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My Neighbor’s Tree Hangs Over My Property

by Keith Brown
November 16, 2009

…And I don’t like it. What is the deal here. It’s his tree but it’s hanging on my side and it’s bothering me. When a tree crosses property lines, that tree is considered shared property. Trees don’t really seem to be as concerned about property lines as we do. In fact, I’d say that on almost every property I visit, there is at least one tree that spans over a property line. Unfortunately, people don’t always have agreeable opinions about the trees. If you have a neighbor’s tree hanging over your property there are a few things you should know.

First and foremost, you have a right to maintain your property. If that tree is threatening your house, landscaping or any other identifiable asset, you have legal right to maintain the tree to protect your property.

The key word here is “maintain” the tree. If you compromise the life of the tree without just cause your neighbor will have a right to come after you.

One other important factor is that ownership of the tree is given to the person who owns the property where the trunk resides. If one of your neighbor’s trees has branches hanging on your side of fence, he can still remove the entire tree even through part of it is over yard. Trespassing is a whole different story; the tree would have to be removed with out accessing your yard unless you give permission.

If the trunk spans the property line the the tree is truly a shared tree and you both have equal ownership. Things might get ugly if you can’t both agree on a solution. There is no written law regarding trees. Only legal precedent.

Ultimately, if your intentions are wholesome and you are just trying to take care of you property, then trim away. If things are getting ugly, you should get a written recommendation from a qualified professional arborist.

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Be sure to post a photo if you want some advice on your tree.

  • Stan Jakuba says:

    Neigbor’s pine tree grew so big that its trunk now “trepasses” on my property. About 3 inches of the 25 inch trunk is on my side of the property line. The tree is messy and unsightly but the neighbor “loves” it. He will not remove it. So I “own” a piece of it. If its falls and injures somebody – am I part-owner? Also the tree is now so tall that it shades our rooms. In any case, I do not want the trunk on my property. Please help – suggest a precedent.

    • Keith says:

      Most of the cases I have heard about or read about say that you would get in trouble by doing anything that damages the tree unless it is hazardous to your property. Even then, you should work through reasonable processes with your neighbor. I recommend contacting your insurance company and even your neighbor’s company if you know who they are. Ultimately, there is no written statute in Texas. Some states do have laws on the books. I make a concerted effort to keep my toes out of these waters. There are definitely better arborists to consult with.

    • James Tuttle says:

      Stan, This may not be timely at all, but just noticed this on Keith’s blog and felt compelled to reply. Keith is absolutely right, there is no statute law concerning an issue such as this but quite a bit of case law. The most pertinent would be the ‘reasonable man standard’ which would say that it is incumbant upon the potential buyer of a house to notice if a tree existed prior to purchase of the home and realize that trees grow. If the tree was there when you bought the house, I think you have little legal recourse. Please also realize that I am an arborist, not an attorney.

  • Donna Shannon says:

    I live in California, my neighbor sent me a letter saying if I did not cut back my branches on my tree that spans about 3 feet over my fence onto his property he was going to hire someone to cut it and send me a bill. Can you do this?

  • mindy says:

    my neighbor has several trees with dead limbs having over onto my property. Some of these limbs are huge and every time the wind blows my yard is full of limbs and sticks from these trees. My fear is that one of these limbs will fall while I’m in my garden working and hurt or possibly kill me (or my dog). What can I do to assure that they are liable for any problems?

  • kathy says:

    My neigbor pecan tree branch is close to my electrical wires and touching my roof. Do I have the right to trim it to my fench line, and do I have to notify her first? Pls send me the answer to my email address, I’m not good with the computer. Thks for the help

  • patty says:

    my neighbors pear tree branches hand over my yard can i toss the pears in his yard.

    • Keith Brown says:

      Just don’t let him see you ;). Just kidding. I really don’t know any technical details and I’ve never had a case like that to draw experience from. Let me know if you find out anything specific.

  • Gale says:

    i have a neighbors tree that hangs over my property. When fall comes and acorns fall they put dings in my car. Can I trim this tree without permission.? I have asked they don’t want it trimmed. And would I be responsible for buying them a new tree if it died due to trimming?