Photo by Ralph (Ravi) Kayden, acquired via Unsplash.com
Trees: Yours, Mine, or Ours?
Posted October 28th, 2021 under pitfalls, say what?, renovations and repairs.
Trees are a prominent feature of our properties and beautify the landscape. But who is responsible for maintaining them? To answer this question, it’s important to understand the difference between boundary trees and border trees.
A boundary tree has a trunk or visible roots that grow on both sides of the property line. The landowner and their neighbor are both responsible for maintaining these trees, which are considered common property. To remove a boundary tree, the consent of both parties is required.
Meanwhile, a border tree is one that has a trunk or visible roots that are close to a property line, but do not cross it. In this case, the landowner is solely responsible for maintaining the tree, and also has the right to remove it without the neighbor’s permission. There are several situations that come up frequently and can cause problems between neighbors.
If you own a border tree whose roots or branches extend over the property line, your neighbor has the right to trim the parts on their side. They can trim both underground and overhead, but they can’t trim any further than the property line.
Your neighbor is responsible for any costs associated with trimming (for example, if they hire a gardener to do it), despite the trunk of the tree being on your property. However, if your border tree causes damage to the neighbor’s property, you as the owner of the tree are responsible.
And here’s a cute one: if you have a border tree with fruit overhanging the neighbor’s property, they’re obligated to offer that fruit back to you as the owner.
What if a border tree falls into the neighboring property? If it causes damage, then once again, the owner is responsible.
One final wrinkle: if your border tree has unsafe or damaged branches, even if they extend over the property line, you as owner are responsible for removing those branches.
It’s always best to talk to your neighbor about any questionable trees. By establishing a good rapport and determining who is responsible ahead of time, you can navigate any situations that arise later.
Want to know more about property lines, surveys, and ownership? Just ask me, I'll be happy to help.