Neighbourhood Tree Disputes: Answers to quiz

1. Answer: False.

A tree is the property of the person who owns the land it grows on. Generally speaking, if you own the tree then you may deal with it however you like. However, some trees can be protected by local, State and Commonwealth laws. For example, heritage or biodiversity protections may apply. You may also be required to maintain your tree to a certain standard under public health and safety laws. 

2. Answer: B, the neighbour. 

If branches grow to your side of the fence, you can trim them back to the fence-line. However, if the tree that overhangs is protected by a Tree Protection Order, or works are limited by other law or regulations, then permission from your local council may be needed before trimming or performing any works. 

3. Answer: True.

The branches belong to the tree owner. If you do not return the branches to the tree owner then you may be liable for unlawful interference with your neighbour’s property (trespass to their goods, or ‘conversion’). 

4. Answer: No.

Entering another person’s property without permission is trespassing. Alex may only trim branches back to the boundary line, from his own property, unless his neighbour has given permission for him to enter their property to trim the branches. (For an example of someone breaking the law, see this video).

5. Answer: False.

It is a common myth that the root system of a tree grows deep in the ground and extends as far as its canopy. In fact, root systems are known to grow in the top 60 centimetres of soil and can extend far beyond a tree's canopy, including, of course, into neighbouring land. 

6. Answer: No. 

Damaging your neighbour’s tree in this way may be considered criminal damage, an offence under the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic). If Jimmy is concerned about possible future damage, he can try to negotiate with his neighbour, seek help in mediating, or, ultimately, bring a case to court.

7. Answer: False.

Your local council can give you information, but unless the tree is subject to a Tree Protection Order, your local council does not play a role in resolving your tree dispute. . If a TPO is in place then your local council may give you permission to prune, cut or remove the tree, however, if the tree is wholly on the tree owner’s land, then any decision to perform any of these works on the tree rests entirely with them.

8. Answer: Wrong.

Taking legal action against your neighbour is considered an option of last resort. Instead, Minh can try to resolve her dispute by:

  • talking to her neighbour; 
  • contacting her insurer to see if she  is covered for any damage that has been caused; or 
  • accessing free mediation services provided by the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria. 

If Minh does take legal action, she  may be required to participate in court-ordered mediation before the matter is decided. 

9. Answer: E, all of the above.

The types of tree disputes that have been litigated in Victoria vary widely. In other parts of Australia and overseas, there have also been cases relating to trees  causing health conditions, death and serious injury, contaminating water supplies and causing significant property damage.

10. Answer: False.

The law relating to tree disputes is spread across a number of Acts and several areas of the common law (such as nuisance, negligence and trespass).

 

To find out more about tree disputes and the law, read or download the Neighbourhood Tree Disputes: Consultation Paper.

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Date published: 
08 Dec 2017
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