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Cut Back Your Cypress Trees or Pay the Price!

In a stern warning to householders that they are under a legal duty to keep their garden trees and shrubs under control, a woman has been ordered to pay over £17,000 damages to neighbours after the spreading roots of her ‘dominating’ Cypress hedge took a heavy toll on the foundations of their home.

The offending Lawson Cypress hedge sparked a protracted legal clash between the woman and the couple who lived next door in a suburban street after the latter complained of cracking to the exterior and interior of their home, including their living room parquet floor.

The Technology and Construction Court found that expert evidence had established that the Cypress trees were a significant cause of the subsidence damage and that a ‘reasonably prudent landowner’ would have appreciated the real risk posed by the trees’ roots.

Given the ‘dominating position’ of the hedge – described as ‘not an attractive feature’ – the damage to the couple’s home was ‘reasonably foreseeable’. Finding the woman liable in nuisance, the Court found that it would have cost just £700-800 to remove the hedge and that the woman had failed to take appropriate steps to eliminate the obvious risk.

However, the Court went on to rule that damage caused by a 50-year-old oak tree on the woman’s land had not been reasonably foreseeable and lopped 15% off the couple’s compensation to reflect their contributory negligence in failing to complain to their neighbour earlier. The Court awarded damages for the cost of expert advice, surveys, remedial work and for the distress and inconvenience caused by the tree roots damage. The total pay-out came to £17,269, after the 15% reduction.

Khan & Anr v Harrow Council & Anr. Case Number: HT-11-99