If a tree owner and an aggrieved neighbour can't agree on what to do, several courses of action are open.
Both mediators and arbitrators are available to help resolve a dispute. However, neither party can be forced to take part in either of these processes.
A mediator will help you negotiate a solution to the dispute. An arbitrator will impose a solution. Mediation is less formal and usually less expensive, but cannot be enforced by a court unless you have included enforcement procedures in your agreement. An arbitrated settlement is backed by the courts.
Before you start, you should work out the likely costs. Mediation and arbitration are charged on a time basis, and both parties are expected to pay an equal share, unless another agreement is reached.
Disputes Tribunals can hear claims for damages to property for amounts up to $15,000 (or $20,000 if the parties agree). Typical examples are claims for damage to drains, driveways, foundations and fences.
However, generally a tribunal referee will not be able to hear claims when the dispute is over loss of light, sunshine or views, or involves removal or trimming of the tree. In the latter case, a referee can try to help the two sides reach agreement. However, if your neighbour decides to ignore this, you will have to go to the district court to try to get the problem resolved.
Claims for more than $15,000, or that involve the loss of light, sunshine or views, or that involve the removal or trimming of trees, can be taken to a district court. The court can award monetary compensation for damage caused by a tree. It can also order that a tree be removed or trimmed.
Claims through the District Court will almost certainly require the help of a lawyer and can be expensive.