Trees, Nuisances and You

Trees are a wonderful thing. They filter our air, provide shade in the summer, and they brighten up the dreary fall. Trees are a valued and desirable element of any neighbourhood. They can also be a real nuisance. Why all this talk of trees? Because your trees or your plans for your property might be in danger.

Trees are one of the classic nuisance examples. The law of nuisance is meant to accommodate neighbours so that one person’s use of their property does not interfere with their neighbour’s use of their property. A tree wholly situated on one person’s property can borough its roots onto the neighbour’s property where it can do significant damage. Often in such situations the courts will order the tree’s removal. While this may be bad news for many a tree, the law is not so clear cut.

In recent years, the courts have taken note of the environmental importance of trees and are reluctant to order their removal where the tree is not either causing property damage or blocking one’s neighbour from accessing their property. Recently, in Allen v. MacDougall, the court held a tree straddling the property line between two neighbours was not a nuisance because it blocked one neighbour from building an addition on their house. The tree was not doing any damage to the property and the neighbour hadn’t explored any alternatives to cutting down the tree, like building their addition on the other side of the house.

What does all of this mean for you? If your neighbour’s tree is bothering you, don’t immediately reach for your axe. Instead, reach out to a local lawyer. You may be entitled to have the tree removed. If the tree can and should be removed, your lawyer can help you with the process.