Branching Out: Your Rights When it Comes to a Neighbor’s Tree

Normally, people like trees. They’re aesthetically pleasing, they provide shade, all produce oxygen – and some produce fruit. However, sometimes a tree can become a headache if they aren’t properly maintained or when they become ill. Even worse is when a nuisance tree is on your neighbor’s property and technically doesn’t belong to you, but is having a direct effect on your property. In these cases, you do have rights, but those rights are limited in a number of ways. Below, we’ll explore some of the more common tree-related issues that arise between neighbors. You would do well to speak with real estate lawyer, like Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C., before taking matters into your own hands.


Can I Trim The Branches of My Neighbor’s Tree if they Grow Over My Yard?


The law does permit the trimming of branches that grow over onto your property, but only to the extent that the branches actually extend over the property line. You can’t cross over onto your neighbor’s property to trim the branches further. If you harm the tree, then you could find yourself paying not only for its replacement value, but possibly three times that. This could be an amount in the thousands of dollars, with the most valuable trees being worth over $50,000.


Can I Eat Fruit from my Neighbor’s Fruit Tree?


The answer to this question is ‘it depends.’ In most cases, you have no right to actually pick fruit off of your neighbor’s tree, as the owner of the tree is considered the owner of the fruit it produces. However, some courts change their tune if the fruit actually falls from the tree and lands in your yard. You should check with your lawyer about which approach courts in your jurisdiction take.


Who Owns the Tree if Most of it is Over My Property, but it is Rooted in My Neighbor’s?


Your neighbor is the owner of this tree. The owner of the property in which the trunk is rooted is the owner of the tree. This is so even if 90% of the tree is hanging over your land. However, if the trunk itself is divided by the property line between you and your neighbor, then you are dealing with a boundary tree and you both own it. However, you still can’t remove it without your neighbor’s permission.


A Storm Caused My Neighbor’s Tree (or a Branch From it) to Fall and Damage My Property – Is My Neighbor Liable?


They might be. Courts will look to whether your neighbor exercised reasonable care in maintaining the tree, and no reasonable person would expect it to fall can cause damage. The court will not hold your neighbor liable for the damage caused by a branch that was brought down by an act of god, since they did everything a reasonable person could do to avoid damage, but that damage was caused anyway by forces beyond their control.


Roots from My Neighbor’s Tree Have Encroached on My Property and Caused Damage – What are My Rights?


You are certainly free to trim the roots to prevent any further damage, but you may not have a claim against your neighbor unless certain conditions are met. Whether or not you can sue your neighbor over this issue varies by state. This may require that the tree to be inherently, dangerous, that the tree be planted and not naturally growing, or that the tree actually cause serious harm.


Conclusion


In most cases, a tree is simply a nice little piece of nature to be enjoyed by you and your neighbor alike. However, when issues arise, it is not uncommon for them to become unnecessarily contentious. In order to keep things from getting out of hand, it is recommended that you retain a good real estate attorney before your whole life is uprooted.