A neighbor’s trees can overhang your property. They can drop fruits and leaves onto your property. And in some cases, they can be dangerous. In either of these cases, are you legally allowed to cut or trim the trees without their permission?
Yes, you can cut a neighbor’s tree if the cutting is limited to trimming the branches that overhang your property. However, you are not allowed to completely remove it or harm it in any way. If you do, you can be fined. Your neighbor can also sue you for maliciously damaging their property.
Here is what you should know.
Yes, you can cut a neighbor’s tree without their permission if the tree’s branches are overhanging your property. However, you are only allowed:
- to cut the overhanging branches or limbs
- to cut the tree up to the property line.
What you shouldn’t do
Therefore, you shouldn’t cut the tree itself. You shouldn’t also cut the tree’s limbs or branches past the property line. And you shouldn’t cut it in such a way that it injures the tree in a significant way.
What you should do
You are allowed to cut a tree’s overhanging branches or intruding roots if they cross the property line into your own because the law considers them to be a nuisance. This is so especially if they pose any kind of danger or interfere with the enjoyment of your property.
Therefore, since you have the right to take steps that reduce or get rid of any nuisance that interferes with the enjoyment of your property, the law allows you to cut any intruding branches or roots.
What are the rules for cutting a neighbor's tree?
If you have a problem with your neighbor’s trees, familiarizing yourself with regards to what you can and can’t do is important. Here are some of the rules that are generally applicable when it comes to dealing with a neighbor’s trees.
Trespass or nuisance?
When a neighbor’s tree overgrows into your property, whether it is its roots or its branches, this isn’t considered to be trespassing. It is generally considered to be a nuisance.
Trimming up to the property line
If your neighbor’s trees are interfering with the enjoyment of your property, you are allowed to trim the roots or branches that are invading your property.
However, you are only allowed to cut or trim them up to the property line. This means that it is illegal to trim the trees’ branches or roots past the property line.
Also, you shouldn’t go into your neighbor’s property in order to do the trimming or cutting. If you do, you will be trespassing. And this is illegal.
No harming the tree
While you are allowed under the law to trim overhanging branches or cut invading roots, you are only allowed to take actions that do not harm the tree. If any cutting or trimming ends up harming or killing the tree, you will be held liable. This is even if you did the trimming or cutting up to your property line.
Your right, as the property owner, is only to stop the nuisance. Killing or irreparably harming the tree is going far beyond the rights that the law allows you to enjoy.
Who owns cut branches or roots?
After cutting overhanging branches or intruding roots, what can you really do with them? To whom do they belong?
According to the law, the overhanging branches and intruding roots belong to your neighbor. Any fruits that are a product of the overhanging tree also belong to your neighbor. Therefore, you can’t use them. Also, you can’t dispose of them as you wish because they are not yours to dispose of.
So what should you do? You should give them back to your neighbor. You can also throw them over your fence and into their property. However, when doing so, you should take care not to damage your neighbor’s property.
Tree trimming is costly. The same applies to tree root control. This is so especially if you have to get an arborist’s report before removing or cutting the tree.
So, who covers the costs of removal, trimming, or root control? Can you make your neighbor cover these costs? Do you have to share these costs with your neighbor?
Well, according to the law, you are the one who is supposed to cover the costs of cutting, removal, or root control. You can’t force your neighbor to pay for the tree services. You can’t even make them contribute a percentage of the costs.
What if the neighbor is the Council?
Unfortunately, if the trees that are overhanging your property are trees that are on public land or if they belong to the Council, you aren’t allowed to trim any overhanging branches or intruding roots.
Any tree work that is to be done to these trees should only be done after you have applied for and been issued a permit. If you carry out any tree work without permission, you will be fined by the Council for illegally performing such works.
Imminent danger exception
However, if the tree poses an imminent danger, you may get away with trimming the overhanging limbs or branches. In some areas, even in such cases, you will still have to inform the council of the steps you took and the reasons why you took such steps.
What to do
Therefore, unless the trees in question pose an imminent danger, you will have to:
- Contact the local authority in your area and inform them of the problem. This may be via email, by filling out an online form, by calling them, or by visiting their offices
- Outline the reasons why the tree needs to be trimmed, cut, or removed. You can attach video or photographic evidence.
- Recommend the appropriate tree care works that you would like the authority to take. If you have an arborist’s report, you can also attach it.
- Submit a formal application and then wait.
- Do regular follow-ups.
Can you make a neighbor cut his trees?
Yes, you can make a neighbor to cut down their trees. Here is what you can do to achieve this.
Report them to the HOA
If your neighbor’s trees exceed the height limits or if they belong to a species that has been specifically forbidden by the HOA rules, then you can report them to the HOA. The HOA will contact them and they can make them cut the tree or risk getting fined or penalized in any other way.
Report them to the Council
You can make your neighbor cut his trees by simply reporting them to your local authority. This is so especially if the tree:
- Is poisonous
- Has a high risk of falling
- Is dead or dying
- Is diseased and carries a risk of spreading the disease to nearby trees
Go to court
In most areas, laws exist that can allow you to make your neighbor remove their tree. Even in cases where these laws have not been legislated, you may have a right to do so under common law.
A court can grant your application to have a neighbor remove their tree if the tree is causing significant damage to your property. If the tree interferes significantly with the enjoyment of your property, your neighbor may also be forced to remove it.
However, before the court can grant your request, you will typically have to show that:
- the tree is causing damage to your property or is interfering with your ability to enjoy yours
- you actually informed your neighbor of the problem
- you made a reasonable effort in trying to solve the problem with your neighbor
- tree removal is the reasonable choice under the circumstances
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