A man (not pictured) has been ordered to pay thousands of dollars to his neighbours for going onto their property and chopping down their trees. Photo / 123rf
A man has tried to charge his angry neighbours a fee for chopping down trees they only gave him permission to trim.
The man, identified as HL, told a recent Disputes Tribunal hearing he was entitled to an $815 payment for the time and expenses involved in lopping away chunks of his neighbours trees.
However, his neighbours, identified as LG and KG, said HL should instead pay them $11,500 in damages, including thousands of dollars to replace their beloved ake ake trees and elaeagnus shrubs.
The dispute had earlier started when HL approached his neighbours about the trees because parts of them were overhanging his property.
HL also appeared to be unhappy the trees were shading his house.
He told the tribunal that he and LG agreed the trees should be “topped”, with the pair then standing beside each tree and selecting the height it should be cut to.
HL also claimed LG agreed he could cut the elaeagnus shrubs that were “pushing against his hedge”.
But LG denied this. He said he only gave HL permission to trim parts of seven trees that lined the fence between the two properties and overhung into HL’s yard.
LG said he and HL agreed that HL would use his chainsaw to trim the trees while LG assisted and paid the tip fees to dispose of the branches.
Instead of working together, however, LG and KG said they went to pick up their daughter one Friday afternoon and came home to find “the ake ake trees had been completely cut down”.
They said some of the trees had been cut down to the stump, while the height of others had been greatly reduced.
LG also said there had never been any discussion about cutting the elaeagnus shrubs, yet these were also cut back while he was away from his property.
The Disputes Tribunal referee Souness examined photos of LG and KG’s garden and said the evidence showed it was highly unlikely the pair would have agreed to have their trees and shrubs cut in such haphazard fashion.
“The pictures do not show that the trees have been trimmed, but rather practically removed,” Souness said, with each having been cut to a varying height.
“I accept what LG said in the second hearing, that it looks like someone has come along in a hurry with the chainsaw.
“It is not in keeping with the rest of the garden, and I reject absolutely the suggestion by HL that he carried out this work based on LG’s instructions.”
Given that HL was never given permission to so drastically cut back the trees, Souness also rejected his claim he was entitled to be paid $815 for his labours.
LG and KG also claimed HL had trespassed on their property to do the work.
Souness said a trespass occurs when there is a “wrongful interference” of another person’s property.
“Given my conclusion that there was no agreement that HL would trim the ake ake trees or
elaegnus shrubs, it is clear that by trimming the plants, HL has wrongly interfered with LG and KG’s property,” Souness said.
Ultimately, Souness ordered HL to pay LG and KG almost $7500 so they could replace their trees and shrubs and to cover them for other costs associated with the dispute.