Trees are sources of beauty, as well as frequent sources of conflict between neighbors. A neighbor’s tree can grow so that branches or roots encroach on your yard, causing actual or potential damage. If you’re facing such a situation, understand your rights so you can decide how to address it.
Branches Hanging Over Your Yard
If the trunk of a tree is located in your neighbor’s yard, but branches extend onto your property, the neighbor is the legal owner of the tree. That means you can’t cut it down, but you do have the right to trim any branches that hang over your yard to avoid damage to your property.
Before you start trimming, notify your neighbor to give him or her an opportunity to address the problem. If the neighbor fails to take action, you may trim the branches yourself, as long as you don’t cut any branches beyond the property line or trim the tree so much that its structural integrity or cosmetic appearance is affected. You may not enter your neighbor’s property to trim branches unless there’s a risk of imminent and grave harm.
Issues With Leaves, Acorns and Fruit
A neighbor’s tree branches encroaching on your yard can allow leaves and acorns to litter your lawn and clog your gutters. The neighbor isn’t responsible for fallen leaves or acorns, since those are natural occurrences, but you can trim branches that extend onto your property.
Fruit that’s still on your neighbor’s tree belongs to your neighbor, even if the branch it’s attached to is hanging over your property. State and local laws vary when it comes to ownership of fruit that has fallen from a tree.
Damage to Your Property Caused by Your Neighbor’s Tree
A neighbor’s tree branch that hangs over your property may fall in a storm, resulting in damage to your home, car or other possessions. If the neighbor took reasonable care of the tree and a storm caused a healthy branch to fall, it’ll be considered an Act of God, and the neighbor won’t be held responsible. If the tree was dead or diseased, and the neighbor was warned but did nothing about it, you may be compensated for damage to your property.
Sometimes a tree on one person’s property has roots that extend so far that they damage a fence on the adjacent property. If that has happened, your neighbor could be required to remove the tree. Your options may be limited if the tree is situated on the property line and the roots extend into your yard and damage a fence located entirely on your property. Check your state law.
Try to Work Things out
If your neighbor’s tree is encroaching on your property, attempt to resolve the problem with a friendly conversation. If that fails, you may have to contact the local government or take your neighbor to court to address the issue.