Trees offer structure and drama to a landscape, but they may also be a source of concern due to their size and propensity for causing nuisance or harm. Read about how tall you can keep your trees in the garden in Germany.
Deciduous or coniferous trees in the garden can grow so high that they also shade the neighbor’s garden. It is not uncommon for this to result in a tangible neighborhood conflict. But is there a maximum height for trees in the garden?
Even if most trees in the gardens rarely grow higher than twenty meters, there are also old specimens that can grow to a stately height – at least if they are not pruned or felled beforehand. A spruce, for example, can grow up to 50 meters, but together with the silver fir is also the tallest tree in Europe.
Are there any legal requirements that regulate the amount? What about the limit distance to the neighbor? And what is the handle if the neighbor shadows your own garden or penetrates your own green with overhanging branches?
How tall can trees grow in the garden?
The good news in advance: There is no general upper limit for trees in the garden. The bad news: There are regulations for the distance to the border, according to which the height is measured. The closer the trees are to the border with the neighbor, the lower they have to be.
However, this only applies for a certain period of time – as a rule, the trees enjoy grandfathering after five years. If this period has passed, the neighbor also has no more control.
Tree height not uniformly regulated
As is so often the case, there are unfortunately no uniform rules for this. While a small part of neighborhood law is covered in the German Civil Code (Paragraphs 903 to 924), the federal states regulate the border distance individually.
Only in Hamburg, Bremen and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania are there no rules regarding the distance between trees. In the other federal states, the regulations for the distances differ in part.
The neighborhood laws of the federal states also differentiate between the type of wood, usually between hedges, useful and ornamental trees. The permissible height is also decisive here. And then there are also exceptions, for example when bushes, trees or hedges are behind walls.
With certain trees and shrubs that grow particularly quickly and expansively, in some federal states you have to keep a distance of eight meters from the property line.
Inquire beforehand at the municipal administration
The following rule of thumb can be used as a guide: Trees and bushes that are around two meters high should be half a meter away from the border. If they are larger, it should be at least three feet.
The best thing to do is to ask the relevant local authority in advance how tall the tree can be and what distance it should be from the border, then you are on the safe side.
What to do if the neighbor’s trees shade your own garden?
If the neighbor’s tree is at a sufficient distance from the border, unfortunately you cannot take action against disturbing shadows in your own garden. The courts assume that you have to tolerate both shadows and leaves as neighbors, as it is quite normal for the trees to create shade and shed leaves.
For example, the Hamm Higher Regional Court (Az. 5 U 67/98) ruled that a tree that is at a sufficient distance from the border does not have to be cut back, although the shadow cast disturbed the neighbor.
Frequently Asked Questions about trees in gardens
How tall can the trees be in the neighbour’s garden?
If there are no precise legal regulations for your state, it is best to observe the following rule of thumb: As a precaution, keep trees and bushes up to about two meters high at a distance of at least 50 centimeters, for taller plants at least one meter.
When does the neighbor have to cut his trees?
If a tree protrudes onto a neighboring property, it can be cut back there. This was decided by the Federal Court. This also applies if the tree is no longer stable or should die.
What to do if the neighbor does not cut trees?
This so-called self-help right of the neighbors only takes effect if you give the owner of the “disturbing” neighboring property a reasonable deadline to remove it. Only when the neighbor lets this deadline pass without pruning the branches can you remove the annoying branches on your side of the fence.