Damage to property alleged to be caused by trees

My neighbour's tree is damaging my property. What can I do?

You are best advised to employ an arboricultural consultant (tree care specialist) or a building surveyor. If they confirm your findings you should notify your building insurer who may carry out further investigations and negotiate with your neighbour and his/her insurer.

What is subsidence?

It is ground or foundation movement that normally results in the cracking of external and/or internal property walls.

Can trees cause subsidence?

Yes. When tree roots enter a shrinkable, clay soil, they can take up sufficient moisture to cause the clay to dry and shrink. As a result, any foundation built upon the clay may move or subside.

Can trees cause subsidence on any soil ?

Normally it would be a shrinkable clay. Most areas of the Borough are not clay.

If I suspect tree-related subsidence what should I do?

You should report it immediately to your building insurer. They will probably carry out further investigations and produce evidence that either blames a tree or identifies other causes.

What is the situation if the tree causing subsidence is protected?

The Council has a dual responsibility: to protect trees in the interests of public amenity, but also to try and ensure that no individual suffers undue loss, distress or damage resulting from this.

What information will the Council require to support a subsidence-related, tree work application on a tree covered by a Preservation Order?

 The key information the Council will normally require to decide the most appropriate course of action is taking into account:

  • the age of the property and any extensions
  • the ownership of the tree(s)
  • the nature of the problem
  • details of any historical defect monitoring
  • type and depth of existing foundations
  • details of soil type and composition to a depth of approximately 3m
  • evidence of tree root presence below foundation level
  • evidence that any roots found belong to the suspected trees
  • measurement of subsoil shrinkage potential at and below foundation level
  • a plan showing accurate locations of relevant site features including buildings, drains and trees on, or adjacent to, the site
  • a plan showing the borehole sampling locations

How can I obtain this evidence?

Your home insurer would usually arrange this but if not you should employ a suitably qualified and experienced building surveyor or a structural engineer who will carry them out for you.

Can tree roots damage drains?

Tree roots will follow drains to exploit any condensation on the outside of the pipes and it is possible that, as they grow they may dislodge pipe joints, enter the drain and block it. However it is more usual for roots to enter an already damaged drain. Once inside a drain, roots are likely to proliferate and cause a blockage.

What can I do if my drains are blocked by tree roots?

The best solution will usually be to repair the drain rather than fell the tree. New drains, well laid, using modern materials and sealants should be immune to tree damage.

What is 'soil heave'?

Heave can only occur where subsidence has occurred before it: the shrunken clay, in re-wetting, returns to its original volume, thus causing uplift to any foundation set upon it. If a tree has not been the cause of clay shrinkage, its removal cannot cause heave - any surplus water will simply drain away.

What if I have evidence that the damage to my property is being caused by Borough Council owned trees?

You should contact:-

Head of Law and Governance, Stafford Borough Council, Civic Centre, Riverside, Stafford ST16 3AQ

Tel: 01785 619 000

Email: legalservices@staffordbc.gov.uk

We publish advice on a range of matters:

Please note: Information contained on this and other pages relating to trees is written for the benefit of tree owners, the general public and amenity groups and answers some of the most common questions relating to trees.

It is for guidance only and is not a statement of the law. You should consult a solicitor if you are unsure of your legal rights or obligations.

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