Family Forum: Overhanging Tree

A dispute with Housing SA over a spotted gum tree.


There is a huge tree next door, with half of the canopy hanging over our back fence. It’s a eucalyptus maculata (spotted gum).

I’m in a housing trust property and have asked for the tree to be cut back to the boundary.

Nextdoor belongs to Housing SA as well.

I would like it cut back to the boundary fence but they will not because the remaining tree would be too unstable.

What are my legal rights here? I also have exposed roots from the same tree in my backyard.


The general rule in a case like this is that you are entitled to cut the overhanging branches and the roots back to the boundary line, but no further.

Before doing so, check with your local council that you do not need the council’s permission before cutting the branches. Take care to do no more harm to the tree than is necessary.

The cutting must be done from your side of the boundary unless your neighbour gives you permission to enter his or her property.

As far as is practical, leave the cuttings neatly stacked outside your neighbour‘s property. Let your neighbour know before you start cutting.

If you employ someone to do the work, you will have to meet the cost.

On the limited information given, the panel cannot comment on whether you can recover the cost from your neighbour or from Housing SA, as the owner of your neighbour’s property. But common sense suggests that this is the last resort.

Unless you have already done so, first talk to your neighbour about your problem. See if you can come to an understanding about dealing with the issue.

Talk to Housing SA, make sure they understand your problem. If you can, get your neighbour to come with you.

If Housing SA will not help, check that your lease or tenancy document does not stop you from taking action.

If you want to investigate the matter further, the Legal Services Commission has a helpful brochure, “Trees and the Law”, which is available on the publications page of the Legal Services Commission’s website (

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