Whose Tree Is This?

By
Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Real Estate - Montgomeryville AB066108

Whose Tree Is This?

 

Most of a large tree hangs over my yard, but the trunk is in the neighbor's yard. Who owns the tree?

The neighbor owns the tree. So long as the tree trunk is wholly in the neighbor's yard, it belongs to the neighbor. When the tree trunk is divided by the property lines of two or more people, it is referred to as a "boundary tree". In this case, both property owners own the tree and share responsibility for it. In that case, tree removal can only be done with the consent of both owners.

If my neighbor's tree branches hang over my yard, can I trim them?

Yes. By law, you have the right to trim branches and limbs that extend past the property line. However, the law only allows tree trimming and tree cutting up to the property line. You may not go onto the neighbor's property or destroy the tree. If you do harm the tree, you could be found liable for damages.

If my neighbor's leaves keep blowing into my yard, do I have a good nuisance claim?

No. you are responsible for the clean up of any natural products that fall into your yard. Even if the leaves cause damage, like clogging your gutters or pipes, you have no legal claim against the owner of the tree.

If, however, the tree branches that are shedding the leaves are hanging over your yard, or the tree trunk is encroaching on your property, then you have a right to trim those branches up to the property line.

If my neighbor owns a fruit tree, and the branches hang over my property, can I eat the fruit?

No. The fruit of the tree belongs to the owner of the tree, so you are not allowed to pick any of the fruit. However, the courts are divided on who can have fallen fruit. But most likely it would be ruled a natural product.

A storm knocked down my neighbor's tree limb onto my property, damaging my house, car, and yard furniture. Is he responsible for the damages?

It depends. The court will likely apply a reasonable care standard. If your neighbor took reasonable care to maintain the tree, and the tree branch did not seem to be threatening to fall, then it would probably be deemed an Act of God. In which case, the neighbor would not be liable and your homeowner’s insurance would cover the damage.

My neighbor's tree looks like it's going to fall on my house. What should I do?

Landowners are responsible for maintaining the trees on their property. Legally, they have two duties: make reasonable inspections and take care to ensure the tree is safe. Therefore, if a reasonable inspection shows that the tree could be dangerous, your neighbor is responsible for the tree removal. If your neighbor does not remove the dangerous tree, and the tree does in fact cause damage, your neighbor can be held liable.

If you have spoken to your neighbor about the tree issue, and he has not done anything about it you do have laws that protect you. The tree may constitute a nuisance, by interfering with your use and enjoyment of your own property. You could file a nuisance claim, and if the court finds that the tree is a nuisance, the court may order the tree removed.

The spreading of tree roots on my neighbor's property has damaged my garage and septic tank. Is my neighbor responsible?

It depends. Serious harm caused by encroaching tree limbs or tree roots may give rise to a lawsuit. "Serious harm" usually requires structural damage, such as damaged roofs or walls, crushed pipes, cracked foundations, and cracked or clogged sewers. As with tree limbs, you have the right to trim the roots that encroach on your property, but you cannot kill the tree in the process. You can be held liable for any act that causes damage to your neighbor’s tree.

In Summary

When a tree on your property hangs over the boundary line into another yard, you have a duty to address all weak or damaged branches. You can be held legally responsible for any damage to structures, land, people or pets from fallen trees limbs that have been neglected. On the other hand, you're not responsible for the tree's debris (leaves, acorns, seeds, etc) that falls into the yard next door. The neighbor is always responsible for cleanup of the accumulation of those items.

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Scott & Lisa Loper

Scott Loper Team at Keller Williams Real Estate

 

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Rainmaker
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Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®
RE/MAX Realty Center - Waukesha, WI
Giving Back With Each Home Sold!

Great information...thanks for sharing and have a wonderful week!

Dec 28, 2016 07:21 AM #1
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Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Scott, I love this post!  It answers a lot of questions - including one that I have right now with a “boundary tree” that is pushing my fence down!  

Dec 29, 2016 05:14 PM #2
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Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Hey, Scott and Team!  I included this post in today's edition of Last Week's Favorites on ActiveRain.  And Happy New Year!

Jan 01, 2017 07:32 AM #3
Rainmaker
2,548,137
Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®
RE/MAX Realty Center - Waukesha, WI
Giving Back With Each Home Sold!

Happy New Year to you!  I Hope you have a wonderful, happy one!

Jan 01, 2017 07:56 AM #4
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Ed Silva
RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

Overhanging trees and limbs are always an issue.  Being friendly with the neighbors is a great way to avoid confrontations

Jan 01, 2017 08:18 AM #5
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Jeff Dowler
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad

Scott

Great read with lots of important information. Trees can become a dicey issue and homeowners should be aware of the local laws that govern what you can and cannot do regarding your neighbor's tree, or what your neighbor can do to yours!

Jeff

Jan 02, 2017 07:48 AM #6
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Dorie Dillard
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.346.1799 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

Good evening The Scott Loper Team Bux-Mont Premier Properties ,

Very interesting post and so glad that Patricia Kennedy featured this one in her favorites for the week. Sure answers some important questions and liabilities!

Jan 02, 2017 03:30 PM #7
Rainmaker
1,218,648
Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • Green • GRI • HAFA • PSC Los Angeles CA

In CA you might not be able to trim branches. The dispute over any tree related issues should be disclosed and carefully negotiated. A homeowner thinking of substantially cutting back an encroaching tree should be advised to consult an arborist beforehand. Even where there is no danger of seriously injury to a tree, cutting back a tree must be done carefully. 

Oct 11, 2017 09:23 PM #8
Anonymous
Robin K. Spiess

I'm really not interested in buying any property at this time, but I came across your site tonight and really enjoyed it. Can I subscribe to this to come as an e-mail to me?

Oct 19, 2017 12:05 AM #9
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