How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Joshua Your Own Question
Joshua
Joshua, Lawyer
Category: Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 25424
Experience:  LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
35043042
Type Your Property Law Question Here...
Joshua is online now

I have a well established Twisted Willow tree on a boundary

Customer Question

I have a well established Twisted Willow tree on a boundary line of my property, my neighbour has asked me to remove it as it drops leaves into his gutter and occasionally branches when it is really windy, one of which has apparently made a dent in the roof of his car. He has also said that the roots are causing a problem with the foundations of his garage which is very close to the tree.
I said that I would look into it, in the mean time he has chopped all the branches that overhang his side of the fence - which I don't have a problem with. Since then he has also had an extension built and I has informed me that a condition of the extension being signed off by the local council is that the tree is removed, I have spoken to them and they have confirmed this is correct.
As this is the case I reluctantly agreed with the neighbour that if the Willow was to come down then he would cover the costs to remove and replace with 3m high alternative to put back in place the shielded view, so the rest of the street can not see into my bedroom.
However yesterday he informed me that he was now not going to cover the costs, he has spoken to a solicitor and was going to have the extension underpinned at a cost of approx £5k and then charge me the costs back to me plus legal fees. This is apparently due to the fact I had agreed to have tree removed when we first spoke about it when I first moved into the property nearly 18months ago. I would like to know if he is legally able to claim these costs from me?
Many thanks,
Adam
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Property Law
Expert:  Joshua replied 2 years ago.
Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practising lawyer in England with over 10 years experience. Could you kindly expand upon the below statement please? What exactly did you or did you not agree to then and if you did agree did you impose any conditions or put anything in writing?"This is apparently due to the fact I had agreed to have tree removed when we first spoke about it when I first moved into the property nearly 18months ago."
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi,

From what I remember I believe that I simply said that I would look into it, at that time no conditions were set and nothing was written down.

When he agreed to paying for the tree removal and replacements I asked him to write down his intention then but he refused saying that would make it legal and he didn't want that so it was a real surprise when he started threatening legal action.

Expert:  Joshua replied 2 years ago.
Thank you. on the basis nothing was written down and any undertakings you may or may not have given to him were as vague as you suggest - i.e. no specific commitments were given but rather an undertaking to consider the matter further - realistically, he has little or no hope of seeking to enforce any commitment you gave against you as there as you either gave no commitment or the terms of that commitment are in dispute. It is important however that for the purposes of your neighbour you ar clear that you gave no such undertaking and merely agreed to consider the matter further. If the neighbour can show that you did agree to have the tree removed, and he has subsequently acted in the way that is detrimental to him relying on undertaking, he could seek to hold you to the undertaking to remove the tree under the doctrine of estoppel. It may still be a stretch to claim what he is seeking but the basis of the claim (albeit not necessarily the amount) could succeed if you are not firm on the above point. otherwise, in respect of the tree he has no right to force you to remove the same. He can lop back branches that overhang his land providing he returns them to you. However, he may be able to seek damages in respect of any damage the roots cause to his property if he can show that 1) the tree was planted after the structure that is being damaged was built - so as to demonstrate your negligence in planting a tree close enough to one of his buildings because it is likely to cause damage in the future and 2) that he has notified you of the damage being caused and you have subsequently failed to do anything to address the root problem so as to allow the damage to continue. If you believe that the roots are causing damage to his land, then you may wish to consider employing a tree surgeon to look at controlling the roots so as to prevent their further damaging the neighbours property. There is no requirement to remove the tree in order to satisfy his building control application. This is his problem not yours. Regarding the underpinning work, notwithstanding the above, I cannot see how he could eek to recover these costs from you providing you are firm on the issue of any undertakings you may or may not have given him as he claims as we discussed above but you would need to consider looking at root control as above to prevent further encroachment and damage subject as above and this may need to be reviewed on a semi regular basis according to advice from the tree surgeon. If you obtain such advice, try to obtain the advice from the tree surgeon in writing. This is because if the neighbour did seek to make a claim for damage in the future, notwithstanding all of the above, you can demonstrate that you have maintained the tree in accordance with professional advice, this would operate as a very good defence in and of itself to any claim for damages though as above the neighbour would still need to prove the above points to bring a successful claim anyway. I hope the above is of assistance? If you have no further questions for now I should be very grateful if you would kindly take a moment to click to rate my service to you today or just reply back to let me know if the above is helpful. Your feedback is important to me. If there is anything else I can help with please reply back to me I'd be very grateful
Joshua and other Property Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thank you for your reply

He has said that he has made notes on each time we have spoken so I guess these are what he would try and use as a record for me agreeing to remove the tree, though I really do not remember agreeing to taking it down at that point. Are his own written notes useable against me?!

There were definitely no conditions set.

Expert:  Joshua replied 2 years ago.
His notes are nothing more than his own statement. It has weight but it is nothing more than his word against yours. However it is important that you are clear on what you did say or at least on what you did not say as above for the simple reason that if he makes a very concise and clear statement with an alleged contemporary note of what was discussed but you provide a very weak rebuttal such as (forgive me) "I can't really remember" the neighbours statement is likely to be considered to have more weight than yours. by contrast, if you can say clearly that the neighbours recollection of what was discussed is not correct and you did not under any circumstances agreed to remove the tree then his statement has little impact and would not be sufficient on its own to establish any liability.

Related Property Law Questions