Family Forum: Too Many Leaves

Trees causing neighbour disputes.


My neighbour’s tree drops leaves all year round, great heaps of them, to the point where it is not only making mess but also causing a fire hazard, blocking gutters and drains.

l have offered to pay for the removal of the tree.

What are the options for me to take?


Unfortunately, the law does not provide a satisfactory solution to your problem.

Your neighbour incurs no legal liability, ordinarily, if leaves from a tree on the neighbour’s land drop on to or are blown on to your land.

This is something we all have to put up with. It is part of suburban life. The fact that the leaves annoy you, and have to be cleaned up by you, does not alter things.

There is one qualification. If the leaves cause, or are likely to cause, damage to your property, the neighbour might be liable for the cost of repairs.

The panel doubts whether blocked gutters or pipes would be enough. We are responsible for the state of our pipes and gutters.

But if there was an overflow causing damage, your neighbour might be liable for the cost of repairs.

You would have to establish that the quantity of leaves was well beyond the ordinary, that you had done all you could to keep the drains or gutters clear, and that your neighbour was aware of the likely damage. Legal proceedings would be costly, and the panel cannot assess the prospect of success.

Accordingly, the best thing is to try to get your neighbour to sit down and discuss the situation with you. Perhaps he or she does not appreciate the full impact on you.

You could explore the possibility of mediation. South Australian Community Legal Centres (visit the website can put you in touch with a mediator who can help.

You could renew your offer to meet the cost of removing the tree, and offer to meet the cost of a replacement.

If you cannot reach an agreement, you will have to live with the problem.

The Legal Services Commission has a free online publication called “Trees and the Law” that you might find helpful, available on the publications page of their website (

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