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How far does a tree have to be from a property line?
Last updated: 20 January 2021
Trees planted close to the property line can become a problem when they grow.
Trees should be planted 3 – 4 feet from property lines to allow for future growth. Some state laws do differ on this and you may need to refer to your state’s Tree Ordinance and planting trees on private property.
The conflicts that may arise from trees on the property lines are outlined below with their solutions.
Who pays for tree removal on property lines?
Under common law, trees that exist on property lines are considered to be owned by parties on both sides of the property line and so if the tree has to be removed, they will share the costs of removal.
However, if the tree was planted by one of the neighbors, then they are the ones who have to bear the full costs of the removal. This is because by planting the tree on the property line, they essentially encroached on your property by planting part of the tree on your property. And since they are the ones that caused the problem, they are usually the ones who are required to bear the costs of remedying the situation.
It is important to note that local governments, homeowner’s associations and states can have specific laws and guidelines governing the cost allocation in such a situation. Therefore, checking with your local authority, reading through the homeowners association rules or seeking legal counsel is always a good idea. And if you have a cooperative neighbor, you can find an agreeable solution through either negotiation or mediation.
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Can I ask my neighbor to cut his trees?
No, you cannot ask your neighbor to cut his trees because they are his property. And provided the trees are on his side of the property line, they have exclusive rights to them as far as the law is concerned.
Even in cases where the trees block your view, have branches that overhang your property, or are generally considered to be aesthetically unpleasing, you have no right to ask them to cut their trees.
However, you can request them to do so, especially if they have an adverse effect on your property. In such a case, you will be entirely at their mercy, and if they deny your request, you won’t have any legal recourse.
If the trees that the neighbor has planted are poisonous,or if they interfere with a walkway, utilities, or the view on an intersection, you can call the local authority. They may then remove the trees if they consider it to be in the public’s interest to do so.
Some homeowner’s associations have strict rules with regards to the type of trees that one can plant, or the height to which they can be allowed to grow. If the trees that you have a problem with are in violation of the code, then you can contact the association and they can ask your neighbor to remove them.
Can I cut a neighbor's tree overhanging my property line?
No, you cannot cut a neighbor’s tree overhanging your property line. If the tree is growing on their side of the property line, it is still their property no matter the level to which it encroaches on yours. Therefore, if you cut it down, you will be damaging their property and you can thus be asked to compensate them.
As a result, if you cut down their tree, you may have to cover the cost of replacing the tree. Any costs related to clearing any resultant debris, removing it from their property, or any other damage incidental to your actions may also fall on you. And since trees can boost a property’s value, you may also be forced to compensate them for any loss of value that your actions may have occasioned. There are also cases of courts imposing punitive damages, and so such an action can have devastating financial repercussions.
However, this does not mean that you don’t have any rights with respect to the tree. In most jurisdictions, you have the right to rim any branches of the trees that are overhanging your property line. Provided your trimming efforts do not extend beyond your property line, you will be well within your rights. You can also cut any roots that are encroaching into your property, especially if the roots are causing damage to your foundations, plumbing, walls, gardens or any other part of your property.
When trimming or cutting roots, you should take care not to damage the tree to such a point that you kill or damage it. If your actions result in the tree’s death, your neighbor can sue you.
Can I plant a tree on my property line?
No, if you don’t have the permission of your neighbor, you cannot plant a tree on your property line. This is because doing so will result in your encroaching on their property — since the tree will end up growing on both sides of the properties — and this is considered to be a form of trespass. Therefore, they can sue to have you uproot the trees. They can also stop you from doing so since such an act will be in violation of their rights.
How far from a property line should a tree be planted?
While there is usually no law defining the minimum distance from the property line that a tree can be planted, a good rule of thumb is to always plant a tree at a distance that is far enough to enable it to reach its maximum height and width without growing past the property line.
As a result, knowing the expected diameter of the tree’s crown is imperative to figuring out a safe distance. In most cases, a distance of between 6 to 15 feet away from the property line is enough for most trees.
Trees on property line: Your rights
Trees that are on the property line are generally considered to be owned jointly. Since you are legally considered to be a part owner of such a tree, such a tree cannot be removed without your permission. You also have a right to any benefits that result from its sale or profitable use.
With such a tree, you have the right to trim its branches as you see fit. If its roots become a nuisance, you can also cut them. However, your rights to trim or cut the branches only extend as far as your property line. And so if your trimming or cutting efforts extend beyond the property line, you will have infringed on your neighbor’s rights.
However, since the tree is owned jointly, you do not have the right to harm it. Therefore, even when you are trimming its branches or cutting its roots, you have to take every precaution to avoid harming it. If you destroy it, you can be sued for damages and you may end up having to compensate your neighbor for an amount that is more than thrice the tree’s value.
Author: Ben McInerney – Ben is a qualified arborist with 15 plus years of industry experience in Arboriculture. He ran a successful tree service before turning to writing and publishing. Ben is dedicated to providing users with the most accurate up-to-date information on everything trees.
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