Neighbor Tree Legal Rights

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 Are You Allowed to Trim Overhanging Branches From Your Neighbor’s Yard Legally?

Although trees can be planted in a certain property line, over time, the bra needs can extend into another property line. If the branches come into your yard and become a safety issue, you may need to discuss with your neighbor to figure out a path forward. Before initiating any action regarding trimming the branches, you must notify the neighbor and clearly understand what you need to remove.

For instance, if some of the tree trunk extends into your property and some of the tree trunk is on your neighbor’s property, you both are considered shared owners of the tree. Since you both have similar ownership interests, you must seek the permission of the neighbor to cut down any part of the tree legally.

What Are My Trimming Rights for Trees?

If limbs or branches from your neighbor’s trees extend into your property line, you can legally trim the areas hanging over your property. However, you must communicate and ensure the neighbor knows this. Also, you must stay within your property when removing any part of the tree. You can illegally trespass into the neighbor’s property to cut down the tree. If you harm the tree, you could be liable for up to three times the value of the tree.

For example, under Maryland law, a property owner does have a right to trim trees, vines, roots, or other plants or plant debris encroaching onto their property. But this right applies only to trimming the plant back to your property line. A person cannot enter their neighbor’s property without their consent to cut back growth.

Like most states, Maryland limits a landowner’s remedy for damages to their property from a neighbor’s encroaching plants to “self-help.” This means a neighbor is financially responsible for any efforts to control the invading vegetation. Furthermore, you cannot bring an action against your neighbor for any damages caused by the encroaching trees, vines, roots, or other plants or plant debris if you could have removed the encroaching limbs yourself.

These rules also depend on where you reside. This means whether the property is located in a rural or urban area. For instance, In Maryland, under the “rural rule,” the owner of rural or suburban forested land is not liable for the damage resulting from dead tree limbs falling onto someone else’s property. Unless the tree constitutes a “danger to lawful users of abutting public roads and the owner is aware or should be aware of the tree’s deteriorated condition,” according to the American Farm Publications.

However, there is an obligation for the urban areas. Since landowners in urban settings might only have a few trees on their property to inspect, there is a duty to use due care to protect others from damage or injury caused by dead or decaying trees.

Therefore, be aware of the local ordinances that deal with proper tree removal and maintenance. Some cases warrant liability depending on each situation and whether or not you are illegally cutting the tree. There is a duty on every individual to practice due care and understand how this may apply to cutting down trees in your property line.

Lastly, there are some factors outlined by the American Farm Publications that can be reviewed to determine which rule applies to your situation in terms of urban or rural areas:

  • Size and type of road for the property;
  • The amount of traffic generally on the road and
  • Is the land used for recreation, agriculture, commercial properties, or residential dwellings?

If an incident occurs where a neighbor tree is cut down without authorization, there may be liability depending on the various rules. For instance, if the property is in an urban or rural area, as mentioned earlier.

Also, whether the owner knew the tree was dead or dying must be considered, and lastly, whether the owner should have known about the potential danger and whether or not the owner mitigated it through reasonable preventative steps.

What Are Some Legal Disputes Concerning Trees?

Improper tree removal becomes the source of frequent litigation among neighbors. Overgrown branches, fallen leaves, and downed trees lead to neighbors’ disputes regarding their proper disposal. The area of law governing these relationships stems through both state and local levels. Whether or not there is liability concerning the cutting down trees in your property line varies in each situation. Note that even if the tree branch infringes on your property line, you may still need permission from your neighbor to remove it because the tree is legally considered shared property.

The state ordinances and other regulations examine the following factors when dealing with these sorts of disputes:

  • The type of tree and the amount of trees permissible on the land;
  • When and how properly an owner can remove trees from their property;
  • Is the tree owned by a landowner or the government; and
  • Who must inform the other if any branches, leaves, fruits, nuts, or seeds of a tree cause damage on one piece of property when its roots are on another piece of property?

Other instances also automatically attach liability regardless of the factors mentioned above. For instance, if a neighbor deliberately destroyed a tree on your property when clearing their yard, they will be liable for their actions. Any person who engages in injury to the tree, tree cutting, or tree removal without the owner’s permission is liable for compensating the tree owner.

If a neighbor’s tree appears as if it will be falling on your house, then you have the legal right to bring this to attention because it will endanger your life and others. It is responsible for maintaining their property to not endanger others around them. This includes maintaining trees and those that have the potential to fall in the neighborhood.

Generally, there are two main legal responsibilities. Firstly, they must do reasonable inspections with the intent of ensuring that the tree is safe. If the neighbor does take action to mitigate this danger and damage results from it, then your neighbor can be held responsible. The tree may be considered a nuisance when it interferes with the enjoyment and use of your property.

Moreover, the court may order the removal if the neighbor refuses to handle your request to remove the tree safely. The majority of the jurisdictions have ordinances in place prohibiting property owners from maintaining conditions that may be considered dangerous on their property.

In these cases, the municipality where you live may order the neighbor to remove the tree, or they may take it upon themselves. Lastly, you can seek help from professional tree removal services to remove the tree if it threatens any of their equipment or is a potential fire hazard.

When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?

Neighborhood trees hold monetary and sentimental value. They must not be senselessly damaged or removed from the property. Each city and county has regulations regarding your obligations towards the neighborhood trees. Failing to abide by these can result in legal liability.

If you need assistance with your case, do not hesitate to contact a local real estate lawyer to help you with the issue.


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