Highways claims for tree boundary property damage

Claiming for boundary or property damage caused by council trees.

1 Overview

We have a statutory duty under the Highways Act 1980 to maintain the West Sussex highways, ensuring they are safe and can be used without obstruction.

Your claim will be fully investigated considering all the known facts, and legal liability will be determined in accordance with the law. The County Council will accept or reject your claim, depending on whether or not it is considered that a court would award compensation on the facts presented.

If the County Council accept liability, or when the court upholds a claim, claims will be settled promptly. If the County Council deny liability, you will be provided with a detailed letter setting out the legal reasons (based on the statutory defence afforded by Parliament) that support why there is no liability to you.

If you are considering making a claim for a highways-related incident, be aware that Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980 allows us a defence if we can show that reasonable steps were taken to maintain the highway.

2 Before making a claim

Making a claim against West Sussex County Council can be a lengthy and time-consuming process. We recommend you only proceed with a claim if you consider you have the necessary grounds and documentation to be successful.

You should ensure that you are able to provide:

  • the exact location of the incident with reference to an adjacent building or landmark
  • a full description of the issue
  • full details of damage caused
  • photographic evidence
  • an independent estimate for repair (unless repair was required immediately), providing a copy of the repair bill by uploading it when prompted on the form.

If you believe that a WSCC-owned tree is causing damage to your property, we recommend that, in the first instance, you contact your insurance provider. They will generally carry out an investigation and manage any subsequent claim on your behalf.

You are at liberty to submit a claim without the support of your insurance company, but you will need to provide detailed evidence (for example, a structural survey) to support your assertion that a WSCC tree is responsible for the damage.

The burden of proof is on the claimant and therefore without supporting evidence, it is unlikely that the claim will be processed.

3 Making a claim for damage

To have sufficient grounds for a damage claim you should be able to answer ‘Yes' to all of the following questions:

Are you able to provide insurance documents or a detailed report of proof?

The burden of proof is on the claimant, so a claim can only be made with the required documents. If not, we will be unable to process your claim.

Can it be proven that West Sussex County Council did not take reasonable steps to prevent damage?

Section 58 of the Highways Act of 1980 allows us a defence if we can show that we took reasonable steps to maintain the tree(s). If we can show that we carried out inspections and works, we will generally have a complete defence to the claim. If not, your claim will not be successful.

Have you reported the damage related to the claim?

It is important we know about the issue as soon as possible. You must therefore report the issues (if it has not already been reported) before making a claim. We will ask you for evidence of this as part of any claim. If not, your claim will not be successful.

Can it be proved that the damage was caused by the tree defect and not by other contributory factors?

If there are other possible causes such as insufficient footing to building, vehicle damage, wear and tear.

If you have answered ‘Yes’ to all four question you may continue and submit your claim.

You will be required to create an account before completing the application. Before you begin, please make sure you have all the necessary information, as it is not possible at this time to save and return to the form.


The quickest and easiest way to complete your claim is online. If you are unable to complete an online form for any reason, please contact our Highways Customer Service team.

Last updated:
21 February 2023
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