Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

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Doom&Gloom
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by Doom&Gloom »

FellsGuy wrote: Mon Sep 19, 2022 12:07 pm I have a very large tree that had a huge branch hanging over the neighbors garage. I took it upon myself while having other work done to have that limb removed and internally it was already about to give way. One of the limbs left a dinner plate dent on their lawn and knocked some flowers off a shrub. I got a bill for that and a complaint about losing the shade over their driveway. And these are friendly neighbors. So whatever you do no good deed goes unpunished so try to get buy in from the neighbors first even if on your dime.
It pays to have good neighbors. Several years ago a huge branch from a neighbor's tree fell into our backyard the night before we were leaving on vacation. No real damage but a big mess and it dented a rusty old trailer we used to haul stuff with our lawnmower. It was so far out in our backyards that we doubted that our neighbor even knew about it. We left on vacation, but on the way home I kept thinking about the prospect of getting the chainsaw out and cutting all that up and having to haul it to our burning pile. We were stunned to find that our neighbor had already cut and moved the limb and had cleaned up most of the mess. Our other two neighbors wouldn't have even said, "Sorry 'bout that."

OP, talk to the neighbor again if you get a chance. If no offer of help, let him know that you'll be proceeding on your own.
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

To the OP,

If it bothers you, hire a tree service and have that branch taken down and any other dead branches on your side.

I personally have many hundreds of trees that likely hang over my neighbors' property lines and I would have no issue if they had them trimmed if it bothered them. One neighbor next to my driveway asked if he could pay for a tree service to take down a large tree that he was concerned would fall on his house. I said "sure" and he paid to have it done and it was done.

There really doesn't need to be so much drama. Just do it and be done with it. If you can't deal with a little thing like this, move into a house like mine. In the middle of 13 acres where for someone to complain about my lawn being too long, they would have to trespass and upon their complaint, I would press trespassing charges.
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Lee_WSP
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by Lee_WSP »

There's a few issues at play with trees which cross the property line.

1. "Ownership" of the tree itself is generally with the property where the trunk completely resides. It may be joint ownership if it straddles the line.

2. Ability to cut the branches. Oddly enough, each property owner only has the ability to unilaterally cut the branches on their own property without permission of the other.

3. "Ownership" of the branches. This one is odd. Anything that overhangs your property may be harvested by you, so in a sense you own it. But the rest of the tree doesn't belong to you.

4. Liability of the tree. Acts of nature are not negligent, so if the tree is otherwise healthy, under the common laws, there is no liability on either party. However, if the tree is unhealthy, then it is arguably negligent to do nothing about the tree.

5. Liability of dead tree branches which overhang the property. No idea. See 3 &4 for confusing factors.
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ResearchMed
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by ResearchMed »

This can vary with local laws/etc.

We had this situation about 2 years ago, and we could have handled it better.
That is, we did nothing until the humongous top branch/section of the tree fell on our side of the fence. It took out the fence; that was the neighbor's fence.
It also took out some of our plantings including two lovely specimen trees (Japanese umbrella pines) that were just getting to a nice size. :(

What we found out belatedly is:
IF we had notified neighbor of the problem and potential damage/etc., then it would have been HIS cost/his insurer's cost. Or if he knew = and we could prove that he knew of the danger.
And IF we had notified him, it should have been with something verifiable, such as a certified letter (yes, even if it was a "friendly neighbor").
But we hadn't done that.
And he claimed he had been totally unaware of the problem. Well, he's a bit odd and rarely leaves the house, so... maybe, but that doesn't matter. We have no reason to claim that he *did* know, even though the tree (and another one) were clearly in trouble. No leaves ever on many branches, etc.

Next time... we'll be proactive.

When he did decide to remove other dead branches, he ended up taking out that entire almost-dead tree and another slightly less dead tree, so hopefully that risk is gone for some time...

We spoke at length with the neighbor's insurer and with our insurer, and at least in our area, the answer was clear.

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mbcruiser
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by mbcruiser »

I once had a large limb of a neighbor's tree break off at the trunk and damaged our chain link fence. It happened in the middle of the night; no wind or environmental reason for the failure. As it was a large cottonwood tree the entire branch and it's leaves made a big mess in my yard. The neighbor made no gesture or offer to help clean it up let alone express any interest in the tree's marginal condition (interior rot, etc.) visible after the breakage.
I went so far as to offer buying him a more yard friendly sapling to plant in place of the cottonwood if he were to remove it.
Following several failed neighborly attempts at coming to any understanding, the matter went into small claims court (with photos, academic info about the undesirability of these trees in a closely laid out subdivision, etc.) where the judge found against the neighbor. The neighbor's defense was 'I didn't plant the tree', an otherwise true statement. Aside from the future state of the tree trunk, a hollow argument (lol?).
It had been planted prior to them buying the property and before fences (i.e. property lines) were in place, but it was clearly inside their fenced property when they acquired it. The judge was not persuaded and ordered payment for fence repair.
Fast forward a couple of years later, I bore the cleanup responsibility, but the neighbor eventually removed the entire tree.
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by like2read »

Turbo29 wrote: Mon Sep 19, 2022 9:06 am Related question: What if the neighbors landscaper is trimming the tree and cuts the branches over hanging your property and they drop into your yard and then the landscaper just leaves them? Note that there is a wall separating both yards.
Where I live, tree limbs that fall into your yard are owned by you. My understanding is this goes back many many years, to when the value of firewood was likely more of a consideration.

The same may apply if you were trying to determine who has responsibility for removing the fallen limbs. Though that would be pretty lame of the landscaper in your case.

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scophreak
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by scophreak »

exodusNH wrote: Mon Sep 19, 2022 12:23 pm
scophreak wrote: Mon Sep 19, 2022 11:51 am
exodusNH wrote: Mon Sep 19, 2022 11:26 am
theplayer11 wrote: Mon Sep 19, 2022 11:10 am never affected by this, but not sure the reasoning on why OP should be responsible for a tree that has overgrown onto his property. The tree owner, imo, should be responsible for anything that he owns that is interfering with a neighbors property.
So if a homeowner plants something too close to the property line and it overflows into neighbors property, the neighbor is legally responsible for any pruning or clean up? That does not sound right, certainly not fair.
Right and fair vs legal are two different concepts.

In NH (which is my only experience), a falling tree is your problem the moment it crosses your property line, in real time.
I have no specific knowledge of NH laws, but from my quick reading it does seem consistent with other states that have been discussed here. To be clear, there is a distinction between a healthy tree/branches and a diseased/dead tree and branches. According to https://www.nhmunicipal.org/town-city-a ... -revisited the NH Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that:

"We believe that a landowner should be held responsible for a decayed or defective tree that he permits to harm another because it would be an 'inherent injustice' to allow a landowner to 'escape all liability for serious damage to his neighbors merely by allowing nature to take its course.'" The Court retreated from its language in Belhumeur and announced a new rule, "…a landowner who knows or should know that his tree is decayed or defective and fails to maintain the tree reasonably is liable for injuries proximately caused by the tree, even when the harm occurs outside of his property lines. However, a landowner does not have a duty to consistently and constantly check all trees for nonvisible decay. Rather, the manifestation of the tree's decay must be readily observable in order to require a landowner to take reasonable steps to prevent harm."

Again, this is pertinent AFTER a tree or branches fall and cause damage. Whether a property owner can be compelled to proactively mitigate future damage or is liable for the cost of doing so is a different discussion.
My SO found this out when her neighbor's otherwise healthy trees were knocked down and crushed her brand-new 4Runner. The neighbor was under no obligation to do so, but they did split her deductible with her. This how she learned that once a falling tree crosses the plane of the property line, you have found yourself the proud owners of a fallen tree.
This does appear to be the case in pretty much every state (that I have seen at least). However, I notice that the situation you mention describes "an otherwise healthy tree". As I mentioned several times previously, the situation (and potential liability) shifts dramatically when the tree is *NOT* otherwise healthy. Note that my previous post that discusses NH-specific information specifically details the NH Court opinion surrounding a "decayed or defective" tree (which is what the OP here is describing).
Californiastate
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by Californiastate »

The OP stated that the tree had a dead branch over their property. They didn’t state the size of the branch or an arborist’s opinion of the overall health of the tree.
exodusNH
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by exodusNH »

scophreak wrote: Mon Sep 19, 2022 4:52 pm This does appear to be the case in pretty much every state (that I have seen at least). However, I notice that the situation you mention describes "an otherwise healthy tree". As I mentioned several times previously, the situation (and potential liability) shifts dramatically when the tree is *NOT* otherwise healthy. Note that my previous post that discusses NH-specific information specifically details the NH Court opinion surrounding a "decayed or defective" tree (which is what the OP here is describing).
Yes, I wasn't intending to contradict that. As you, note, though, unless the OP has a good documentation trail about the problematic limb, it may be very difficult to assign blame to the neighbor as the default is "your property, your problem."
rule of law guy
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by rule of law guy »

talk to your neighbor and say you want the tree trimmed that is over your property, and you will pay for it. if neighbor says no, talk to your town office and say that you want to eliminate the hazard to your property. the village 'should" say yes, or at least shrug shoulders. then cut the offending limbs. the best solution if tree is dead is for you and nabe to split cost of total removal, but that may not be to nabe's liking
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by Circe »

After talking with your neighbor about it, I would send the neighbor a certified letter requesting that he remove the tree because it is decayed and dangerous. If he fails to do so, you still have the option of cutting the branch to the property line, and there is a record of your efforts should you need it in the future.

This is from the case, PESATURO v. KINNE, which was cited in the article https://www.nhmunicipal.org/town-city-a ... -revisited referenced by another poster:

"we are persuaded that because there is a foreseeable risk of injury when a tree is decayed or defective, a landowner who knows or should know that his tree is decayed or defective has a duty to maintain the tree to eliminate this dangerous condition. Thus, we hold that a landowner who knows or should know that his tree is decayed or defective and fails to maintain the tree reasonably is liable for injuries proximately caused by the tree, even when the harm occurs outside of his property lines. "

I have a friend dealing with a similar issue in a different state.
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by 8foot7 »

Circe wrote: Tue Sep 20, 2022 12:32 am After talking with your neighbor about it, I would send the neighbor a certified letter requesting that he remove the tree because it is decayed and dangerous.
Before OP does this, I would recommend OP get a sense of how damaging the limbs or tree falling would be. We seem to lack some context about any other potential damage than a fence. Fences are not difficult nor expensive to repair.

Sending certified mail to neighbors asking them to pay for things could well be a very costly move over the time you live in a place. If all of this is to avoid a few hundred bucks in fence repair at some unknown point in the future, I would argue it's not worth it.

This from the OP suggests the neighborly relationship may also be strained:
Our neighbor would like us to pay to have it cut down.
I'm not sure putting the neighbor "on notice" like this, especially after neighbor was already cheeky enough to try to get OP to pay to cut a tree neighbor owns on their property down, is going to be good for the OP over the long run. And we don't know how overt that request is -- perhaps it was said in response to the OP asking casually about the limbs, and the neighbor replied, well, sure, you can cut it down if you want to pay for it...

Now if the tree or significant parts of it could damage the house structure, that's another story entirely...
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by Circe »

8foot7 is correct; we do lack context. I assumed that since OP posted about it that it was a significant problem, but that could be wrong. The good thing is that OP has a variety of opinions to pick from and can use one, all, or none.
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by homebuyer6426 »

Have a conversation with the neighbor. Talk about both of you contributing to the cost of tree maintenance. Or if it's just one branch you want trimmed, let them know you would like to do it and try to get their agreement, even if you don't technically need it. Involving legal processes in something like this is completely heavy-handed and will strain the relationship. Most people are reasonable. Assume that they are until they prove otherwise.
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by leftcoaster »

My neighbor, historically difficult, has a tree that goes over our roof. It’s very large and the only way into the canopy is by climbing the trunk on their property, removing branches and lowering them in their driveway for removal.

How do you exercise your right to clear overhanging branches when the neighbor is uncooperative or nonresponsive?

Oh and who is at fault if the tree cracks open (arborist said it might) and falls on our house even though the part that would fail is well inside their property and there is no overhang?
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by HomeStretch »

leftcoaster wrote: Tue Sep 20, 2022 8:27 am My neighbor, historically difficult, has a tree that goes over our roof. It’s very large and the only way into the canopy is by climbing the trunk on their property, removing branches and lowering them in their driveway for removal.

How do you exercise your right to clear overhanging branches when the neighbor is uncooperative or nonresponsive?
Are there other ways (besides climbing the tree) to access the branch such as hiring a tree removal service with a cherry picker or crane that can access the branch from your property? More expensive but may be worthwhile if you are concerned enough about the branch and your neighbor won’t give permission.
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by leftcoaster »

HomeStretch wrote: Tue Sep 20, 2022 8:32 am
leftcoaster wrote: Tue Sep 20, 2022 8:27 am My neighbor, historically difficult, has a tree that goes over our roof. It’s very large and the only way into the canopy is by climbing the trunk on their property, removing branches and lowering them in their driveway for removal.

How do you exercise your right to clear overhanging branches when the neighbor is uncooperative or nonresponsive?
Are there other ways (besides climbing the tree) to access the branch such as hiring a tree removal service with a cherry picker or crane that can access the branch from your property? More expensive but may be worthwhile if you are concerned enough about the branch and your neighbor won’t give permission.
No. We have no vehicle access to our back yard. And the tree is on the other side of their driveway which runs between the two houses with very little setback.
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goingup
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by goingup »

We lived in Seattle area for many years. There, arguing with neighbors about tree maintenance is a local pastime. We had 75 ft tall Doug Firs that were on the boundary with several neighbors. Maintaining these firs required a combination of bucket trucks and professional tree trimmers with ropes, harnesses and spurs. Expensive.

Refer to Nolo press publication to help. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia ... s-faq.html. After several years of being that neighbor who always picked up the tab for the ever present dangling limb, I told neighbors that they needed to take care of maintenance on their side of the property line. One cranky neighbor threatened legal action. Told him to read Nolo book. Thankfully we moved. :D

Upshot. Take care of the branch yourself. Let neighbor know when the service will be there because they may need to access their property. :beer
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by ChrisC »

CtScrtDsse wrote: Mon Sep 19, 2022 8:30 am Hello,

First, thank you for everyone's advice. I am continually learning from this website and have been thankful for all of the advice everyone has to offer.

Our neighbor has a large tree and a very large tree branch is overhanging our property...it's dead and could fall anytime, although it's been like that for over two years. It is overhanging our fence and definitely will do damage when it falls. Who's responsibility is the branch? Our neighbor would like us to pay to have it cut down. Not sure where we should look for information. I don't want to call the insurance (we've had a lot of trouble with our insurance and they've made it clear that if we file another claim for anything, they will drop us). Not sure if it matters where we live either (Ohio).

Thank you for the help and guidance.
The price you might pay for taking care of this branch might be worth the peace and good will you might build from this neighbor. I'd play the long game for this and you never know if you'll ever need your neighbor to cooperate with you for some other border issue. You might be entitled to cut down the branch at your expense (and in doing so, you might need to enter your neighbor's property to do that) or you can leave it alone, wait for it to fall, damage your fence, and clean up the mess -- all at your expense too. I think trying to negotiate payment from your neighbor to absorb part of the cost of cutting down the branch is not worth risking the border peace here.
Nowizard
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by Nowizard »

Locally, it would be the neighbor's responsibility relative to a probable HOA clause if the tree is dead, but yours if there is a dead branch on a living tree.

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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by andypanda »

OP said Ohio.

"Landowners have the right to trim vertically and remove overhanging obstructions from above their side of the fence. Ohio courts recognize this privilege to remove obstructions, but not without limitations. Ohio courts do not permit landowners to cause harm to the other side of the property line. Apr 14, 2017

OSU Farm Office
https://farmoffice.osu.edu › blog-tags › overhanging-bran.."

fwiw

In Virginia, "In 2007, the Supreme Court of Virginia changed the law regarding tree trimming. The court confirmed that property owners have the right to "self help," meaning that you can, at your own expense, trim a neighbor's tree branches or roots that encroach onto your property. In the same case, the court held that a neighbor may have an action for nuisance if the encroaching tree causes actual damage to the property. The court noted, however, that an encroaching branch is not a "nuisance" merely because it throws additional shade, or drops leaves, fruit, or flowers onto a neighbor's yard."
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snackdog
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by snackdog »

CoastLawyer2030 wrote: Mon Sep 19, 2022 9:49 am
I'm an Ohio lawyer. Not giving you legal advice but the answers, generally --

1. You own the land up to the sky, so you own the branches that overhang.
...
You own the land (we presume) but not "up to the sky", whatever "the sky" means. You are allowed, even in Ohio, to control some portion of the airspace over the land you own. But it is more on the order of 100 feet. So, you can trim any trees encroaching.

Why not just go to Home Depot, buy a pole saw, trim the branch yourself and be done with it. If you don't like the saw after using it, you can even return it to HD.
investorpeter
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by investorpeter »

Good discussion of the various issues. The bottom line is that responsibility for maintaining trees that cross property lines will vary by jurisdiction. Check with a local arborist. They can advise on what to do about the branch, as well as local laws.

You could also try asking your question at the link below. It is a Reddit forum dedicated to tree-related disputes and law. Unlike other areas of Reddit, this one actually has pretty good info.

https://www.reddit.com/r/treelaw/
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CtScrtDsse
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by CtScrtDsse »

Thanks for everyone's advice.

I'm a new homeowner, and its been eye-opening to learn all about the costs of homeownership. This branch is not worth an argument or legal battle for me. The branch is just so large (approximately 18 inches in diameter) and runs parallel to the fence, so a good portion is still on our neighbor's side too. It seems weird that I would have to cover the entire cost. I'll ask the neighbor if he'd be willing to go 50/50, if not, I will just plan on absorbing the cost.
sureshoe
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by sureshoe »

So many posts by non-lawyers (including mine) - take all that with a grain of salt. The one good post is the link above to a lawyer FAQ on tree ownership.

As reinforced by the above line (https://lawyerscolumbusohio.com/pining- ... ar-demand/), the answer (as in all laws) is : it depends. My grandma's house burned down because of a neighbor tree (in Ohio). Very complicated situation - lots of legal wrangling over responsibility.

You can trim another person's tree over your line... maybe. You can't cut it back to the point of killing it.
If a tree falls, it's not the owner's fault... maybe. If it's obviously dangerous, you can be liable.

The best advice is to talk to your neighbor (sounds like you did).
If the neighbor is unwilling to trim, and you feel like it is 100% an obvious danger - you COULD POSSIBLY compel them to pay, but talk to a lawyer. I doubt it's worth the money if they say "no".

Your only real option is to pay to trim it. If this is anything beyond some trivial trimming, I would get a written approval to make changes. That's me.

So those are your options as I see it.
likegarden
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by likegarden »

Definitely cut the branch off with neighbor paying part of it.
For smaller dia branches (6 inch dia) I did this to branches from neighbor's trees shading my pear tree, and do it regularly on neighbor's Green Giant conifers.
This is easily to do for small dia branches and costs relatively little when buying this chain saw at Home Depot.
https://www.homedepot.com/p/High-Limb-4 ... /301790942

You would throw the chain and rope over the branch and pull at the rope ends. Easy to do and costs about nothing. Then I have an electric chain saw to cut the branch up into the proper length, and bundle them as the town requires it for weekly pickup.
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by Sandtrap »

Lee_WSP wrote: Mon Sep 19, 2022 3:02 pm There's a few issues at play with trees which cross the property line.

1. "Ownership" of the tree itself is generally with the property where the trunk completely resides. It may be joint ownership if it straddles the line.

2. Ability to cut the branches. Oddly enough, each property owner only has the ability to unilaterally cut the branches on their own property without permission of the other.

3. "Ownership" of the branches. This one is odd. Anything that overhangs your property may be harvested by you, so in a sense you own it. But the rest of the tree doesn't belong to you.

4. Liability of the tree. Acts of nature are not negligent, so if the tree is otherwise healthy, under the common laws, there is no liability on either party. However, if the tree is unhealthy, then it is arguably negligent to do nothing about the tree.

5. Liability of dead tree branches which overhang the property. No idea. See 3 &4 for confusing factors.
Great expert/professional input.
Well said.

To OP: original poster

Much depends on human relationships, dynamics, local culture, etc.

For example: In Hawaii where the culture is focused on group and community (island cultures, asian/hawaiian cultures) vs individuality and self reliance only on self reliance, who's right is who's right is . . . etc.

As above:
1.
If a mango tree or fruit or guava tree, then both neighbor's take care of the tree and grandma makes mango bread for the neighborhood.
When in any doubt, go over to the neighbor, bring a pie/food, "talk story", get along. . work it out. Make friends.
This is called, "hoomalemale (spel) or smoothing the waters"
2.
You can trim da branches if they are going to break your roof or cause too much "pilikia" (trouble) but you can't hurt da tree because it was there before the homes were built so that has priority.
When in any doubt, go over to the neighbor, bring a pie/food, "talk story", get along. . work it out. Make friends.
This is called, "hoomalemale (spel) or smoothing the waters"
3.
Ownership is sort of a "haole" (foreigner, not Hawaii born, unfamiliar with island cultures, non negative conotex) thing. So, if there is a cultural gap per se. . then there are problems right off the line. . ie:assertive dominance, code compiance, litigation, etc.
So, to avoid this:
When in any doubt, go over to the neighbor, bring a pie/food, "talk story", get along. . work it out. Make friends.
This is called, "hoomalemale (spel) or smoothing the waters".
4
In this case, the tree is dying. . . or dangerous to the "keiki" (children) of both parties so something should be done.
Uncle Freitas owns a tree trimming company and can do it for a cheap split price for both neighbors so this can work out well.
When in any doubt, go over to the neighbor, bring a pie/food, "talk story", get along. . work it out. Make friends.
This is called, "hoomalemale (spel) or smoothing the waters".
5
Liability. . . see "ownership". #3 above. So. . . . .
Get way ahead of this with. . .
When in any doubt, go over to the neighbor, bring a pie/food, "talk story", get along. . work it out. Make friends.
This is called, "hoomalemale (spel) or smoothing the waters"

Concept: not everything has to be "by the book" or "confrontational". . actionably: visit the neighbor. . bring "mango bread". . .
j :D

Thanks "lee" for your professional input! :D :D
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ADower
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by ADower »

CtScrtDsse wrote: Mon Sep 19, 2022 8:30 am Hello,

First, thank you for everyone's advice. I am continually learning from this website and have been thankful for all of the advice everyone has to offer.

Our neighbor has a large tree and a very large tree branch is overhanging our property...it's dead and could fall anytime, although it's been like that for over two years. It is overhanging our fence and definitely will do damage when it falls. Who's responsibility is the branch? Our neighbor would like us to pay to have it cut down. Not sure where we should look for information. I don't want to call the insurance (we've had a lot of trouble with our insurance and they've made it clear that if we file another claim for anything, they will drop us). Not sure if it matters where we live either (Ohio).

Thank you for the help and guidance.
We had direct experience with this. In order for you to be able to go against the neighbors insurance there needs to be documentation that the tree is not healthy. If you don't want to cut down the branch at your property line you need to get an arborist and have them document that the tree in not healthy. That letter needs to be sent to your neighbor certified.
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by donaldson »

CtScrtDsse wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 7:37 am Thanks for everyone's advice.

I'm a new homeowner, and its been eye-opening to learn all about the costs of homeownership. This branch is not worth an argument or legal battle for me. The branch is just so large (approximately 18 inches in diameter) and runs parallel to the fence, so a good portion is still on our neighbor's side too. It seems weird that I would have to cover the entire cost. I'll ask the neighbor if he'd be willing to go 50/50, if not, I will just plan on absorbing the cost.
All of the legal and financial aspects of this aside (which have been discussed thoroughly upthread by others), I will add one thought:

Working with the neighbor to see if the branch can be cut close to the trunk, rather than just cutting the portion that extends over your side of the fence, would be ideal. That would be healthier for the tree in the long run, assuming it is still alive.
Nohbdy
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by Nohbdy »

Sandtrap wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 10:32 am
Lee_WSP wrote: Mon Sep 19, 2022 3:02 pm There's a few issues at play with trees which cross the property line.

1. "Ownership" of the tree itself is generally with the property where the trunk completely resides. It may be joint ownership if it straddles the line.

2. Ability to cut the branches. Oddly enough, each property owner only has the ability to unilaterally cut the branches on their own property without permission of the other.

3. "Ownership" of the branches. This one is odd. Anything that overhangs your property may be harvested by you, so in a sense you own it. But the rest of the tree doesn't belong to you.

4. Liability of the tree. Acts of nature are not negligent, so if the tree is otherwise healthy, under the common laws, there is no liability on either party. However, if the tree is unhealthy, then it is arguably negligent to do nothing about the tree.

5. Liability of dead tree branches which overhang the property. No idea. See 3 &4 for confusing factors.
Great expert/professional input.
Well said.

To OP: original poster

Much depends on human relationships, dynamics, local culture, etc.

For example: In Hawaii where the culture is focused on group and community (island cultures, asian/hawaiian cultures) vs individuality and self reliance only on self reliance, who's right is who's right is . . . etc.

As above:
1.
If a mango tree or fruit or guava tree, then both neighbor's take care of the tree and grandma makes mango bread for the neighborhood.
When in any doubt, go over to the neighbor, bring a pie/food, "talk story", get along. . work it out. Make friends.
This is called, "hoomalemale (spel) or smoothing the waters"
2.
You can trim da branches if they are going to break your roof or cause too much "pilikia" (trouble) but you can't hurt da tree because it was there before the homes were built so that has priority.
When in any doubt, go over to the neighbor, bring a pie/food, "talk story", get along. . work it out. Make friends.
This is called, "hoomalemale (spel) or smoothing the waters"
3.
Ownership is sort of a "haole" (foreigner, not Hawaii born, unfamiliar with island cultures, non negative conotex) thing. So, if there is a cultural gap per se. . then there are problems right off the line. . ie:assertive dominance, code compiance, litigation, etc.
So, to avoid this:
When in any doubt, go over to the neighbor, bring a pie/food, "talk story", get along. . work it out. Make friends.
This is called, "hoomalemale (spel) or smoothing the waters".
4
In this case, the tree is dying. . . or dangerous to the "keiki" (children) of both parties so something should be done.
Uncle Freitas owns a tree trimming company and can do it for a cheap split price for both neighbors so this can work out well.
When in any doubt, go over to the neighbor, bring a pie/food, "talk story", get along. . work it out. Make friends.
This is called, "hoomalemale (spel) or smoothing the waters".
5
Liability. . . see "ownership". #3 above. So. . . . .
Get way ahead of this with. . .
When in any doubt, go over to the neighbor, bring a pie/food, "talk story", get along. . work it out. Make friends.
This is called, "hoomalemale (spel) or smoothing the waters"

Concept: not everything has to be "by the book" or "confrontational". . actionably: visit the neighbor. . bring "mango bread". . .
j :D

Thanks "lee" for your professional input! :D :D
This is great. Lee’s post also great.

Many years ago we had a neighbor’s tree grow over our roof such that rats were using the tree to gain access to our attic. We were new homeowners at the time and rather than ask the neighbor (duh) we called the city to ask what might be appropriate. We live(d) in a different state than OP but the city advised us that we could trim the tree to the property line. Note: this is a cautionary tale, not advice. I was way too poor and cheap to pay anybody, so I climbed up around on the roof and some ladders with various sharp and dangerous things and noone was hurt, except possibly the tree, a little bit. Shortly thereafter we had a debilitatingly inarticulate and threatening handwritten letter describing an assortment of things our neighbor didn’t like about how we lived and worked on cars in the driveway, stuff like that. In addition to my tree hack job, apparently the city had sent the neighbor a threatening letter (not the intent of our inquiry at all, but that’s what they did) regarding the tree. My wife was terrified and ready to legal up. I picked a flower from our yard and took the note over to the neighbor and we talked it out. If you’re neighbors, try to be neighborly.
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Sandtrap
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by Sandtrap »

Nohbdy wrote: Fri Sep 23, 2022 9:32 am
Sandtrap wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 10:32 am
Lee_WSP wrote: Mon Sep 19, 2022 3:02 pm There's a few issues at play with trees which cross the property line.

1. "Ownership" of the tree itself is generally with the property where the trunk completely resides. It may be joint ownership if it straddles the line.

2. Ability to cut the branches. Oddly enough, each property owner only has the ability to unilaterally cut the branches on their own property without permission of the other.

3. "Ownership" of the branches. This one is odd. Anything that overhangs your property may be harvested by you, so in a sense you own it. But the rest of the tree doesn't belong to you.

4. Liability of the tree. Acts of nature are not negligent, so if the tree is otherwise healthy, under the common laws, there is no liability on either party. However, if the tree is unhealthy, then it is arguably negligent to do nothing about the tree.

5. Liability of dead tree branches which overhang the property. No idea. See 3 &4 for confusing factors.
Great expert/professional input.
Well said.

To OP: original poster

Much depends on human relationships, dynamics, local culture, etc.

For example: In Hawaii where the culture is focused on group and community (island cultures, asian/hawaiian cultures) vs individuality and self reliance only on self reliance, who's right is who's right is . . . etc.

As above:
1.
If a mango tree or fruit or guava tree, then both neighbor's take care of the tree and grandma makes mango bread for the neighborhood.
When in any doubt, go over to the neighbor, bring a pie/food, "talk story", get along. . work it out. Make friends.
This is called, "hoomalemale (spel) or smoothing the waters"
2.
You can trim da branches if they are going to break your roof or cause too much "pilikia" (trouble) but you can't hurt da tree because it was there before the homes were built so that has priority.
When in any doubt, go over to the neighbor, bring a pie/food, "talk story", get along. . work it out. Make friends.
This is called, "hoomalemale (spel) or smoothing the waters"
3.
Ownership is sort of a "haole" (foreigner, not Hawaii born, unfamiliar with island cultures, non negative conotex) thing. So, if there is a cultural gap per se. . then there are problems right off the line. . ie:assertive dominance, code compiance, litigation, etc.
So, to avoid this:
When in any doubt, go over to the neighbor, bring a pie/food, "talk story", get along. . work it out. Make friends.
This is called, "hoomalemale (spel) or smoothing the waters".
4
In this case, the tree is dying. . . or dangerous to the "keiki" (children) of both parties so something should be done.
Uncle Freitas owns a tree trimming company and can do it for a cheap split price for both neighbors so this can work out well.
When in any doubt, go over to the neighbor, bring a pie/food, "talk story", get along. . work it out. Make friends.
This is called, "hoomalemale (spel) or smoothing the waters".
5
Liability. . . see "ownership". #3 above. So. . . . .
Get way ahead of this with. . .
When in any doubt, go over to the neighbor, bring a pie/food, "talk story", get along. . work it out. Make friends.
This is called, "hoomalemale (spel) or smoothing the waters"

Concept: not everything has to be "by the book" or "confrontational". . actionably: visit the neighbor. . bring "mango bread". . .
j :D

Thanks "lee" for your professional input! :D :D
This is great. Lee’s post also great.

Many years ago we had a neighbor’s tree grow over our roof such that rats were using the tree to gain access to our attic. We were new homeowners at the time and rather than ask the neighbor (duh) we called the city to ask what might be appropriate. We live(d) in a different state than OP but the city advised us that we could trim the tree to the property line. Note: this is a cautionary tale, not advice. I was way too poor and cheap to pay anybody, so I climbed up around on the roof and some ladders with various sharp and dangerous things and noone was hurt, except possibly the tree, a little bit. Shortly thereafter we had a debilitatingly inarticulate and threatening handwritten letter describing an assortment of things our neighbor didn’t like about how we lived and worked on cars in the driveway, stuff like that. In addition to my tree hack job, apparently the city had sent the neighbor a threatening letter (not the intent of our inquiry at all, but that’s what they did) regarding the tree. My wife was terrified and ready to legal up. I picked a flower from our yard and took the note over to the neighbor and we talked it out. If you’re neighbors, try to be neighborly.
***(adding and continuing a substantive and actionable content post)

Yes
Local culture
Area culture
country/state culture
personal culture
personal style or non style (ie: assertive dominance, bullies, code compliance/rules types, defensive vs offensive, etc)

Thus:
Letter to the local HOA vs . . . meet the neighbor
or
Approach neighbor with aggression, assertion, dominance, ready to do battle, tell who's who, because one knows ones "rights". .
etc, rules of engagement, need to "win" over others.

In some cultures, various behaviors and norms of conduct vary from the above. Sometimes, being "neighborly" is more the exception than socially rooted, etc.

Thus. . . remembering that this is a "tree". . . keeps things in context. . that is easily lost in a second of confrontation.
"Responsibility" connotates "liability" implies "blame" implies "fault". .. etc.

Is a tree everyone's responsibility?

j :D
Last edited by Sandtrap on Fri Sep 23, 2022 10:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by JoeRetire »

CtScrtDsse wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 7:37 am Thanks for everyone's advice.

I'm a new homeowner, and its been eye-opening to learn all about the costs of homeownership. This branch is not worth an argument or legal battle for me. The branch is just so large (approximately 18 inches in diameter) and runs parallel to the fence, so a good portion is still on our neighbor's side too. It seems weird that I would have to cover the entire cost. I'll ask the neighbor if he'd be willing to go 50/50, if not, I will just plan on absorbing the cost.
Makes sense.

As time passes, you'll find lots of things about home ownership that seem weird.
Oh, noooooo! I'm so sorry, it's the moops! The correct answer is 'the moops'.
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Sandtrap
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Re: Neighbor's overhanging tree: who's responsibility?

Post by Sandtrap »

sureshoe wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 9:26 am So many posts by non-lawyers (including mine) - take all that with a grain of salt. The one good post is the link above to a lawyer FAQ on tree ownership.

As reinforced by the above line (https://lawyerscolumbusohio.com/pining- ... ar-demand/), the answer (as in all laws) is : it depends. My grandma's house burned down because of a neighbor tree (in Ohio). Very complicated situation - lots of legal wrangling over responsibility.

You can trim another person's tree over your line... maybe. You can't cut it back to the point of killing it.
If a tree falls, it's not the owner's fault... maybe. If it's obviously dangerous, you can be liable.

The best advice is to talk to your neighbor (sounds like you did).
If the neighbor is unwilling to trim, and you feel like it is 100% an obvious danger - you COULD POSSIBLY compel them to pay, but talk to a lawyer. I doubt it's worth the money if they say "no".

Your only real option is to pay to trim it. If this is anything beyond some trivial trimming, I would get a written approval to make changes. That's me.

So those are your options as I see it.
Good points.
Well said and substantive (vs pcd driven) input.

thanks for posting and providing the useful link to further information.
j :D
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