Can I make my neighbour prune trees that overhang my garden in France?

Legally you cannot cut them yourself. We explain your options

When a neighbour’s trees overhang your garden in France, you are obliged to try to solve the issue amicably before resorting to legal processes
Published Last updated

Reader question: My neighbour has a few trees planted quite close to the side of his garden that borders ours and some of the branches are starting to hang over our garden. Can I cut them back?

You cannot cut the branches yourself as they are legally your neighbour’s property (defined in article 673 of the Code civil).

You can, though, cut back roots, brambles or twigs that extend onto your property.

Since January 1, 2020, you are obliged to try to settle situations such as overhanging branches amicably before pursuing legal options.

If you are on speaking terms with your neighbour, you can ask them to cut back the branches that extend over your property (les branches qui dépassent sur votre propriété).

The French verb élaguer, meaning ‘to prune’, could be useful here. You could ask them, for example, “pouvez-vous élaguer les branches qui dépassent sur mon jardin”.

If you are not on speaking terms with your neighbour, or your neighbour ig) requesting that they nores your request to cut back the branches, the next step is to send a registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt (lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception) requesting that they back the branches.

If they still ignore this, then you can take the case to court free of charge and without a lawyer.

You can fill in the form Cerfa no. 11764*05 and send it to your local court, along with a file establishing the facts of the case. This can be photos of the trees / branches, the letter to your neighbour, etc.

You and your neighbour will then be summoned by the judge to court, who, if they judge in your favour, can force your neighbour to cut back the trees by imposing a fixed penalty, i.e. a sum of money to be paid each day that the branches still overhang your garden.

Note that if the trees are in a garden that is classed as a historical site then the judge will need special permission to order them to be cut back.

The above mentioned form is in French and filling it out and the subsequent court process could be tricky for non-French speakers.

One means of support could be using a Point-Justice centre.

There are dedicated points around France where you can go to seek legal advice and information about your rights from professionals.

You may see them around cities or towns, as they are marked with their distinct green ‘information point’ logo.

There are around 2,000 of these stations in France, with various different legal professionals potentially on hand, such as lawyers, association members, mediators.

These information points are free and offer confidential advice.

To find your nearest Point-Justice information point, you can search online here.

Read our article explaining more about getting free legal advice in France here: Four potential ways to access free legal advice in France

Legal distance trees must be from neighbouring garden

Trees cannot exceed certain heights depending on the distance they are from neighbouring properties. These rules can vary by commune (check with your mairie) but the standard rules are as follows:

  • If the tree is more than two metres tall, it must be at least two metres from the property edge

  • If the tree is less than two metres tall, it must be at least 50cm from the property edge

There are some further exceptions to this that can come into play, such as the age or status of the tree.

There are also stricter rules for getting a neighbour to cut down a tree completely, with one situation in which that is possible being when the tree is deemed dangerous.

Article 673 of the Code civil equally notes that if a neighbour’s tree that overhangs your property produces fruit, you become the legal owner of these fruits if they fall to the ground on your land. You cannot pluck them from the tree without your neighbour’s permission.

Finally, if a tree planted on public property and its branches are overhanging your property, you should speak to your local mairie.

Related articles

What can I do about a neighbour blocking my garage in France?

French crowing cockerel owner in court after neighbour’s complaint

Home energy rating problems and three other French property updates