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London Borough of Harrow (20 011 721)

Category : Environment and regulation > Trees

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 29 Mar 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: On the evidence currently available, we will not investigate Ms X’s complaint about the Council’s tree causing damage to her property. This is because it would be reasonable to expect Ms X to pursue this matter in court.

The complaint

  1. Ms X complains about the Council’s tree causing damage to her property and the Council not paying full costs towards the repairs. Ms X says the tree roots have become a nuisance to her and she would like the Council to remove all tree roots and pay for the necessary work to repair the damages.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Ms X provided with her complaint and I also considered the information the Council provided. Ms X had the opportunity to comment on the draft version of this decision. I considered any comments Ms X made before making a final decision.

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What I found

  1. Ms X says in August 2018, she noticed a tree root near her front door. She contacted the Council and it advised her to put in a claim. Ms X put in a claim and at the time, the Council believed the root had stemmed from a tree which had been previously removed. The Council therefore removed the tree stump. Ms X says although the tree stump had been removed, the root was still alive and so she asked the Council to remove it.
  2. Ms X says the root damaged her driveway and she provided pictures of the damage to the Council with her claim. She complained to the Council and asked it to repair the damage as well as remove all tree roots.
  3. The Council made further investigations and believed the tree root may have stemmed from the tree outside the neighbouring property. The Council agreed it would remove the tree outside the property and the root near the front door.
  4. The Council did not accept Ms X’s claim for the damage to her driveway. This is because under the Limitations Act 1980, it states a claimant has six years to claim for damage to property. The Council said the damage to Ms X’s driveway shown in the photographs she provided with her claim, was also present in Google images from 2012. As the damage was present over six years ago, the limitation period has expired.
  5. Ms X says there are now visible roots around other areas of her property and they are damaging her and her neighbour’s boundary wall. She would like the Council to repair the boundary wall, as well as her driveway and to remove all roots. The Council has offered a goodwill payment of £250 towards the removal of the roots in Ms X’s front garden but Ms X is not happy to pay for any damage caused by the Council’s tree.
  6. The Council informed Ms X that complaints of this nature should be decided by the courts and has advised her to refer the matter to a solicitor if she wishes to continue to pursue her claim.

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  1. The restriction outlined in paragraph two applies to this complaint. We will not investigate this complaint because it concerns liability for damage to Ms X’s property. We cannot determine if the Council is liable for the damage and what it should pay towards the repairs. Where liability is disputed, the matter is for the courts to decide. It is therefore reasonable to expect Ms X to go to court to resolve the matter.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint because it would be reasonable to expect Ms X to pursue this matter in court.

Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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