Subsidence damage caused by trees

Trees can cause subsidence when their roots are in shrinkable clay. This can crack external and internal property walls.

Report subsidence to your building insurer. They will investigate and produce evidence which either blames a tree or identifies other causes. You can also employ a building surveyor or a structural engineer to produce evidence for you.

Applying to work on trees that have caused subsidence

We need these types of evidence as part of your application:

  • 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
  • crack and/or level monitoring data taken throughout the year, to show any seasonal change

Drain damage caused by trees

Tree roots may enter an already damaged drain and cause a blockage.

The best solution is usually to repair the drain rather than fell the tree.

Damage caused by trees owned by the council

Guidance: Problems relating to council-owned trees

Report damage caused by trees owned by the council to:

Pruning overhanging trees

If a tree or hedge is unprotected, you can prune branches that overhang your land and the roots growing beneath your land.

You do not need the owner's permission, but you must not trespass onto their land.

You must offer to return the cut branch wood and any fruit which is attached or has fallen onto your land. However the tree owner is not obliged to accept them, in which case you are responsible for their disposal.

You may be liable for damages if the work causes the tree to die or become dangerous.

Trees that block your view or grow close to your land

In relation to trees there is no legal right to light or a view. This means we cannot do anything about a tree which blocks your view or shades your garden. You can take the owner to court, but the council cannot become involved.

You cannot do anything about a tree growing close to your boundary, unless it causes subsidence damage, or you have livestock that is poisoned by parts of the tree that overhang the boundary.

You cannot do anything about leaves which fall onto your property, as leaf fall is considered a natural event.