Class Action Launched Over Trees

A class action has been launched against the Cold Coast City Council after residents along Marine Parade, Miami Beach, discovered dozens of young Norfolk Pine trees planted along the street. Property owners, their homes collectively worth $20 million, are seeking $4 million in compensation for the loss or reduction of their ocean views. The fast growing trees can reach up to 25 metres in height.

One resident, who has lived on the Parade for fifteen years said: “I am very upset about this and I’m not the only one. To go ahead and do this without telling us is so disrespectful and it will hurt our property prices. We have always had uninterrupted views and now they have been taken away from us. If they don’t get rid of the trees, we will proceed with a class action and we will want them to pay for the devaluation of our homes.”

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Miami real estate agent Luke Henderson, who handles property on Marine Parade, said the trees could devalue homes by around 20 per cent. “They are dirty, messy enormous trees which aren’t even native to this area,” he said. “Residents pay rates and should be consulted about these things. I hope sanity prevails and they remove them as quickly as possible. It is really poor form.”

The offending pine tree. Picture: David Clark

The offending pine tree. Picture: David Clark

Area councillor Greg Betts said his office had been inundated with complaints from residents. He also admitted there had not been any community consultation. “I got blasted by a number of members of the public and contacted the parks supervisor to put a halt on it,” he said. “People are really angry about it, so I am hoping to meet with residents both for and against it. Hopefully we will then come up with a plan to go forwards.”

Overhanging tree branches are also subject to new laws which allow neighbours to trim them at the owner’s expense. Our property watchdog and consumer advocate Tim O’Dwyer was interviewed for the report done by Channel Nine.

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If you have trees on your property, you have certain responsibilities. These are outlined in the The Neighbourhood Disputes (Dividing Fences and Trees) Act 2011.

  • It is your responsibility as a tree-keeper if the tree is ‘wholly or mainly situated on your land’; so even if the tree is on the boundary line, if the majority is on your land you are classed as the tree-keeper.
  • You are also the tree-keeper if the tree was previously ‘wholly or mainly situated on your land’; so it can be proved a tree that was on your land damaged your neighbour’s property, you are still liable as the tree-keeper.
  • Where a tree sits on multiple properties—for example where it is exactly on the boundary line between the properties—then each owner equally shares the responsibilities and liabilities.

Your tree may be classed as unreasonably getting in the way of your neighbour’s use and enjoyment of their land if it:

  • interferes with television or satellite reception
  • interferes with the proper functioning of solar panelling
  • shades sunlight from the windows or roof of their property if the tree branches are more than 2.5 metres above the ground
  • obstructs a view that existed before the neighbour took possession of the land if the tree branches are more than 2.5 metres above the ground
  • creates a substantial and ongoing accumulation of tree litter in their yard

Normal tree litter—leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds or small elements of deadwood—would not be classed as substantial and therefore is not sufficient to get an order for the removal or cutting back of a tree.

If you have any questions about property law, neighbourhood disputes or your responsibilities as a property owner, contact us today for your FREE, 10-minute phone consultation.