Frequently asked questions - tree disputes

Frequently asked questions about tree disputes.

From 1 November 2011 the Neighbourhood Disputes (Dividing Fences and Trees) Act 2011 formerly known as Neighbourhood Disputes Resolution Act 2011, provides simpler options for resolving tree and fence disputes. For more information.... 

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Trees and the law

What is the Neighbourhood Disputes (Dividing Fences and Trees) Act 2011?

The Neighbourhood Disputes (Dividing Fences and Trees) Act 2011 provides new options for resolving tree and dividing fence disputes between neighbours on adjoining properties.

Are all trees covered by the Neighbourhood Dispute Resolution Act 2011?

No. The laws apply to trees growing on residential land only.  For more information on types of trees and vegetation covered.... 

Who is responsible for looking after a tree?

The owner of the land where the tree is situated (the tree-keeper) is responsible for proper tree care and maintenance. More information....

What jurisdiction does QCAT have regarding tree disputes?

QCAT can make decisions and orders regarding:

  • recovering a debt from your neighbour incurred in the removal of overhanging branches - this is classed as a minor debt
  • a tree affecting a neighbour’s land because there is a risk of injury, property damage or interference with enjoyment of the property.

What if a tree is protected by another law?

QCAT may not make an order for a person to carry out work on a tree if the work is restricted or prohibited under another Act. QCAT can make orders if the tree is protected under local laws or is subject to a vegetation protection order.

How can I check if a tree is protected?

Search the Queensland Heritage Register and contact your local government authority (council) to check if a tree is protected. You should ask for details in writing.

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Overhanging branches

What can I do about overhanging branches?

The common law right of abatement remains – you may continue to remove any overhanging parts of the neighbour’s tree, but you no longer need to return those parts.

For more options on resolving a problem about overhanging branches.

You now have an option to provide your neighbour with a Notice for overhanging branches requesting their removal. If your neighbour hasn’t responded to the Notice for overhanging branches within 30 days, you may remove the branches yourself or arrange for someone else to cut and remove them. You can then recover up to $300 from your neighbour to contribute to these costs.

If I trim overhanging branches of my neighbour’s tree myself, what do I do with the branches, roots or fruit that I trim?

You do not have to return branches, roots or fruit which you have trimmed from the neighbour’s tree but you can do so.

How do I recover the money for removing overhanging branches from my neighbour?

If necessary, you can apply to QCAT to recover up to $300 from the tree-keeper as a minor debt. Find out more about resolving the dispute without legal action before making an application.

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Trees and QCAT orders

What sort of orders can QCAT make in tree disputes?

The safety of all parties is the main consideration for QCAT. Depending on the dispute, orders may include maintenance of a tree, compensation for affects of the tree, replacement of the tree or removal of the tree (as a last resort).

Can I access information about the orders QCAT has made?

Yes. A publicly available register of orders made about trees will be made available (including any order affecting land, the timeframe in which the order is to be carried out and who is responsible for carrying out the order).

My neighbour is not complying with the QCAT order. What can I do?

Monetary decisions can be enforced through a Magistrates Court.  Non-monetary decisions can be enforced through the Supreme Court.  You may also seek assistance from your local government authority once QCAT has made a decision.

Can QCAT make orders that are ongoing?

Yes. QCAT may order maintenance of a tree be undertaken at specified intervals to avoid future disputes.

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QCAT processes and applications

If a tree or trees on a tree-keepers property affects more than one adjoining property, can the owners of the adjoining properties join together and lodge the one application?

No, as the effect of the tree/s on the adjoining properties would have to be assessed separately, each affected adjoining owner would have to lodge a separate application.

Can I still sell my house if there is a tree dispute application pending on my property or an order has been made?

Yes. You must provide the buyer with a copy of the existing QCAT application or order. Once the copy of the application is given, on the day of transfer the buyer is added as a party to the QCAT proceeding and becomes responsible for ensuring the order is complied with. If you do not provide the buyer of your house with a copy of the order, you will remain responsible for ensuring the order is complied with.

Can I apply if the tree which caused damage or injury has been removed?

Yes. You may apply for compensation for damage to land or property even if the tree has been completely removed except if the tree-keeper has sold the land on which the tree was situated, since the damage was caused.

What types of tree issues may interfere with enjoyment?

Depending on the circumstances, this may include severe obstructions of existing views or sunlight or interference with solar panels.

Can I make an application about tree roots?

Yes. An application may concern an entire tree, part/s of the tree including roots. A tree includes a bare trunk, a stump rooted in the land and a dead tree. For more information....

I rent my home and I would like to ask my neighbour to deal with overhanging branches – what should I do?

You should raise your concerns about the overhanging branches with your landlord or agent.

My landlord refuses to do anything about nuisance trees on neighbouring land. What can I do?

You can make an application to QCAT yourself. You will need to show that the landlord has refused to act. If the matter concerns overhanging branches, you should raise your concern with your landlord or agent.

I rent my house. Who is responsible for tree maintenance?

The owner of the land is the tree-keeper and is responsible for tree maintenance.

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