‘My neighbour won’t cut down dangerous trees that could flatten my house. What can I do?’

Finding out who your neighbour’s insurer is would be really useful, as you could approach them directly with your evidence. If your neighbour won’t take heed of you, he may listen to his insurers, especially if they seek to put up his premium because of the additional risk, or even say they will exclude cover for damage to your house unless he manages his trees better.

If such a pragmatic approach is not available, you may seek legal relief before the event. In law this is called an injunction. A so-called prohibitory injunction is an order forbidding a party from performing an act. A mandatory injunction is an order to perform an act. Here you would want a mandatory injunction to have the trees at risk of falling managed or removed. 

All of which sounds great in theory, but the courts are very reluctant to grant injunctions and they are also expensive in terms of legal fees. Lawyers love injunctions because the depth of evidence required to persuade a court to act means legal fees add up fast and furiously. For clients the process can be very stressful.

For a case like yours to succeed you would need to persuade the court as to the fact of imminent risk of damage to your property and/or life. You would need stringent evidence, including from experts. Yes, you have your tree survey, but how robust is it and indeed what are the credentials of its author? These matters would be under the spotlight. 

The other side of the legal coin is that most of us would resent being told to do something to our own property. This is why the hurdle to get over to be granted an injunction is a high hurdle.

If your property or life is at risk and you can prove it, the courts should step in to help, but the legal process will not be without the financial risk of you losing and being liable for your own and your neighbour’s legal costs.

Your neighbour would also face the same financial risk of litigation, so a further pragmatic approach to him (again in writing) may be to threaten an injunction and see who blinks first. 

Ask a Lawyer is written by Gary Rycroft, solicitor at Joseph A Jones & Co, and published twice a month on Mondays. Email your questions to askalawyer@telegraph.co.uk

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