2013 8:56 pm

Hi John

Hope you are fully recovered.

They need to get themselves a new tree expert.

If the tree is directly pushing the top courses of the wall over it can still be rebuilt to accommodate the tree. However, if the tree, which I suspect is badly lopped, has no amenity left then it might as well go to facilitate the build. I take it the housing association had notified the Council of their tree work.

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Re: Destruction of boundary wall by tree

Postby johnscales » Thu Nov 28, 2013 1:12 pm

Hi TO.
Much better today thanks.

I can only assume that the council is aware of the HA works as there are several trees along the length of pavement and they've been high pollarding for a good few years now. Regularly since 2008 funnily enough.
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