Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While you may treasure a tree, your neighbor may lament it.
From branches that inch over the property line to tall trees that block a view, dealing with plants that affect multiple properties is tricky!
That was the case for Phyllis J., a Davey blog reader from Arizona who wrote about a palm tree that sits on the corner of her lot. Phyllis said, “My neighbors are complaining that they can’t see around the corner when they are driving and have been advocating to have the maintenance guys come and prune it.”
Does a neighbor have the right to trim or cut down a tree on someone else’s property? Read on to find out what the rules are for neighbors and trees.
Rules for Trimming or Cutting Down a Tree on Someone Else’s Property
First thing’s first! Start with the best solution that can make everyone happy. Walk over, talk to your neighbor and work out a solution. But, if you want to arm yourself with knowledge before doing that, here’s what you should know about neighbors cutting trees.
Can I cut down a tree on someone else's property?
No! Crossing property lines to trim or cut down a tree is not something you or your arborist can do. Neither you nor your arborist may go onto a neighbor’s property or destroy the tree. If you do go onto a neighbor’s property or harm the tree, you could be liable for double or triple the value of the tree!
If the tree trunk sits entirely in your neighbor’s yard, they’re the owner. Just like you wouldn’t go onto your neighbor’s property to tidy up any of their other property, the same goes for their tree.
If the tree is on someone else’s property, you should not go onto someone else’s property to alter the tree as there could be legal and financial consequences.
Can I cut tree branches that hang over into my yard?
It is always best to check if there are any local laws about cutting a neighbor’s trees, but generally, most state and local laws permit you to prune parts of your neighbor’s tree that cross the property line into your side without asking your neighbor. You may only prune up to the property line and must stay on your property. Also, you can still be held liable if the pruning destroys or harms the tree.
Can my neighbor force me to cut my trees or cut my trees down?
This goes back to the submission from Pyllis—can a neighbor force her to prune or cut down the palm tree?
If the tree’s trunk sits wholly on Phyllis’s property, it’s up to her to decide what happens to the tree. And, since this case isn’t about a tree that’s posing harm or impeding on their property at all, the neighbor cannot force Phyllis to cut it down.
However, this question can get more complicated if the tree poses a hazard or danger. Homeowners must inspect trees and ensure their trees are safe. Homeowners can be held liable if they fail to remove a dangerous tree and it causes damages.
If you think there’s a chance your neighbor’s tree could fall or pose a threat to your yard, check with your city government to see what action you can take.
Is there a rule for trees on the property line?
Generally, if a tree trunk sits on both you and your neighbor’s property, is owned by both of you, and you are both responsible for the tree. To remove the tree, both property owners must consent. Again, these laws can differ in each state, so be sure to look up the exact law in your area.
If you both own the tree, any decisions made about the tree should be settled between you and your neighbor. If you can’t come up with a win-win solution, consider working with a mediator.
Have a pruning plan worked out with your neighbor? Contact a Davey arborist to get started and receive a free pruning consultation.
*The information above does not constitute legal advice. Before you act or rely on the information above, you should consult your applicable state and local laws or speak with an attorney. Davey disclaims all liability for actions taken or not taken based on the above information.