Trees and overhead wires - who is responsible?

Hello, We have just moved into our new home in Normandy and so far so good. The neighbours (all French) have been very welcoming and we have got utilities sorted. I was wondering if anyone knew about our responsibilities regarding our trees and the overhead wires. Are we expected to cut the trees or will EDF or someone do it? The branches are very close to the wires and we do not want to be the cause of a power failure here.

EDF have just come and sawn off branches on our treees that may threaten their adjacent power lines. I didn´t ask them to do it , they didn´t ask if they could do it - well not until I set the dog on them for not asking !! Presumably they survey their lines now and again and when its necesssary they do it. Why don´t you ask them at your local office ´- show photos if your french isnt too good.

Yeah I would also call EDF first and then decide what to do))) but yeah it is right that you bring this topic!

No, it actually depends on what is in the plan cadestral. That determines who owns a tree that runs along the side of a property & road. If you look at the and your parcel number you will see that the boundaries are marked either as just parcel or as commune responsibilty. I know his because we had to get a notaire involved about an issue with and old oak which sits at the side of the commune road. Even though it is outside the fence around our property it is still our responsibility. Norman is correct about rotten trees but it is not the responsibility of the commune if a tree comes down when it is green, it is the owner if indicated as such on the cadestral. The commune will clear it, it has to, because it affects the road passage, however it depends on how generous your Mayor is as to whether you are charged. If the tree is green then any damage is covered by your house insurance under third party liability. If it is rotten then you are on your own. Again we know this because we had one come down recently and we were advised that it was our responsibility in line with the key on the plan cadestral.

We also had this problem, but not with our own trees, but with those of the adjoining farmer. He always would come and do the business when we pointed out the problem, but did also tell us a few pointers (later confirmed) about trees in general, notably that if you had a rotten tree and it fell onto the road, you would be completely responsible for removal and any damage or repairs caused by it. If a tree was swept down by a gale or anything, that would be the first thing checked. Hard to tell sometimes if a tree is rotten inside. If it was a healthy tree the responsibility returns to the Commune. The rules also change if a tree is on a departmental road or a side road, or on private property.

If a tree branches are in contact with a power line, as others have said it is the responsibility of EDF (or their contractors) to remove the offending branches and they have the right to access any private property in order to effect the lopping. I am not sure, but I think this is not chargeable to the owner as it is protecting the EDF property? That would need to be checked though, so not offered as gospel. I know power cuts through this happening were quite regular until in the ends the farmer decided to cut the trees down completely. Bit sad really, but one was definitely adopting a lean, and at about 80m high getting a bit more of a worry than touching power cables.

One final thing if I may about trees. In Australia I had a very large, a tree in my garden. A typhoon swept through in 1969, and devastated parts of Melbourne including collapsing my tree. Fortunately it fell away from the house and as we were the last house in a cul-de-sac facing the street by some happy chance(?) the tree fell up the road and didn't damage or hit any thing else other than demolishing our garden wall and the pergola. We measured it at 120 feet long when it was on the ground. We had only been in the house a fortnight and had recently done the house insurance and had made sure that 'damage caused by falling trees' clause was duly noted.

Fine, but what we hadn't even thought of, was there was no insurance provision for 'the removal of the tree'. Worth remembering?

Fortunately Aussies being Aussies all the neighbours piled in with their chain saws etc., and lopped all the branches, and we only needed the professionals to get stuck into the trunk. Our main cost was provision of large numbers of 'tinnies' (cans of beer), and we made a lot of new friends.

Hi Anne,

When some of the cables by us came down in storms last year, the ERDF team came out and sorted it out and cut the bits of immediately threatening flora. They were also concerned about the tallest of these trees that had been swaying dangerously in the storm: a big pine in the early stages of dying off - and the roots of these spread out flat across the ground; there’s no depth to them at all: no tap root - when they go,especially in soft ground, they really go. It would take out all the lines and there’s a good chance that it would damage our roof too. It’s not on our property so the team tried to contact the owners for permission to fell it, but they failed, so they left it.

I had a big heap of rocks nearby from making an opening for a new window, so I moved them into a circle around the tree to ballast the roots until I can get to do something about it. It will have to be chopped progressively as it leans in towards the cables and our gable end.

We hope to be purchasing this woods soon so that will be the first job to do - and I’ll breathe a sigh of relief once it has become firewood. We’re buying ⅓ and my friend who’s buying the other ⅔ has volunteered to shin up it with my handy Bosch 36v battery chainsaw. He’s younger and fitter than I.

Good luck with your tree probs and with settling in to Normandie. BTW; I used to live not too far from you: just the other side of Vire - on a farm, in a converted fire engine.

Given that you live in what seems to be a pretty small commune you could also drop in at the mairie and ask for advice.

Thank you to everyone who has responded. This site is really impressive. I will contact EDF or ERDF initially and take it from there. Even after just three weeks I am realising that the answer you get seems to depend on whom you ask, when you ask, the time of day, what we had for breakfast etc.....

Hah, there seems to be contradictions as usual. People are being told different things by ERDF alone. However, the bottom line seems to be, do not touch anything yourself.

Sorry Brian, was typing too fast! I'm supposed to be *******wallpapering........................!

Something else I forgot to mention. Your house insurance under your liability will cover the tree if it causes any damage, BUT there is a caveat on this. The insurance will only cover you if the tree is green (ie still alive) If it is not then your insurance will not cover it.

Our only esperience of this sort of thing was receiving a letter from ERDF stating that they were inspecting the lines, and would cut down any trees deemed to be a problem to the lines. They went on to ask whether they were to get rid of the cuttings or whether we wanted them left for us to clear up. We replied that they could leave the rubbush (we would have had to pay otherwise) but never heard another word.

I agree with James here, doing it yourself may seem attractive until a branch falls on the cable - get in an expert.

Try this website It tells you the requirements for cutting trees etc and covers all aspects relating to electricity wire and telephone lines etc.... If they are next to power lines you are NOT allowed to cut them because of the legal liability aspect, the safety aspect and when ERDF do it the power lines are switched off. Don't attempt it yourself. We have had the same problem recently. I called the English speaking helpline at EDF and they sent someone from ERDF to cut them for free. ERDF are actually obliged to do it.

No, not EDF but ERDF. We are very close to the nearest depot and have learned that calls to EDF about these things are never passed on to ERDF and calls to ERDF are seldom answered. Stick with it, call and say that it looks like a power line is about to come down (in your opinion) then they will eventually reach you. If the trees are actually on your property, or so says the engineer nearby, then you are obliged to remove the branches. In fact, being on the edge of a forest, the linesmen have said to us that unless a tree is likely to fall, it can also protect the line and do not worry about getting a shock through the tree unless you insist on hugging it during a very heavy torrent.

Yep, like Valerie, we do our own. I know 3EDF do come out but it is a waiting game, I prefere to do it before the branches are in leaf and before the winters torms so I dont have to worry! Just be careful!

When we moved in to our current house there was a huge laurel than had engulfed the power and telephone cable. I cut it myself but it was a dangerous choice. I would recommend you get someone to do it for you on this occasion. Cutting tools around power lines is asking for trouble!

Thank you. So I suppose that means that I can ignore them so long as they do belong to EDF or maybe give EDF a call. After my last reply I now wonder if they are telephone lines.

Thank you, I am on my own at present but my husband will be here in a few weeks for a few weeks and he can go up the ladder!

EDF regularly patrol their lines and have a contractor who prunes trees that are too close for comfort at EDF's cost.

Hi Anne, I have a similar problem with one of my trees swaying gently or otherwise against the telephone wire. We moved in a year ago and it was obvious the thing hadn't been touched in a very long time. I've only seen utilities guys cutting the hedgerows and trees alongside roads so I actually have a friend with a very long ladder (which I haven't got - nearly went abseiling off my 10 foot ladder) coming to hopefully hack at least half of the thing down, or as much as I can persuade him to do. Once done, it will take 4 or 5 years to grow back to that height so will be more manageable.