In a recent case, adjoining property owners had a dispute arising from a mature Blackbutt tree. One of the property owners had lived in his house for many years, while the neighbour of the adjoining property had purchased and moved in only recently. The new neighbour knocked down the original house on his land and built a large house and a granny flat near the boundary of the two properties. This granny flat was built underneath the Blackbutt tree. It dropped branches from time to time.
A falling branch caused damage to the roof of the new granny flat. The owner of the granny flat claimed compensation, and the matter was taken to the Land and Environment Court. There was an argument in Court over who actually owned the tree.
A survey was obtained and it was found that the tree was situated on the boundary of the two properties. The Court noted that the neighbour chose to build the granny flat under the tree.
The Court ultimately decided that even though a slightly larger portion of the tree trunk was on one side of the boundary line, it was to be considered a “boundary tree”, meaning that ownership was shared by both the owner of the granny flat and the owner of the adjoining property. The court ordered that the cost of the roof repairs be paid for by the owner of the granny flat and the cost of pruning the tree was to be shared equally by both the neighbours.
Tree disputes are a reality of suburban life. Obtaining expert legal advice as soon as disputes appear should lead to a quicker and cheaper resolution.