Find out about the laws on cutting or pruning neighbours' trees.
Most disputes about trees involve overhanging branches or roots reaching onto a neighbour’s property. These can cause damage to property and injury to people.
Local laws on trees
You and your neighbour’s rights concerning trees will depend on the planning schemes and local laws relating to trees in your area. Councils have local laws and planning schemes that cover issues such as:
- trees overhanging the footpath – generally only allowed over a certain height as specified by the council
- tree protection schemes – some councils specify that certain significant trees or trees over a certain size cannot be cut without permission
- nature-strip and parkland trees – generally, residents are not permitted to prune these trees.
When you need a council permit to prune trees or roots
In some areas, a council permit is required to prune overhanging branches or roots that are coming onto your land from a neighbour’s property. Your local council will be able to tell you whether or not you need a permit.
If you do not need a permit, then you will usually be entitled to cut off branches and dig up roots that are reaching onto your property. However, if you do want to prune any branches or dig up any roots of a neighbour’s tree you:
- cannot enter your neighbour’s property without permission
- must only prune or cut back the branches or roots that are on your property
- must not cause any unnecessary damage to the tree.
Clearing vegetation in rural areas
If you believe that trees or vegetation on your neighbour’s property are a bushfire risk, contact the Country Fire Authority or your council’s Municipal Fire Prevention Officer. They can assess the risk and if necessary issue fire prevention notices requiring vegetation to be cleared.
Resolving issues with trees
If you and your neighbours are unable to come to agreement on how to manage trees, you may be able to make a formal complaint to your local council.
What local councils can handle
If your local council considers that your neighbour is breaking local laws regarding trees overhanging a footpath, protected trees, nature-strip trees or parkland trees, they can issue a notice requiring them to comply with relevant laws.
What local councils don't handle
Local councils do not handle disputes about trees that are overhanging private property. These disputes must be resolved privately by you and your neighbour. The Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria offers free help to resolve these kinds of disputes.
Want more information?
Most local council websites contain useful information about planning schemes and local laws regarding trees. Also see the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria website.
This page relates to laws in Victoria, Australia. Accurate at March 2015.