Neighbours, Friend or Foe?

Peta Yujnovich

Neighbours, right?  Love them or hate them they’re right next door and they’re not going away.

Neighbourhood disputes can erupt over somewhat trivial matters but can cause significant anxiety for those involved especially when the cause of their anxiety lives right next door.

In 2011 the Queensland government amended legislation relating to neighbourhood disputes and created the Neighbourhood Dispute (Dividing Fences and Trees) Act.  This legislation covers disputes between neighbours that relate to dividing fences, trees and boundary issues.

The legislation was recently used by a woman in far north Queensland who made an application to the local Court to have her neighbour remove a tree from their backyard that was causing her significant allergy problems during the 10 weeks per year that the tree flowered.

The woman would suffer allergies so severe that she would lie in a bath full of cold water each night trying to get relief from the symptoms.  She resorted to trying to stay away from her house as much as possible during the 10 weeks that the tree flowered.

Her neighbours were sympathetic to her plight but requested that the Court order that rather than having to remove the tree, which was part of the aesthetics of their backyard, that they simply trim the tree annually to avoid it flowering so heavily.

The Court wasn’t satisfied that this was an appropriate response and considered it would only be a bandaid solution.

The Court was reluctant to make a decision for the removal of the tree but given the severity of her symptoms, the fact that it was affecting her quiet enjoyment of her property and that she was also suffering significant psychological symptoms due to the condition, the Court ordered that her neighbours remove the tree from their property and that they pay the costs associated with doing so.

Courts often face tough decisions when trying to determine an outcome in cases like these as they are often forced to make a decision about which neighbour’s quiet enjoyment of their property should be given greater weight.  In this case, her medical condition brought on by the tree trumped any aesthetic pleasure that was created by it.

Watson and Harloe v Leonardi [2015] QCAT 238 Member Johnston 21/06/2015.

Peta Yujnovich
Senior Associate
Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers, Part of the Slater and Gordon Group
Ph: (07) 5413 8900
Fax: (07) 5413 8958