Overhanging Tree Branches
What are the Laws?
October 19, 2017
When it comes to overhanging tree branches in your yard, over your house, or along power lines that effect your home, you may have some say about what happens to that tree and its maintenance.
Laws on Overhanging Tree Branches
Situation 1. Branches of a large tree hang in your yard, but the trunk is planted in your neighbor’s yard. Who is responsible for the tree?
If the entire trunk is in the other yard, the neighbor owns the tree. However, if the trunk is on the property line, it’s known as a boundary tree, and all property owners involved share responsibility for what happens to it.
Situation 2. Branches of the neighbor’s tree hang in my yard. Can I trim them without permission?
If any limbs extend over the property line, they fall into that neighbor’s jurisdiction. The law allows tree trimming up to the property line, nothing further.
Situation 3. Leaves from the neighbor’s tree consistently clog my gutters and fill my yard. Can I cut those branches to limit the amount of leaves?
Only if those branches extend into your property line. Leaves are a natural product, and no one can control where they go.
Laws on Damage Caused by Tree Branches
Situation 1. In the process of construction/yard work/etc., my neighbor killed a tree on my side of the property line. Am I entitled to compensation?
Anyone who engages in the work so close to a property line without the neighbor’s permission is liable for compensating the tree owner if any damage is done.
Situation 2. Storm damage of a neighbor’s tree resulted in my property damage. Is the neighbor responsible?
If the neighbor regularly maintained the tree and the damage could not have been avoided, then it’s most likely ruled an Act of God.
If the tree was already in need of pruning, and the damage could have been avoided, the neighbor can be found responsible for damages.
Situation 3. Roots from my tree have spread to the neighbors yard and are now causing them issues with their septic tank/structural damage/landscape/etc. Do I need to compensate them?
The neighbor has the right to cut roots and trim trees that spread over the property line. No claim needs to be made to the tree owner in these cases.
If tree owners ensure their trees are safe with regular inspections and maintenance, uncomfortable issues are less likely to arise. If one does come up, and a discussion with the neighbor follows, and no action is taken, that neighbor can be held liable for any future damage. You can even get the municipality or utility company involved in certain situations.
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