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  1. #1
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    Default Liability for trees

    Not sure where this should go so putting it here -- please move if appropriate.

    My neighbour has been complaining about branches of trees on my property which overhang hers and she fears may fall on her house, asking me to have them lopped. Said trees are two tall gums, both healthy and straight up, with a few smallish branches near the top that do indeed overhang her roof a bit. I expressed sympathy but told her it was an expensive undertaking I can't afford right now, reminding her I'd already forked out to have a large jacaranda branch removed at her request.

    Questions: Am I legally obliged to do as she says? Is it fair to ask her to share the lopping cost? Am I liable if a branch does fall on and damage her house?

    I'm under Brisbane City Council jurisdiction. Thank you in anticipation.

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  3. #2
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    There is Queensland Government legislation that covers this. Basically, yes, you are fully responsible for branches that overhang your neighbour's property and the costs to remove them. If the branches in question are less than 2.5m above ground, the neighbour may remove them at their discretion and claim up to $300 from you for costs. If they are any higher they can apply for an order to get you to get them removed.
    Franklin

  4. #3
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    Looks like your answer is in your user name . (Sorry couldn’t help myself.)

  5. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by apple8 View Post
    Looks like your answer is in your user name . (Sorry couldn’t help myself.)
    I'm tempted!

  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Manupatree View Post
    Questions: Am I legally obliged to do as she says?
    yes
    Quote Originally Posted by Manupatree View Post
    Is it fair to ask her to share the lopping cost?
    No
    Quote Originally Posted by Manupatree View Post
    Am I liable if a branch does fall on and damage her house?
    Yes

    Sorry
    regards from Canada

    ian

  7. #6
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    I think the legal questions were adequately answered by Fuzzie. I just want to add a couple of other observations.

    I've been on the other side of this position in Sydney. Sydney councils are far harder to deal with and there was no question the tree in question was a problem. It was brushing my roof. So much so that it cleaned sections of the roof tiles!

    As for eucalyptus trees, anyone that has lived in the bush (and Sydney's north shore and northern beaches...) will tell you frightening stories of gum trees that have suddenly decided to part with limbs of quite generous sizes. I personally know of two instances that resulted in loss of life and several more where significant property damage (car, houses) was caused. In at least two of those cases councils were indirectly responsible because they refused to grant permission to lop the suspect branches.

    All of the instances I know of were smooth barked eucalyptus trees and councils thought they were safe. One I know for a fact was an Angophora costata. That was a neighbour's tree in Bilgola Plateau. The limb crushed a car roof through the middle and the vehicle was written off. Fortunately nobody was inside nor nearby when it fell.

    I know not everybody has cash to spare all the time, but for my part; I would cheerfully part with the money than have to live with the potential consequences of failing to act. But that's me.

    You can do this safely yourself if you are not stupid about it. The safest way by far is to use a cherry picker and take limbs off a metre at a time. I've done it myself this way with an 8m Camphor Laurel that I completely cut down to ground level in a confined spot without damaging property. Go slowly and carefully plan your next two cuts. Use a rope, cherry picker boom and a helper to direct or gently lower the falling limb if necessary. Cut it in smaller pieces if it is the only safe way. Chainsaw time is cheap.

    I rather enjoyed the process myself.

  8. #7
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    Mobyturns is offline In An Instant Your Life Can Change Forever
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    Life is risky, & some people are very risk averse. Personally I believe the trees have a place however we have to manage the risk. If you have Home Insurance your policy may offer Public Liability protections for such events. My advice is to seek the advice of a qualified arborist before making any decision to remove limbs or trees. Also talk to your insurance company. Doing so will prove that you sought expert advice to guide any decision that you make.

    Before you authorize any tree lopping make very sure that they are not protected under other legislation, and / or that you have any approvals deemed necessary. Best to contact the BCC planning staff to see if there are any tree preservation orders in place. An arborist should know this in any case.

    An otherwise simple action is now becoming quite complex due to matters such as endangered species habitat protection, heritage trees etc and fraught with risk if you do not hold the appropriate approvals before lopping / removing. There have been some very substantial penalties under Veg Management and other legislation for "stretching the rules a little".

    Neighbourhood Disputes (Dividing Fences and Trees) Act 2011 - also states,

    this chapter does not—
    (a) authorise work to be carried out that would otherwise be unlawful under another Act; or
    (b) otherwise limit the operation of another law requiring a consent or authorisation to be obtained before work may be carried out.

    Edit - I had a quick look at BCC's site - this is a starting point - https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/laws...ted-vegetation
    Last edited by Mobyturns; 11th May 2019 at 09:42 AM. Reason: added insurer and website link.
    Mobyturns

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  9. #8
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    You will be liable in case any damage happens if branches fall on her house. But why wait till that happens, have them removed, it may save you even more money.

  10. #9
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    Every Local/State Authority has different rules. Ring Brisbane City Council and ask the question. I do know that if branches from a neighbours tree cross over the property line, I have the right to trim the tree and branches at that property line and return the branches back to the owner of the tree. I have never sought an answer as to who is responsible for the costs as I would wear the costs of the trimming but I am legally able to return the branches and it is the tree's owner who must bear the cost of disposing of the branches.

    The link that Fuzzie has provided is a good one. Try to solve it amicably but if the neighbour starts to "carry on" and make demands, ensure that the neighbour complies with Section 57 of that legislation.

    Also check out the maximum costs that the neighbour can ask for if they decide to have it trimmed themselves in Section 58.

  11. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by skot View Post
    Try to solve it amicably but if the neighbour starts to "carry on" and make demands, ensure that the neighbour complies with Section 57 of that legislation.

    Also check out the maximum costs that the neighbour can ask for if they decide to have it trimmed themselves in Section 58.
    Thanks for the advice.
    Do I contradict myself?
    Very well then I contradict myself;
    (I am large, I contain multitudes.)
    ~ Walt Whitman

  12. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by scarletaura View Post
    You will be liable in case any damage happens if branches fall on her house. But why wait till that happens, have them removed, it may save you even more money.
    It'll cost over $6000 to have them all removed and I simply can't afford that at the moment. I'll hope for no storms until I can afford it.
    Do I contradict myself?
    Very well then I contradict myself;
    (I am large, I contain multitudes.)
    ~ Walt Whitman

  13. #12
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    I had a rental property next door that had some substantial mango trees that over hung into my yard and were also leaning on the fence. I tried several times to contact the owners via the real estate and council to have them lopped. I was unsuccessful in my attempts for months so I simply gave up trying to contact them as they were obviously trying to dodge any expenditure.

    Anyway hired a tree loppers chipper and completely removed the trees one weekend when no one was home and used the wood chips as mulch. Also had to do several trips to the dump carting the trunk sections that were too big for the chipper.

    Ironically I had a phone call a few days later from a rather irate person claiming they were the land lord from Sydney. I advised them I was eagerly awaiting a carton of beer for my efforts. Never heard from them again and a few months the house was up for sale. Now we have great owner occupiers living next door, which in my mind is more than enough payment for removing their trees!

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