A tree on my neighbour’s property is stopping the sun coming onto my property during the day. Can I make him cut it down, or do it myself?

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Community Law Wellington & Hutt Valley

As the tree is on your neighbour’s property, you CANNOT cut down the tree yourself without permission. If you haven’t already, you should first talk to your neighbour and try to find a solution – you could offer to pay to have the tree safely removed or to trim or thin the tree so it no longer blocks out the sun. If face-to-face discussion is difficult, try writing a letter setting out your concerns. The Wellington Community Law Centre might be able to help you with this –visit www.wclc.org.nz/free-legal-advice/ to find out more.

If the sun is being blocked by any branches of the tree overhanging into your property, you may trim back those branches that go over the boundary on to your own property (but not the trunk - even if it leans over onto your property). Take care though – you must not trespass on your neighbour's property, you must not cause any unneccessary damage, and you must not cut down any parts of the tree that are on the neighbour’s property, even if those parts of the tree are blocking out the sun.

Some trees are protected by law against being cut down – it is a good idea for you to check with the local council to see if that tree is protected under the Resource Management Act 1991. If it is protected, there may not be a lot you can do.

If talking to your neighbour doesn't solve it, you could apply to the District Court for an order requiring your neighbour to remove or trim the tree so that it no longer blocks the sun. However, if the order is made, you may have to pay for the cost of carrying out the work. More information on District Court orders is available here: www.communitylaw.org.nz/resources/legal-reference-manual/chapter-23-neighbour-disputes/trees/

Answered 21 May 2012. The IMPORTANT NOTICE below is part of this answer.

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