Tree on Property Line

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I'm curious about people's opinions on the following not-so- hypothetical situation:
If you have two neighbors, call them Dan and Bob. There is a tree whose trunk is on Dan's property, but there are branches that overhang onto Bob's property, in fact, one branch hangs over Bob's pool causing Bob some grief. The tree is mature, and existed before either moved into their houses, Bob wants that branch (and several others) trimmed, but Dan does not want to trim the tree on his property. Who's responsibility is it to have the branch trimmed?
I know that Dan has no legal obligation to trim the tree, but is there an implied moral obligation (it's Dan's tree therefore he should trim it), or is it implied that the trim is for Bob's sole benefit, therefore Bob should do it? (And splitting the cost does not seem to be an option here).
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John wrote:

if the limb is over the property line, then it belongs to bob and can be trimmed by bob. the cost is paid by bob.
if bob notifies dan that it is in danger of falling and doing property damage, and it does, then it's dan's insurance that will get eventually get hit.
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I agree in general with the above, however I'd say just notifying a neighbor that according to you a tree on his property presents a danger, isn't sufficient to establish liability. If it was, one could just send a letter stating that for any and all trees, thereby covering themselves for all cases where a tree later falls.
For the neighbor to actually be liable, the tree would have to be an actual danger, ie it's rotten, leaning, dead, etc. If its a perfectly healthy tree on the neighbors property and it comes down in a wind storm damaging your house, I'd say the neighbor is not responsible regardless of whether you sent a letter or not. On the other hand, if you had a credible tree service provide you with a letter stating the tree is diseased and a danger and you sent that to the neighbor, then I'd say you'd be in an excellent position. And if the tree is so bad that is obvious from a picture, taking a picture before it falls down would be a good idea.
As for the branches over the pool, it's the pool property owner's responsibility to trim the branches back to the property line. A couple things come into play. First, if it's easier to access and trim from one property than the other, then a reasonable neighbor would allow access. Second, in most cases, it would be better for the tree, aesthetics, etc for the branch to be cut off back at the tree, which in this case is on the other property. But there is no obligation that the neighbor do it.
If the neighbor is being difficult, I'd send him an email or letter telling him what you plan to do. I'd say something like "While the best way to trim the tree would be to do it from your side and I have offered to pay for it, I'm now going to have them cut back to the property line from my side. That way it diminshes his opportunity to bitch about it or cause trouble later.
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wrote:

There is a large tree on the lot next to mine, which unfortunately is a rental property. The tree is not in the best of shape and if it were mine, I'd have the entire tree removed. Many of it's (large) branches hang over my property line and house.
A few years back a huge limb cracked off and fell across my roof and deck. I was in the yard at the time, under the tree, when I heard a series of loud cracks. Not sure what was about to happen, I ran out from under the tree and watched as a huge mutli-branched limb came down.
There was no major damage to my house or deck and my insurance company covered the clean-up. They then went after the landlord's insurance company to try and re-coup the cost. I don't know if they were successful but I do know that they sent a letter to the landlord and his ins co claiming that they had gotten "expert opinions" on the poor health of the tree and recommended that it be removed. I think they were just, as you said, trying to "establish liability" for any future damage.
The cost to me to remove the limbs that extend over my house would be extremely high since they are not accessible via a bucket truck and would need to be cut by climbing the tree and lowering them down in small pieces between the houses/wires/etc. In addition, since it would have to be done from within the tree itself, I would need the landlord's permission. He's not the friendliest guy I've ever met, in fact, he got pissed at me that my insurance company gave him and his ins co a hard time when the limb came down.
I asked my ins co if they would cover or share the cost of the trimming to eliminate the chance of damage in the future and they said no. I even reminded them that they themselves had said that the tree was a problem, but their answer was the typical "We'll pay for whatever damage is caused if the tree comes down, but we won't pay for preventative maintenance."
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On Thu, 26 May 2011 10:38:53 -0700 (PDT), DerbyDad03

I wouldnt' say "just". If someone, Don, has a tree in a far corner of his yard, or a near corner but he never goes there either, or he goes there but isnt' educated enough to know what a rotten trunk looks like or that his tree may be close to falling down, a neigbhor or his insurance company is going to get far better results if he notifies Don that there's a problem. Some laws are dependent on what one knew or should have known. Both can be issues, people can truly not know what they "should have known", and it's hard to say what one should know. Notification takes care of almost all of this.

IIRC he's obliged to give permission and if he's asked and doesn't, the liabiility for all the damage is on him. Of course, you don't want reimbursement, you want no damage in the first place.

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In NC if a tree falls on your house, your insurance covers it. No matter where the tree originated. If a tree on a neighbors property is obviously damaged or diseased and you tell the neighbor that does make it his liability. But it has to be clearly in distress, not just leans a little.
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So legally, I've found the following:
First, (and I just discovered this), the branches on Bob's property are actually not owned by Bob... If it were a fruit tree, and it bore fruit, Bob would not be entitled to the fruit. Therefore it is actually Dan's tree, and those are Dan's branches. (This is Canadian Law, which seems to be consistent with US Law). It seems that Bob has the legal right to trim the overhanging branches so long as he does not unduly damage the tree. But, just to muddle things, if Bob does trim it, Dan still owns the trimmings. This means that Dan would be responsible for disposal. Next, Dan does not have the legal right to enter Bob's property to do any trimming without Bob's consent (and the trimming would obviously need to be done from there). If a branch were to break from the tree and damage Bob's property, Dan would not be liable (unless Dan did something to aid the branch in breaking, or he knew the state of the tree on his side of the property line might result in damage to the neighbors property ).
There would be other special cases if the tree was planted after Bob moved in, but those don't apply here.
Those of course, those are all legalities. At this point, the tree is in good condition, so no breakage is likely. Bob is insisting that Dan trim the tree and pay 100% of the bill (which, given there's a pool involved, is not insignificant), but Dan doesn't feel this is appropriate, and doesn't want to pay (and of course, he's not legally obligated to, so for now nothing's happening).
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re: " ...so for now nothing's happening"
Oh yeah...something is happening.
Bob and Dan are either building to a major blowout over late night noise at one or the other's party (to which the other was not invited) or they are headed towards years of not talking to each other, kids that won't be allowed to play together and the other subtle issues involved with a tiff between neighbors.
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On Thu, 26 May 2011 13:37:20 -0700 (PDT), John
I didn't realize you were in Canada.

You remind me, that one reason I pointed out the difference between a rotting trunk and a rotting limb over someone else's property is that the law assumes that Don has the opportunity to inspect the tree on his property, but doesn't expect him to periodically go on Bob's property to check out the limbs there. Since this law was estabilished, they may have invented binoculars, or even drone-mini-helicopter with television cameras, but despite that, I don't think they hold Don liable for knowing the condition of limbs on someone else's property.

Well Bob has more to lose than Don. What if his little granddaughter** is swimming there when the limb falls off, it hits her on the head, knocks her out, and she drowns? What if this happens to Bob?
**It's about the children. It's always about the children.
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wrote:

In fact, you may find that if the work cannot in practice be done without setting foot on the neighbour's property, then the neighbour can be ordered to allow passage. I was told this in the context of work on my foundation, which is a few inches from the property line, but in fact I got on fine with the neighbours and I passed on their concerns to my contractors and all was hunky dory. Lots of caveats here: the work itself must be urgent in some way, etc. Moot unless the neighbour refuses to allow you (or your arborists) climb from his side and there's no other way they can do it. If it comes to that, you really need to be talking to a lawyer, unfortunately.
But basically, the advice I've always heard is per the current consensus: it's up to you - er, Bob - to have the tree trimmed the way he wants it, at his expense. The bit about the neighbour "owning" the resulting wood I'm not so clear on. Maybe Bob needs to offer it to him, and if it's useful firewood then I certainly would, but as for demanding that he pay for removal or take it onto his property I'd want a lawyer's opinion on paper about that.
Obviously any of these lawyer options will pretty much end any hope of a friendly relationship thereafter, but if the neighbour is being obstructionist about reasonable requests, then you're kinda heading there anyway, and better to be the one on solid legal ground.
Have the work done by a certified arborist, and they'll probably want to do a tree health report before they start. That covers your butt from claims that the trimming caused any future problems. Give the neighbour a copy of the report, costs you 10 cents to photocopy and it's worth big bucks to him whether he appreciates it or not.
Chip C Toronto
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Technically that part of the limb that is over the property line is Bob's. Just because the limb hangs over the property line doesn't mean Bob can enter Dan's property and cut it off at the trunk. Small nit, but one I thought I should point out.

Depends on the situation and the state. For instance, if Bob notes that the limb is in danger of falling and does nothing about the part on is property, that might not hold, again depending on the jurisdiction, since Bob had the right to mitigate that danger and did not. If, on the other hand, Bob noted that the entire tree was rotting and then it fell, he would have a better case since there was nothing Bob could do about the part on Dan's property.
--
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koala bears: food, water, shelter and something to crap on."
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wrote:

I think, given that the law has beeen the same for 100's of years for most or all tree situations, including this one, the moral obligations are the same as the legal obligations. It would be hard to maintain that there is any moral obligation that contradicts the legal obligation, since afaik most religions and moral systems deal in spiritual matters and simple rules of right and wrong, but not detailed rules like who is responsible for each part of a tree. (No sarcasm is intended here. I can see why you asked the question.)
Laws can be divided into 3 categories, those that every society has, like laws against murder and stealing; laws that are somewhat arbitrary but some law is necessary; and the third category I can never remember.
I think tree laws are somewhat arbitrary. Laws fit together a lit like a crossword puzzle, and if one tree law were changed, a bunch of other laws might have to be too, and maybe it would work as well with all those changes, and maybe some non-English based societies do things differently, but this is the way it developed in England and the US, and it's good enough. And moral enough because it applies to everyone the same.
So as they say, Bob is responsible for that portion of a tree that is over his property. And he's responsible to get rid of what he cuts off, and not allowed, as someone wanted to do, to throw the limb onto Don's property.
The swimming pool doesn't make any difference. He can cut the limb off at the property line or any place on his side of it without needing a special reason. However sometimes appearance is an issue and it can be better for all concerned to think about that before making the cut, or even to ask Don for his opinion, and if necessary explain to Don that Bob has the right to cut the tree.
If cutting off a limb leads the whole tree vulnerable to disease, Bob is obliged to paint the cut with that limb-cut-tar if that lessens the chance of disease. Not in Bob's opinion but in the opinion of experts. If experts disagree, Bob would be smart to do it and not rely on some expert who agrees with Bob. (I was cutting roots of a pine tree on my property and painting the 3 or 4 inch roots with that tar. A helpful neighbor said it wasn't necesssary, even though I was going to put dirt or the sidewalk back over the cut root. Was he right? I'm curious what people here say, but I figured better safe than sorry. If the pine tree has trouble, I'll think it was my fault if I don't paint.)

I hope we're not confusing rotting trunks on Dan's property with a rotting limb on Bob's. I'm not positive Dan has any duty wrt to the limb. The usual case is when the whole tree falls over and Bob knows or should have known the condition of the tree, the trunk. I don't htink I've ever heard rotting limbs discussed.
I say this not because I think the limb is Bob's property. I don't remember if that is true or not. That he has the right to cut it doesn't not mean it's his property.

Or maybe it was a duty to mitigate.

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Good to know.

You might both be right, but I couldn't take the word of someone I just met, and painting the roots were the last step before moving the sidewalk back in place. I may have to do this again in 10 years, 15 total. I'll bear what you say in mind.
I used to ask for help to move one square -- one neighbor came over and he brought pink rubber kitchen gloves with him. I gave him real gloves. -- but I got very good at doomg ot alone with 6 or 8' 2x4's under each side of the square, and working the 2x4 like an oar, I ocould move the cement slab around. And short 2x4's to rest the slab on when it would next to the sidewalk.
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This may not be the definitive answer, but I've heard this more and more on DIY shows, Ask This Old house, etc.
Painting the wound is bad for the tree. Much more important is where you make the cut so that the tree has the best chance of healing itself.
See here:
http://www.dannylipford.com/treating-cut-tree-limbs-with-wound-paint /
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On Thu, 26 May 2011 12:22:26 -0700 (PDT), DerbyDad03

Even the roots weep resin?

Good. Anything that makes less work for me is good.
OTOH, nost that is written about this is aobut limbs, and not much about roots. Maybe I was invalidly extending what I thought would happen with a human, if he immersed his cut finger in a wet pile of dirt (and maybe that wouldnt' be bad for people either.) but that I was covering the whole thing with the sidewalk made me think it would get wet and stay wet and take a long time to heal, and that there was more to make it sick in the dirt than in the air.

One of the problems it lists for wound paint is that it can: Seal in water, bacteria, fungi, and decay.
I figured underneath the sidewalk, wound paint was more likely to seal such things out than in. Water, bacteria, fungi seemed likely to be in the dirt. I suppose I could have left the sidewalk out of place for a week until everything dried out, but I didnt' think of that.
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On Thu, 26 May 2011 08:48:13 -0700 (PDT), John

I think John should do it, if he's the one that wants it done.
Jim
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This can be a tricky situation.
Here's how it works in many areas, but you should check with your own municipality for the rules/laws specific to where you live.
If the tree is not a "boundary tree" (i.e. not on the property line) and the trunk is fully on Dan's property, then it is Dan's tree.
If any part of Dan's tree extends over the property line between Dan & Bob's property, then Bob has the right to trim the tree back to the property line without Dan's permission. However, many municipalities also have words to the effect "In trimming Dan's tree, Bob is not allowed to unduly harm Dan's tree."
So let's say you have huge tree with the base of the trunk right inside Dan's property line, with huge limbs and multiple trunks extending over the line. It's reasonable to expect that if Bob exercises his rights to trim the tree back to his property line he will "unduly harm" the tree. That where it gets tricky and that's where Bob should be careful.
Even if the trimming won't unduly harm Dan's tree, Bob needs to also consider how the tree will look after it's trimmed and how it will react.
Depending on how the tree is trimmed, it might send out new growth from the trimmed areas, simply recreating the problem that Bob was trying to solve. It might also look unbalanced from various viewing angles and/or really ugly from Bob's side of the tree.
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On Thu, 26 May 2011 10:13:30 -0700 (PDT), DerbyDad03

Very good post.

IANAL, but even if it doesn't say that, it's probably still true. The person wouldn't be violating the statute if he unduly harmed the tree, because the statute doesn't say not to, but he'd still be liable for damages for doing so.
Tort law is interesting in that much that one is liable for is not listed, there is no one list at all, and sometimes new things which no one has ever been liable for before can be the basis of a valid judgment against someone. All on the basis of already existing principles. Negligence, foreseeability, proximate cause.

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I accidentally killed branches on one side of one of my trees. I was using weed killer or ground sterilizer, don't remember for getting rid of weeds. The next day I deep watered the tree. I must have sent the chemical down deep. Soon after that the limbs on that side of tree died. How ever the next year the branches sprouted out leaves again and got better in following years. ww
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wrote:

Just yesterday I was asking aobut this at a garden shop. I sprayed weed killer on the grass, using the garden hose, and the first year everything was great. The second year my aim wasn't as good and I sprayed some on about 50 leaves of a poplar tree, and some of my cedar bushes.
Killed the leaves and limited amount of branches that held them, and killed the cedar bushes.
The curling of the hose made the sprayer twist around sometimes when I didnt' expect it.
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