Tree Problem/Question

My neighbor planted a tree close to my property line. In five years, it has gotten quite large, and it is still growing.
He owns a concrete strip between our property and it is now starting to crack where the tree is planted. I don't think it will be long and this tree's roots will start lifting my beautiful plot of grass.
If this happens, what is the best way to handle this? Can the root be cut on his side, close to our property lines, and is it a difficult job. Of course, I would insist he do it, not me.
I would think I would have a legitimate gripe, but not sure what to do.
Many thanks!
Kate
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You can insist but AFAIK he's under no obligation in most states to deal with root incursions onto your property.

You certainly have the makings of a "good beef" and it's a very interesting question.
In most jurisdictions I know of, homeowners may trim the branches or roots of a neighbor's tree up to the property line. There are two important caveats: You must not cross the property line to do the trimming. More importantly, and much more problematic for you, you must make sure not to injure the neighbor's tree.
Hacking a tree's roots is a good way to kill it. Even if you did what you are entitled to do (trim those roots) in most places you would be liable for the cost of removing the dead tree that you killed - if your neighbor can proved it was the root trimming that killed it. For something delicate like that I would hire a tree expert and get his expert opinion in writing that the trimming would not be fatal or harmful.
I've heard of cases where the tree root damage is severe - i.e. they crack into a septic tank. This is where things get tricky and a lot depends on your local laws. Here's a good summation:
http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/trees-neighbors-faq-29134-5.html
<<In most situations, a neighbor who is bothered or worried by encroaching branches or roots of a healthy tree won't be able to successfully sue the tree owner. Instead, the neighbor can go ahead and trim the tree himself. In some states, however, neighbors may sue under certain conditions, including: a.. If the tree encroaches onto the neighbor's property, the neighbor may sue to make the owner cut the branches, even if no damage has been done. b.. If the invading roots or branches cause serious harm to the neighbor's property or threaten to do so, the neighbor may sue. "Serious harm" generally means structural damage to property, for example damaged roofs or walls, crushed pipes, clogged sewers, or cracked foundations. c.. If a tree encroaches on neighboring property, the neighbor may sue if the tree was planted, not "wild." d.. A neighbor may sue only if the tree is "noxious," in other words if it both causes actual damage and is inherently dangerous or poisonous. In many other states the law is unclear. In these states, a case might be successful if the tree:
a.. does substantial damage to the neighbor's property, or b.. seriously interferes with the neighbor's ability to use and enjoy her property. In addition to finding out what the laws are in your state, there are lots of other questions for you to answer in getting to the roots of this dilemma. What's the cost of the damage to the neighbors' septic system? Do you like these neighbors and want to keep a good relationship? How about splitting the cost? If you love your tree, how about your having the roots cut back professionally so that the neighbors don't damage the tree if they exercise their right to trim back the roots to your property line?
Sometimes, no matter what the law dictates, it's better to spend money to fix a situation instead of paying the same money to a lawyer and losing a neighbor.>> I'd say it's time for a cup of coffee with the neighbor to discuss the problem. If you're into arborcide you could dump a few gallons of antifreeze on the roots in the dark of night. We had a "dead zone" for more than 10 years where dad used to dump the used antifreeze when he changed it, so I know it's lethal stuff to trees. But karma could cause that dead tree to fall on you, so I wouldn't recommend the "dead of night dirty deeds" method. (-:
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Kate wrote:

Sounds like your neighbor picked wrong tree to plant there. Ultimate solution is B4 it grows bigger to make bigger problem Get rid of it, plant right kind for the spot. Better have a word with your neighbor about this.
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On 5/7/2014 4:36 PM, Kate wrote:

Find out what kind of tree it is, and then research the tree's growth habit. Some trees, especially long-needle pines, have a lot of superficial roots. Not all trees do. I doubt that you have any right to cut roots on your neighbor's property, although you probably can do so on your own property. You have air rights, as well, and can trim branches that are on your side of the line; many localities have specific codes prohibiting slicing off one side of a tree that is over your own property or in any other sort of mutilation. Moving is probably a lot easier that fighting with a neighbor about a tree (or anything else). Good luck.
I would not INSIST that your neighbor do anything to his own property. Ever.
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On Wednesday, May 7, 2014 7:36:30 PM UTC-4, NorMinn wrote:

Even if said neighbor had a dead or rotting 50ft tree tree leaning toward and within range of your bedroom?
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clipped

I'd talk to the neighbor in a friendly way. If that didn't work, I'd try the zoning people. Don't know how common it is, but where I lived before now, there was a code that said the city could remove hazardous trees even if they were on private property.
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On Thursday, May 8, 2014 7:20:53 AM UTC-4, NorMinn wrote:

Sure, I'd start there too. And if the response wasn't affirmative, I'd then insist in a friendly way, ie not get nasty, that the neighbor tend to his problem.
If that didn't work, I'd

Yes that's one way to proceed too, but somehow I doubt the neighbor is going to take siccing the township officials on him any better than you insisting that he remove the dead tree. Personally, if talking failed, next I'd send him a letter, stating the obvious danger and that he'll be responsible for any damage if the tree falls and does damage to my house and/or kills someone.
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Your dirt and grass is not like his concrete. The root may come close to the top of your dirt, but that won't make a whole section of dirt rise up. Probably won't even make a bump. The root may even eventually pierce the surface of the dirt and grass, but it will look normal to have a root like that.

Yes, but not by you legally. Try this yourself or pay someone to do it, and you'll pay when he sues you.
You didn't say what city and state you live in. That shows you have a lot to learn about asking questions, because state law varies, and perhaps even cities may have special rules. You should go to the city office that deals with this in your city and find out what the rules are in your state and city. They will almost surely have a web presence, and as you read whatever they say, make a list of questions for when you talk to a person, after you've read everything on the web, for your state. (I guess maybe there's a state web page, but around here I think more information is available from the city or the county office.

I'm glad to hear you don't plan to do anythin on his property yourself. He'll probably refuse unless you are really really REALLY nice to him, and maybe even then.

I don't think you have a reasonable gripe. Nothing has happened yet.
Generally, you own from your property line up to the heavens and down to hell, at least that part of hell that is directly under your lot.
In most or all states you can trim branches and roots that cross that line (though I would back off a couple inches to be sure I'm not infringing.) Be clear to anyone you discuss it with that your cutting line is not your property line.
Despite what was said here, I'm not aware that you would be responsible for his tree dying if all you did was cut limbs and/or roots on your land. First off, I think he'd have to show negligence, maybe great negligence, and I don't know how he would show either. Except for maybe tar.
When I trimmed the roots of my own tree that were lifting one square of my own sidewalk, I painted the root stubs with that black tar they sell for trimming branches. Comes in a 16 or 24 oz can. I didn't want "tree germs" entering though the open root and killing my tree. A neighbor passed by and told me I didnt have to do that, and maybe he was right, but otoh I didn't know him, let alone if he was right, so I did it anyhow. The tar is meant, afaik, for when branches are timmed, not roots, so maybe he was right. I'd check and if "tar" is required, I'd be sure to use it, and I'd watch to make sure anyone I hired used it. And I'd rebury the root within a day, Other than that, I can't imagine how you'd be negligent, but someone at the county or city office might tell you how. Smile and ask questions and one can learn a lot.
You should be able to find the law yourself, in your own state, right from the statute book, if you google tree roots state-name or tree branches state-name. But you should still talk to someone because the statute book, even an annotated statute book, doesn't have everything.

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<stuff snipped>

I know exactly how. If they can get a professional arborist to say you did something that destroyed the tree and the judge believes it, you're on the hook for the cost of removal.
I saw a very similar case litigated once where a developer had piled a foot of dirt or more around many of the trees in the housing development he was building. He did it to regrade some areas to have gentler slopes. What he didn't know (nor did I) was that the homeowners found TWO arborists to testify that changing the dirt level around a tree is often fatal to the tree. The homeowner assoc. got him to pay to remove the trees he had inadvertently killed although they failed to get him to pay for planting replacements.
That's why I recommended to the OP that if the roots bother her enough to need removal (and they could be a nuisance like a tripping hazard) then she should get a pro to do it who would then be at least partially on the hook for any damage and able to testify he used "best and accepted industry practices" to prune the roots.
When a branch broke off my red maple in front, the damaged branch allowed some sort of rot to proceed from the broken area all the way down to the roots. When they cut the tree down you could see a red "wound" trail from the broken branch all the way down. I had called them because I had noticed the root ball had lifted up from the ground. They came one day, tagged it and it was gone by the end of the week. The OP certainly wouldn't want to face any "tell-tale" finger of rot or disease pointing right back to the place she had cut the roots.
It's a tricky area that has a lot to do with what your state, city or county says is the law. While I would and have trimmed overhanging branches, I've left the roots from neighbor's trees alone just in case they died of natural causes having nothing to do with me but that my neighbor is sure was my fault.
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On 5/7/2014 3:36 PM, Kate wrote:

I did the midnight flit to the offending tree, carefully dug a small bit of soil away to expose a major root, used a narrow screwdriver to punch a hole in the root, then applied a spoonful of Roundup concentrate to the root. Covered it back up and went back to bed. A couple of weeks later, branches on that side of the tree began dying. The neighbor decided the tree was sick and took it down. Victory at last! (they'd refused to remove it for years, even with us asking nicely, and even after three times having major branches break off and crash onto my car and block my driveway).
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I don't recall ever seeing any tree whose roots were causing a problem more than maybe three feet from the trunk.
Most of a trees roots are very small...wide spread but small, 1/4" or less in diameter. Consider the myriad trees planted in cities happily growing in an area maybe 24" square surrounded by concrete. IOW, I wouldn't worry.
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On 5/8/2014 7:19 AM, dadiOH wrote:

You haven't any experience with maples? They're notorious for their large, shallow roots systems running at and above the surface of the soil. A mature tree's roots can be as thick as a mature tree's branches. They usually occupy the area under the tree's canopy, so again, on a mature tree they can cover a considerable amount of space.
I took down a half-century old silver maple and it was ten years before all the roots had completely rotted away. I replaced it with a red/silver maple hybrid in 2002 and it already has roots at the ground level as thick as my wrist.
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On Thursday, May 8, 2014 9:16:07 AM UTC-4, Moe DeLoughan wrote:

Where were you when I needed you? I had exactly that argument with one of the regulars on here a few years ago. Someone was complaining about not being able to grow grass under a tree and I pointed out exactly what you did above. He claimed I was nuts, that all trees have the same kind of roots, etc. I have a maple with exactly that problem, ie surface roots that make it impossible to grow grass.
A mature tree's roots can be as thick as a mature tree's

The biggest part of the overall problem the OP has is that people need some common sense and if they aren't familiar with a tree they are thinking about planting, they should do some research. Planting anything but a dwarf tree close to a "concrete strip" isn't a good idea. From the neigbor's perspective, since the concrete is apparently not her's and the tree is on the other's property, from a practical standpoint, I see only several likely scenarios:
A- The tree really doesn't become such a problem. As others have said, it may only push up the concrete on the property where it's planted and have little real impact on the OP's property.
B - The neighbor agrees that it's screwing the concrete, is a problem and agrees that it should be cut down. If the OP wants that to happen, she should be prepared to pay to have it removed and a more suitable replacement planted, further from her property line. Or at least split the cost.
C - It stays there, does cause some root problems on a small portion of the OP's property and she just has to live with it. Despite all the theoreticals about cutting roots, it just isn't practical to screw around with doing it on a typical large tree. For starters you can't even easily get at the roots as anyone who's tried to dig a stump out can tell you. If you called in a pro to do it, I'd suspect they'd tell you the same thing and/or that to do what you want could kill the tree, the price tag for the work is going to be a lot of $$, etc.
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Yeah...silver, sugar and Norway.
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On 5/8/2014 2:38 PM, dadiOH wrote:

Huh...maybe you've just been lucky with yours. I'm in a neighborbood where 90% of the trees are spruce, silver maple, and green ash. Everyone has bumpy, root-infested lawns and tons of tree seeds filling up the gutters. OTOH, it's wonderfully shady. Gotta take the bitter with the better.
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I think that what you can do to solve the problem will depend on what type of tree it is, where it is planted in relation to the concrete strip that he owns (the distance), how wide the concrete strip is, and how far from your property line (which you said is in your grass area) is from the tree itself.
On my own property, I was re-doing my asphalt driveway and wanted to widen it some. There was a tree nearby on my own property that had roots that were going under and damaging the existing driveway. I talked with a tree person, and we (he) ended up cutting a path in the ground between the tree and my proposed new asphalt driveway to cut off all of the existing roots. He used the same type of grinder cutting wheel that they use to grind stumps. But, in this case, he just used the stump grinder to cut down deep in the ground along a few-inch wide path to cut off any roots. That worked and the new driveway is fine.
Before dong that, I had read that tree roots tend to grow horizontally not too far below the surface of the ground. I was able to have the tree person cut off all of those roots a few feet from the tree on just that one side between the tree and the driveway, and the tree lived and is doing fine.
So, my suggestion would be to ask a tree person if you could do something similar on your property, in the grass along your property line, to cut off any roots that are there. At the same time, you could ask if another option would be for the tree person to cut the roots on the neighbor's side before they reached his concrete strip. Your neighbor may want to have that done to prevent the roots from continuing to damage his concrete strip.
If doing the cutting on the neighbors side (before the concrete strip), I would have the neighbor have it done and pay for it.
If doing the cutting on your property in the grass, I think you should pay for it. The cost of doing this is not much -- maybe $175 or whatever the cost of a routine stump grinding would be in your area.
Posting a photo or two may help give everyone a better idea of what you have there now.
Good luck.
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On Thu, 8 May 2014 05:57:01 -0400, "Robert Green"

Yeah, but I think they'd not be able do do that if all she does is cut the limbs or roots.

But this is a very different story.

That's why I suggested asking about tar. AIUI, tar was never recommended for roots, but I might be wrong. And Oren says it's no longer recommended for branches. If it's not recommended for either, than even if there is rot or disease, it's not her negligence.

That's why I said for her to find out.

Being blamed for something one didn't do can certainly happen. But paying a pro to trim roots is a lot more money than doing it oneself. My own tree whose roots I trimmed is not doing well. in that more lower limbs are dying than usual. If I hadn't used the tar, I'd think the lack of tar was part of the problem. (Not the trimming itself, because I only cut one root and there are probably 8 or 10 others in various directions.)
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You want surface roots? Plant a Locust.
Besides the tiny leaves that fall through the vents on cars and come blowing out of the AC ductwork, they produce surface roots so bad that the dirt falls away around them and you can put your hand underneath them.
An ice storm ruined a locust on my property, so I cut it down and removed the stump by hand/ax/reciprocating saw/etc. The nastiest, gnarliest root system around the stump I've ever seen. The next spring I looked out at my lawn and saw hundreds of tiny locust trees sprouting from the surface roots 20-30 feet from where the tree had been. The line of tiny trees went out in every direction. I ended up essentially ripping out my entire lawn by removing any roots that were more than an inch in diameter, hoping to prevent any more sprouting. It worked.
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Since we are bitching about trees, southern live oaks are no picnic either...
1. Limbs prefer to droop rather than grow up. PITA to mow under them. Once they touch ground they start growing up but then you have to mow around them.
2. They drop stuff...leaves, blossoms, acorns. Those are just once a year but they drop limbs and twigs constantly; the limbs can be any size up to house crushers.
On the positive side, they are picturesque.
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