Neighbours trees a threat

Neighbours trees a threat

Postby malcolm123 » Mon Oct 19, 2015 11:25 am

Hi, I'd really appreciate any advice on what my next steps should be.

We live on a private single track through road and are having difficulty with our neighbours whose house is directly opposite ours (we look onto the rear of their house). In January this year one of their 60ft Lyme trees completely blew over in bad weather and hit our house. The tree knocked 2 coping stones off their wall, damaged our stone wall and caused significant damage to our roof, gutters, TV cables etc, as well as breaking the telephone cables that run along the street between the lamp posts. The repairs totalled £5k via our insurance and was a lengthy drawn out process. Luckily we were not home at the time nor were our cars in the driveway otherwise the damage might have been fatal.

The neighbours still have 2 similar remaining Lyme trees standing. We also had similar trees however we agreed to have them pollarded and our applications to the council were approved (we live in a conservation area). We appointed a tree surgeon to complete all works and our trees have been pollarded as planned. At the last minute our neighbours had a dispute with the workmen and hence their trees remain 2 months on. They assured us they were appointing another contractor but it seems that they have prioritised replacing their wall (which had only minimal damage as far as I can see) which has taken 2 weeks. They now claim their new wall requires 5 weeks to settle so cannot consider reducing the trees until late November. I am concerned they're now not going to bother despite the real threat the trees pose to our young family and house. Even if they do proceed it looks likely we'll have another winter with the trees standing.

I don't know what I can do next. Should I appoint a lawyer at this stage? It needs to be clear to them that they will assume liability for any further costs incurred if their trees fall as my insurers have stated they will not pay out again for similar. Is contacting BT a viable option? I don't imagine they'll care too much.. What about contacting their insurers? The council can only offer us a remediation service but given it's a private road we live on they don't want to get involved in the road blockage issues etc.

Any advice would be really helpful, thank you.
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Re: Neighbours trees a threat

Postby cleo5 » Mon Oct 19, 2015 2:00 pm

Why didn't they/their insurance pay for the damage to your property? It was their tree that caused the damage.
If my trees fall and damage a neighbours property then I am responsible unless the incident could not have been forseen and was deemed "an act of God".
I can appreciate your concern. It is unnerving waiting for a neighbour's tree to be blown over and cause damage to you/ your property.
I am in same situation re neghbour's huge , old ash tree that overhangs my land and has been declared dangerous by a tree surgeon I called to inspect it.
Perhaps you could write to them reminding them that their lime tree needs immediate attention and warn them of the consequences and their resonsibility. Keep a copy of the letter.
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Re: Neighbours trees a threat

Postby ukmicky » Mon Oct 19, 2015 2:16 pm

malcolm123 wrote:Hi, I'd really appreciate any advice on what my next steps should be.

We live on a private single track through road and are having difficulty with our neighbours whose house is directly opposite ours (we look onto the rear of their house). In January this year one of their 60ft Lyme trees completely blew over in bad weather and hit our house. The tree knocked 2 coping stones off their wall, damaged our stone wall and caused significant damage to our roof, gutters, TV cables etc, as well as breaking the telephone cables that run along the street between the lamp posts. The repairs totalled £5k via our insurance and was a lengthy drawn out process. Luckily we were not home at the time nor were our cars in the driveway otherwise the damage might have been fatal.

The neighbours still have 2 similar remaining Lyme trees standing. We also had similar trees however we agreed to have them pollarded and our applications to the council were approved (we live in a conservation area). We appointed a tree surgeon to complete all works and our trees have been pollarded as planned. At the last minute our neighbours had a dispute with the workmen and hence their trees remain 2 months on. They assured us they were appointing another contractor but it seems that they have prioritised replacing their wall (which had only minimal damage as far as I can see) which has taken 2 weeks. They now claim their new wall requires 5 weeks to settle so cannot consider reducing the trees until late November. I am concerned they're now not going to bother despite the real threat the trees pose to our young family and house. Even if they do proceed it looks likely we'll have another winter with the trees standing.

I don't know what I can do next. Should I appoint a lawyer at this stage? It needs to be clear to them that they will assume liability for any further costs incurred if their trees fall as my insurers have stated they will not pay out again for similar. Is contacting BT a viable option? I don't imagine they'll care too much.. What about contacting their insurers? The council can only offer us a remediation service but given it's a private road we live on they don't want to get involved in the road blockage issues etc.

Any advice would be really helpful, thank you.



Apart from the previous tree coming down is there any reason to believe that the other trees will go the same way?

You cant asume just because one tree came down that the others are afflicted by the same problem and they dont have to act unless the cause for the previous tree dropping is known and is present in the remaining .
Last edited by ukmicky on Mon Oct 19, 2015 2:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Advice given is not legally qualified and you are advised to gain a professional opinion
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Re: Neighbours trees a threat

Postby malcolm123 » Mon Oct 19, 2015 2:18 pm

Thank you. Their insurance covered the costs to remove the tree but at the time it was deemed an act of God and that the tree was healthy prior to falling hence the damages sustained to our property were covered by our own insurance.

Only yesterday my husband was discussing the trees with the son in law who has been appointed as the family spokesman - he admitted that the tree was in fact infected with fungus which might have caused the instability. I don't know why this wasn't identified by the insurance investigation at the time, nor how they have identified this be it from an official report or by a tree surgeon providing a quote, but the SIL was trying to reassure my husband with this information by assuring him that the remaining trees are sound.

My husband thinks a letter from a solicitor might be the best way to communicate our message and then will also stand legally should further problems arise. You're right though, it's really frightening living under such huge trees that are more suited to a forest, especially when you have young children in the house and knowing that one has already fallen.
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Re: Neighbours trees a threat

Postby MacadamB53 » Mon Oct 19, 2015 3:00 pm

Hi malcolm123,

sounds like you had a lucky escape back in Jan - I can't imagine how stressful it must have been for you.

my husband was discussing the trees with the son in law who has been appointed as the family spokesman - he admitted that the tree was in fact infected with fungus which might have caused the instability. I don't know why this wasn't identified by the insurance investigation at the time...

but you know it wasn't, so...

...nor how they have identified this be it from an official report or by a tree surgeon providing a quote

you could always ask...

the SIL was trying to reassure my husband with this information by assuring him that the remaining trees are sound

has anyone qualified told you they're not?

Kind regards, Mac
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Re: Neighbours trees a threat

Postby malcolm123 » Mon Oct 19, 2015 6:07 pm

Hi, thanks for your input. At the time when the tree fell we accepted that they couldn't have predicted the tree might fall based on information relayed by the insurance companies. This talk of fungus only cropped up yesterday and the SIL struggles to give us straight answers. He wouldn't disclose the source of his information. Overall they are really very tricky people to deal with: it's for this same reason tree and also building contractors have initially agreed to carry out works then walked away. Our tree surgeon informed us that he spent 5 hours discussing his proposals over several occasions and speaking with different family members each time. It defies logic that they have erected a new wall within a metre of these huge trees when they are considering pollarding - it strikes me that they have no intention of proceeding at all.
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Re: Neighbours trees a threat

Postby MacadamB53 » Mon Oct 19, 2015 7:05 pm

Hi malcolm123,

maybe they have no intention of proceeding because they are happy to accept liability and are of the opinion - whether that's based on ignorance or good information - that the risk is small.

you mention a tree surgeon - has he or a suitably qualified person assessed the trees and told you they are in imminent danger of failing?

Kind regards, Mac
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Re: Neighbours trees a threat

Postby malcolm123 » Mon Oct 19, 2015 10:29 pm

No, they haven't. Should my next step be to appoint an expert to examine my neighbours trees to determine the likelihood of them falling?

We live in the Scottish countryside and the gales can really pick up in the Winter months. As it happens we seem to be susceptible to high winds; in the 1st year of us moving to this house a 50ft conifer came down in our rear garden in gales, luckily falling away from the house and causing damage only to fruit trees. We felled a similar tree ourselves shortly afterwards as they were growing together and the remaining tree looked rather precarious. Those trees appeared healthy to us. So 2 50ft+ trees uprooted by winds in 4 years, and 2 remain - i doubt anyone would dispute the vulnerable position we are in!
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Re: Neighbours trees a threat

Postby cleo5 » Tue Oct 20, 2015 12:48 am

It is entirely up to you whether to get a tree surgeon to take a look at the tree and get his opinion. I did this re the neighbour's tree and the tree man's opinion was that it had fungus and rot and was very dangerous. He took photos and said it would cost £3000 to remove. It leans right over my path along the garden. Too high for any attempt on our part to remove overhanging boughs. When it falls it will bring the wall(not mine) down with it.(I cannot speak to the neighour about it as we are in dispute with him). I may ask Local authority to take a look but it will cost me over £300 which I don't have just now.(Some councils charge nothing to come and look.)

IN England the local authority has a power(under Section 23 of theLocal Government Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1976) to deal with dangerous trees and request the owner of the tree to pay for any pruning /removal.
Whether this act works the same in Scotland I don't know but you could contact your local council and ask their treeman to come out and take a look and give his opinion.
Your neighbour seems to be ignoring your concerns hence my suggestion that you write to him regarding it.

I found this advice from a barrister somewhere,
"As prevention is often better than waiting for damage or injury to occur, the Environmental Health Officer may be able to invoke theLocal Govt Misc. Provisions Act 1976 if the tree poses an immediate threat to property of people.
This allows them to serve a notice on the land owner to make the tree safe. If they fail to do so the Environmental Health Office may undertake this work themselves and charge the owner for the work involved"
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