Do you also have these old and massive trees on the property line whose branches are damaging your roof? Trimming those branches seems to be an easy solution, but the location of the tree on the property line could be a problem. Before you take any action to break those branches, hold on, you could be breaking a law. The trees on property line disputes are very common in the US.
Cleve Clinton from the Gray Reed, Attorneys, and Counselors, Houston says that Trees located on the property lines are a typical topic of argument between the neighbors. Even for the attorneys, it is difficult to justify the fee they take over the tree matter. But it is seen that this kind of dispute can involve huge money too especially when the tree gets damaged or dies.
Trees add to the cosmetic value of the house and also contribute to the environment, but may also carry some financial value for the homeowner because of their location. It could lead to a decrease in property value after removing the tree or incur expenses to treat or remove a damaged or dead tree.
Trees on the property line – It is a shared property
If you and your neighbor have a tree located right on the property line, you both can share the value of the tree and have the responsibility to maintain the tree on your side of the property. Here are a few important things you should know about your and your neighbor’s rights regarding the trees that are located on the property lines.
What if you want to prune or remove the tree? Is it legal?
There are different laws in different states, counties, and cities regarding boundary trees. It is always advisable to check with your local departments about what you can and cannot do. General laws say that if the tree’s trunk lies on your and your neighbor’s property, you both are considered to be its owners. So the tree becomes the common property and neither party can remove or damage the tree without the consent of the other.
Since you are only responsible for the part of the trees on the property line, you can maintain it on the ground and in the sky above the tree. Trimming is also allowed only on your side of the property line and it should not pose any danger or damage to the tree in any way. If the tree gets destroyed or damaged in any process, the neighbor causing this damage has to fulfill this in dollars.
Overspreading branches and roots
When a tree gets too old, its branches and underground roots may spread to your neighbor’s property. These can cause problems like damaging the sewer lines and clogging gutters. A tree can prove to be dangerous if it has a cracked trunk or broken limbs. If there is any such situation you can trim the branches and cut the roots that damage the pipes and drains within your boundary.
It also stands justified if the tree is entirely on your neighbor’s property and not just on the property line. Both parties are responsible for any cost incurred. It is a good idea to consult an arborist before trying to cut or trim the roots yourself.
If in the process, the trees on the property line get permanent damage, complete responsibility comes to the owner who damaged the tree but cut or trimmed the roots. Before thinking to cut the limb of the tree consider if the tree is healthy enough or not. A tree can get diseased after cutting a limb and no longer stay healthy.
Some states that laws that make a neighbor pay for the damages to the other after trimming the tree and not keeping the tree visually appealing after the trimming.
What to do if the tree falls and does damage?
If trees on the property line on the common boundary fall due to extreme weather conditions, or an act of God and causes damage to the property, the property owners are responsible for the same. But again, it is advisable to check for the laws at the local department. It is important to see on whose side more damage was done.
You can always file a claim with your insurance company if you suffer damage from a fallen tree on the property line. Suppose your neighbor’s window gets damaged due to a tree that is planted on your side, you are not accountable for that damage as it is not your fault. The owner suffering from this damage can file a claim with their insurance company.
The same will be true if the tree was on the neighbor’s property and the damage was caused on your side. Suppose due to a hurricane, a big branch from the neighbor’s tree fell and broke the windscreen of your car, you cannot hold the neighbor accountable for your loss.
Your only option is to file a case with your car insurance company. But if your neighbor had already complained and asked you to cut a dead branch that someday fell on his car and damaged it, in such a case you can be liable to pay for the damages.
Can one neighbor remove the entire tree?
The straight answer is no. If the tree is right in the middle of the property line, both neighbors are the tree owners. So just one neighbor cannot decide to remove the entire tree without having the consent of the other neighbor.
What if my neighbor comes onto my property?
The courts in the U.S. give huge consideration to property lines that include the trees on the property line. Without your permission, the neighbors cannot come into your property even to trim the branches of the tree that is located on the common boundary line. The same applies to you too. But if you and your neighbor can agree to take care of the tree and not fall into any legal battles, it can be best for both of you.
So if you wish to trim the branches of the tree, it is best to ask for your neighbor’s permission to allow the tree-trimmer into his yard so that the tree can be trimmed from both sides and would look better. In this way having open communication with your neighbor you can both yourself not only save the environment but also from the legal troubles over the tree that stands on the common boundary.