Trees, Bushes & Hedges: Who’s Responsible on a Strata Property?

10 July 2020

Sick of leaves, nuts or fruit falling on your roof?
Worried about a large or dangerous tree hanging over your property?
Perhaps you’re simply wanting to trim a hedge back on a fence line, but are wondering if you’re allowed to.

Trees, bushes and hedges sure can cause some uncertainty when you’re living in a NSW strata scheme. It’s one of the most common disputes between neighbours of any property type, and it can feel even more of a fraught area when it comes to shared property.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to who’s responsible for maintaining vegetation on a strata property, but your first reference should be your strata title to see whether the offending tree, bush or hedge is your responsibility or whether it’s common property. Every strata scheme has a strata plan, and this should outline exactly what is included within common and individual property.

What is common property in a strata title?
Under NSW strata laws, common property is the property that is the shared responsibility of the owners corporation, rather than any individual owner’s responsibility. If the base of the tree, bush or hedge is on common property, then the owners corporation will have a responsibility to keep this managed. If it’s on your lot, then the responsibility to trim or maintain it will be yours. If it’s on another owner’s lot, the responsibility is theirs.

Can I trim overhanging branches that overhang into my lot?
Generally speaking, yes. However – there are a number of considerations to factor in. First, it’s important to check the tree isn’t protected by a tree preservation order. You’ll also want to take care not to cause unnecessary damage to the tree, and to only cut branches or roots back to your boundary line and no further.

If you need to trim a substantial number of branches or vegetation back, your best bet is to speak with the owners corporation or neighbour first and decide on a plan of action. This can help to avoid any issues or arguments down the track.

The trimming of trees, hedges and bushes can be a surprisingly complex issue, but good communication can help keep things clear and straightforward. Don’t be afraid to ask your strata manager for any information you’re unclear about when it comes to your strata plan and common property – this is part of the services a strata manager should be providing.