There is a tree that mostly hangs over my yard, but the trunk is entirely on my neighbor’s property. Who owns the tree?

If the trunk is entirely on your neighbor’s property, then she owns that tree.

What is a boundary tree?

A boundary tree is one that grows right on the property line. The trunk is on more than one person’s property. A boundary tree is jointly owned by the property owners and any action to remove he tree requires the approval of all the property owners.

My neighbor’s tree fell on my property; can I get him to pay to remove it?

In most states, if a tree falls on your property, you now own it. You are responsible for the removal of the fallen tree. This situation can change if your neighbor had notice that the tree was about to fall and failed to take action. Then you might be able to hold your neighbor negligent for failing to remove the tree.

Contact your homeowner’s insurance company to see if they will help pay for the clean-up. Of course, you can always speak to your neighbor and ask if he will voluntarily contribute to the clean-up of the tree.

A storm knocked my neighbor’s tree onto my house and car causing extensive damages. Can I make him pay for those damages?

It depends. If there was no warning – meaning the tree was healthy and no one suspected that it would fall – then the falling tree is an act of nature and no one is liable for the damage it causes. You should contact your homeowner’s insurance to see if they will cover you.

However, if your neighbor had notice that the tree posed a hazard and was likely to fall and cause damage, and your neighbor failed to act, that might be considered negligence. Notice could be actual – say you had given a written notice to your neighbor; or constructive – the tree was dead and leaning in a way that it was obvious to anyone who saw it that the tree was going to fall. (Read more here on notice about hazardous trees.) If your neighbor had notice and failed to act, then you might be able to collect damages from your neighbor.

What is a certified arborist?

In the United States, a certified arborist is one granted that status by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). To achieve certification, an arborist must have a minimum of three years experience in the tree care industry and past an extensive examination.

The ISA has a website where you can find a certified arborist and verify an arborist’s credentials.

My neighbor’s tree hangs over my backyard; can I trim the part that hangs over my property?

Start trimming that tree. You have the right to trim any parts of the tree that overhang your property. You can cut back to the property line. There are some restrictions:

  • You must do it yourself or pay for it. You cannot charge your neighbor.
  • You must remove the trimmings. You cannot throw them into your neighbor’s yard.
  • You can leave the tree looking ugly, but you cannot kill the tree. If you kill the tree, your neighbor may have a cause of action against you.

 

My neighbor decided to dig up the roots from a tree on my property and in doing so, he killed the tree. Now I have to remove it. Can I get him to pay for the removal and to replace the tree?

Yes. If you can show that it was our neighbor’s actions that killed the tree, then you can hold your neighbor liable for the damages he caused. The courts often award damages that are two to three times the cost of the tree. However, we always recommend talking to your neighbor to resolve the issue before heading off to court.

My neighbor has a fruit tree, a pear tree to be exact, and some of the branches hang over my back yard. Can I harvest the fruit handing over my yard for myself?

No. Most states have laws that say that all of the fruit of a tree belongs to the owner of the tree. So even if the tree hangs over your property, you cannot reach up and pick the fruit. Of course, if you ask you neighbor nicely, he might say it is ok.

Here is an oddity. Just as you cannot enter your neighbor’s yard to pick fruit form his tree, your neighbor cannot enter your yard to pick the fruit that you cannot pick either. Your neighbor can only enter your yard with your permission.

What about the fruit the falls from the tree into my backyard?

If that fruit from your neighbor’s tree falls into your backyard, you still may not be able to pick it p and eat it. Some state laws make the fallen fruit the property of the tree owner. At the same time, your neighbor cannot enter your yard to pick up the fallen fruit without your permission.

This situation cries out for a cordial conversation where everyone gets some fruit.