Self-Help

If your neighbor’s tree hangs over your property and this creates a problem for you, the first thing you should do is speak with your neighbor and try to work out a solution.

If you cannot work things out directly with your neighbor, many jurisdictions have community mediation services which will help you and your neighbor try to agree on a solution. These are usually free or inexpensive services, they follow uncomplicated procedures and they are often very effective. (I know this based on first-hand experience as a volunteer community mediator.) However, both you and your neighbor must agree to mediation.

Although I recommend that you try to resolve the problem directly with your neighbor, you have the right, even without your neighbor’s permission, to trim tree branches on your side of the property line. But you cannot go onto the neighbor’s property or destroy the tree.

Government Help

If the tree poses a hazard to your property, you may get help from your city or county governments who often have ordinances that prohibit maintaining any dangerous condition – including a hazardous tree – on private property. Under the authority of these ordinances, the city or county can demand that the owner remove the tree or pay a fine. Some cities will even remove the dangerous tree for the owner.

Utility Company Help

You might also get help from a utility company if the tree threatens the utility company’s equipment. For example, the phone company will trim a tree that hangs menacingly over its lines. The same with the electric power company.

Court Help

If you cannot get help anywhere else, you can sue your neighbor and go to court. Obviously, this is the last resort. Base your suit on the claim that your neighbor’s dangerous tree is a “nuisance” because it is unreasonable for the owner to keep it in its current state and it interferes with your use and enjoyment of your property. You can ask the court to order the owner to prune or remove the tree. In court, you will have to prove that the tree really does pose a danger to you. Normally, this requires expert testimony from an arborist.

**This article is designed to provide helpful information that can be read within 2 minutes. It is neither a full explanation of this subject nor legal advice. To learn more, and to receive legal advice on which you can rely, contact me or another lawyer.

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