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Trees and Neighbours - Common questions

Common questions

Can I cut down my neighbour’s tree?

Your neighbour’s tree may be upsetting you. For example, maybe it has overreaching branches or roots (or both), or looks unhealthy or unsafe, or is healthy but is blocking light or beautiful views. You still can’t go onto your neighbour's property without permission and cut it down. That’s trespassing, and your neighbour would have a legal claim against you.

On the other hand, a property owner is responsible for the health and maintenance of the trees on their property. They ought to know the condition of their trees and whether they pose any dangers. If necessary, they (or an arborist they hire) should remove damaged, weak, or rotting branches. 

What can I do if my neighbour tells me a tree on my property is causing a problem?

If your neighbour tells you they’re concerned about the health of one of your trees, and the risk of harm it poses, you have to decide what to do. You can:

  • Do nothing. But then you may have an angry neighbour and may even have to deal with a legal claim. 
  • Hire a professional to assess the tree. Make sure you get permission for them to enter the neighbour’s yard so they can inspect the tree and document their observations and recommendations.
  • Fix the problem. Accept what the neighbour tells you is the problem and pay for it to be fixed. 

You do not have to remove a healthy tree that is blocking your neighbour’s view or casting unwanted shade.

Can a strata corporation cut down trees on common property?

It can, but only in certain circumstances. BC law says a strata corporation can’t make a big change in how common property is used or how it looks unless:

  • most of the strata owners agree to the change at an annual or special general meeting, or
  • an immediate change has to be made for reasons such as safety or the prevention of significant loss or damage.

An example of the latter might be because the trees are dangerously hanging over utility wires. In such a case, the strata corporation could cut down trees on common property. It could also cut down trees if the majority of strata owners agree.

On the flip side, a strata owner who wants to plant trees on common property has to get the strata corporation’s written permission beforehand. (You can’t just go make a change to common property — even a good one!) The owner can look for guidance in the strata’s bylaws and the Strata Property Act.