If your neighbor’s tree branches hang over your yard, you have the right to trim them up to the property line. However, you may not trespass onto your neighbor’s property or destroy the tree.  If you deliberately harm your neighbor’s tree, you may be liable to your neighbor for two to three times the value of the actual monetary loss.  

What Can I Do If My Neighbors Complain about My Tree in Their Yard?

If your neighbor is complaining about your tree being too tall or hanging over there backyard, talk to your neighbors and determine how much trimming would help resolve the dispute. If the trimming does not affect the tree’s health or design, consider trimming the tree to a smaller size.

If you do not want to trim the tree, check your local tree ordinance to make sure that the law is on your side. You may be violating a local law if the tree size is a hazard or violating a local ordinance height or size limit. If the tree encroaches onto your neighbor’s property, the neighbor may sue you to have the tree branches cut even if there is no actual damage to their property.

Also, in some states, a neighbor may be able to sue you over your tree under certain conditions:

  • The tree encroaches the neighbor’s property
  • The tree’s roots or branches have caused property damage to neighbor’s property
  • The tree’s roots have clogged, crushed, or cracked a neighboring property’s pipes
  • The tree is poisonous and is threatening the neighbor’s health and safety
  • The tree seriously interferes with neighbor’s ability to use and enjoy his property

Who Owns the Tree?

The owner of the tree is the owner of the property where the tree’s trunk is located.  However, if the tree’s trunk stands partially on both properties, then it belongs to all the property owners.  In that case, all owners are responsible for the care of the tree and the tree cannot be removed without the other owner’s permission.  Furthermore, if your neighbor kills a tree that is on your property, you are entitled to compensation.   

What about Dangerous Trees?

The city may be able to step in to take care of, or make your neighbor take care of, dangerous trees, such as trees that are at risk of falling over. Some city ordinances prohibit maintaining dangerous conditions on private property; the city can demand the owner remove the tree or pay a fine. Also, a utility company may trim a tree that threatens its equipment.  

Finally, if your neighbor refuses to do anything, you can sue him. You can claim that the dangerous tree is a nuisance, that it is unreasonable for your neighbor to keep the tree and that it interferes with the use and enjoyment of your own property.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me with My Tree Problem?

If your neighbor is unwilling to remove a dangerous tree, you may have to go to court.  A real estate lawyer can help you take the proper steps to remove the dangerous tree. If you chose to sue for damages, a real estate attorney can file the necessary paperwork and represent you in court.