Frequently Asked Questions: Trees | Dispute Resolution Center Victoria (2023)

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      Issues such as the repair or replacement of shared fences, damaged fences and boundary issues can cause disputes between neighbours.

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      Hanging branches, fallen leaves and damaged roots can cause problems among neighbors. Find out what to do.

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Due to increased demand for the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) services, the Victorian Dispute Resolution Center has temporarily closed its telephone lines for mediation services in housing disputes before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

You can still use our contactonline formWe will respond to your inquiry. You can also find detailed advice onWood,openandfenceon this page.

Have questions about trees? First, check if this answer exists.

Generally, tree owners are not necessarily required to maintain their tree unless it causes damage or is a nuisance. It is almost always in the best interest of your neighbors to try to resolve these issues out of court.

I want to prune or remove a tree on my property. what am i doing

Generally, it can be trimmed at any time unless protected by environmental mulch. The local authority can tell you if this is the case and if so, you will need a permit.

My neighbor's tree is hanging over my yard. what can i do?

First, check with the local authorities whether the tree is protected or ecologically protected. If so, you need permission to cut it. If it is not protected or you have permission, you can cut off leaves, branches or roots that extend beyond the boundary line. This is called a waiver and unless otherwise agreed, the cost is borne by you. Unless otherwise agreed, you must return branches and leaves to your neighbors as they remain their property.

It's best to stay in touch with your neighbors along the way. Take the opportunity to explain the law. Tell them about your plans and where to place the cut branches. Hopefully, this will avoid misunderstandings later and even lead to better results in the long run.

Can I ask my neighbors to help me maintain their trees?

Yes, it can be shown that they are willing to share the costs. They can even suggest a solution that will save you time and money.

Can I force my neighbors to remove or cut down trees?

unless you take the following actionsprivate nuisance(external link), which means that someone's actions or omissions significantly interfere with your use and enjoyment of the property. You will need to file a claim for breach of privacy in court, so seek legal advice first. If you decide to proceed, you will need to show that the interference was serious and unreasonable.

When deciding your case, the court will consider the following:

  • The general environment of your community
  • where the disturbance has occurred or is occurring
  • what caused it
  • how long does it last and does it last
  • impact on you
  • If there are disturbances after moving in
  • How beneficial or necessary the destructive action was
  • How would a healthy person accept this disorder.

The court will also use common sense to weigh the inconvenience or impact of the disruption on you against the cost and impact of your neighbour's change or cessation of business.

It's important to realize that living close by means that people nearby sometimes have conflicting interests or activities. The Court takes a pragmatic approach to these matters, recognizing that noise, nuisance, disturbance and discomfort are likely to occur no matter where people live.

Why doesn't my neighbor have to pay for tree maintenance?

Trees in Victoria are subject only to general property law and common law. Courts are reluctant to impose new responsibilities on tree owners as this would significantly change our existing rules in Victoria.

My neighbor's tree damaged my property. what can i do?

Your neighbor is probably responsible for the damage. See the Fence Act [1] for the general obligation of people to pay for damage to a boundary fence. Other damages, such as burst pipes, foundations or access roots, are usually covered by property rights.

It is always better to try to negotiate a solution first. Taking legal action is expensive and can take a long time, so a private contract will save you a lot of trouble.

It's a good idea to gather as much information as possible so you can have an informed discussion with your neighbors. This may include:

  • The arborist's report states that the damage was caused by a tree
  • damaged photo
  • Estimation of removal or repair costs.

Keep in mind that you will need most or all of them anyway if you intend to try mediation or decide to go to court. Moreover, it is not unreasonable for the other side to want it.

Nearby trees litter my property. what can i do?

Common sense and case law recognize that trees shed leaves, bark, branches, flowers, fruit and sap as part of their normal life cycle, which does not justify excessive pruning or tree removal. In other words, it is not usually considered a private nuisance.

If this is the case, talk to your neighbors about whether they want to cooperate with you in maintaining the tree or cut down the encroaching parts yourself.

My neighbor has a large tree that obscures/blocks the view from our house. what can i do?

There are no specific rules or regulations in Victoria that can force property owners not to plant large trees. It is usually a matter of negotiation and agreement between the neighbors themselves. If you are still not satisfied and thinking about using itprivate nuisance(external link)It is best to seek independent legal advice first before taking any action.

The municipality owns a tree that hangs over or damages my property. what can i do?

Call your local authorities to make sure the tree is protected. If the tree is protected, the council can send an arborist to see the tree and decide what to do next.

[1] The Fences Act 1968 as amended by the Fences Amendment Act 2014 was amended on 22 September 2014.

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  • Case study - dispute over a tree

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