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.
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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The Scott Loper Team
Scott & Lisa Loper