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Property Owner Obliged to Remove Trees

Friday 04 November 2016

A property owner has been obliged to cut down trees on their land due to roots intruding into their neighbour's garden.

In a recent case in the French Supreme Court, the Cour de Cassation, a couple complained about the roots from a row of eight poplar trees planted on their neighbour’s garden.

The trees were planted at approximately two metres from the neighbour’s boundary and it was one large root measuring 11cm in circumference and 7 metres in length that was the particular cause of their grievance.

The couple brought the case under a law which grants a right to a property owner to cut the branches of overhanging trees or the roots of the trees belonging to their neighbour if they intrude onto their property.

Article 673 of the French civil code states:

'Celui sur la propriété duquel avancent les branches des arbres, arbustes et arbrisseaux du voisin peut contraindre celui-ci à les couper. Les fruits tombés naturellement de ces branches lui appartiennent.

Si ce sont les racines, ronces ou brindilles qui avancent sur son héritage, il a le droit de les couper lui-même à la limite de la ligne séparative.

Le droit de couper les racines, ronces et brindilles ou de faire couper les branches des arbres, arbustes ou arbrisseaux est imprescriptible.'

In considering the case, the court heard from an expert witness who stated the roots of poplar trees could be higher than the tree itself and that in this case it was impossible to determine the number of roots that were present in their garden, or the tree to which the main intrusive root belonged.

To remove the roots would be a substantial task, causing great damage to the neighbouring garden. Moreover, it would also weaken the trees to such an extent that they would become dangerous. In practice, the only solution would be to cut down the trees and remove the roots.

In ruling that the trees should be removed the judges stated that the law did not require a neighbour to prove that a nuisance was being caused, merely that the roots of the tree intruded onto their property.

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