Following on from my article about dividing fences, this week I’ve decided to look into some other issues that shoot up, hang over your fence, and watch you from afar. I’m talking about neighbours, and no, I don’t mean Karl and Susan from Ramsay Street. They’re your best friends, your go to afterhours general store, or they’re a real thorn in your side (no pun intended). But what are the options when your neighbour sets up surveillance or when the twenty-foot eucalyptus has limbs stretching into your yard and dropping leaves in your gutters?
Let’s start with the easy one.
What can you do about peeping Tom next door recording you in the shower?
Simple. Buy curtains. Unfortunately, there is a real gap in the law which governs neighbours or property owners from setting up surveillance. In 2015 there was a Parliamentary Inquiry which discussed a number of privacy issues, including the serious invasion of privacy between neighbours, but nothing ever eventuated on this issue. Whilst there are some legislative protections in place such as the Workplace Surveillance Act 2005 (NSW) and the Surveillance Devices Act 2007 (NSW), these aim towards surveillance in the workplace and covert operations in law enforcement amongst other things. But apart from that, recourse from your neighbour is limited to the following:
Now what about the over-hanging branches? There are a few potential avenues available for you. There is a handy piece of legislation conveniently known as the Trees (Disputes Between Neighbours) Act 2006. The Act sets out a clear process on how to seek a resolution from the Land and Environment Court. But before you consider embarking down this forestry of paperwork and applications, have a think about some of these options:
WARNING: Before you remove or prune any tree you need to check with your Local Council as to whether or not a permit is required to carry out the work. In some cases, a development application may also be needed. There are some exemptions where neither is required, but you need to contact your Local Council for further information about these exemptions.
Land and Environment Court (LEC):
Before heading off to the LEC, make sure you are clear about what it is your applying for and for what purposes:
The Act makes it very clear that the LEC must be satisfied that an order is needed for one of the two purposes mentioned above and not just because you don’t like your neighbours twenty-foot eucalyptus.
There is also a criteria and other matters the LEC takes into consideration including:
Lastly, I will leave you with this interesting comment from the Commissioners in the case of Barker v Kyriakides  NSWLEC 292: “the dropping of leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds or small elements of deadwood by urban trees ordinarily will not provide the basis for ordering removal of or intervention with an urban tree” – basically, clean up your neighbour’s mess!
This is general advice only and please consult your legal professional before taking an axe to your neighbour’s trees (or your neighbour).
Image use credit for images in this blog post:
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