If you have large trees on your property make sure that they are pruned regularly to avoid damage to any neighbouring structures.  This can include structures that are some distance from the property as evidenced by a recent high court decision in which a landowner was ordered to pay £150,000 in compensation for damage caused by tree roots to a property that lay at least 33 metres from the tree.

Damage is frequently caused by tree roots, particularly in areas of clay soil.  Either the roots apply pressure to the subsoil and can cause settlement or cause changes in the subsoil because of the extraction of moisture by the roots.  The bigger the tree, the more moisture will be extracted. 

In this case the affected property was located close to a park owned by the local authority.  The park had a number of poplar trees, the closest being about 30 metres away from the house.  Following significant cracking in the walls of the property, experts agreed that this was caused by the presence of the trees.  Owners of other properties on the same road had brought claims in respect of damage and the court found that the local authority had been aware of the damage that the trees could cause and that it should have embarked upon a programme of tree crown reduction, to stabilise the amount of moisture being withdrawn from the soil.   Because it was reasonably forseeable that the trees would cause damage to other properties in the vicinity the local authority were under a duty to take appropriate measures to prevent such damage.

Large trees can cause substantial damage to property many metres away.  A programme of tree maintenance to ensure that the trees do not cause structural damage should be put in place.  The court recognised that had the trees been pruned every four years, the damage would probably have been prevented.

Law: Robbins –v- Bexley London Borough Council [2012] EWHC 2257 (ICC)