If your neighbors’ trees are a pain because they cast unwanted shadows, block your view, or are just downright ugly, it might be time to bite the bullet and have a chat with them about it.
The best way to ask a neighbor to remove their tree is to just have an informal chat. Explain why you are concerned about the tree, its risks, and whether they would be open to removing it. I would first offer to pay for the job and even offer to replace the tree at your expense with something smaller that you both can agree on.
However, if they are uncooperative, you should write to them formally expressing the same concerns. You may then approach your Homeowners Association (HOA), local authority, and even the court in order to have them force the neighbor to remove the tree.
Here is what you should know about how to ask your neighbor to cut down a tree.
Before approaching your neighbor, you need to make sure that you understand your rights and your position under the law. This is important as it allows you to make your neighbor understand that your request isn’t unreasonable especially if it is supported by the law.
Improve your negotiating position – Understanding your rights and the law will also benefit you in terms of improving your negotiation position.
For example, you can be able to demonstrate your willingness to compromise by offering to contribute towards tree removal or replanting. Making the neighbor understand that this is an act of compromise that you are willing to take as an illustration of good faith may make them more amenable to hearing your proposals.
Understand your legal options and communicate this fact clearly – Sometimes, a neighbor will be more open to listening to your suggestions and requests when they know that you have the option to escalate the issue. This may be through the court system, reporting them to the HOA or the local authority.
Therefore, in addition to making a kind request, you can always inform them of escalation options. This may make them take you more seriously.
Avoid infringing on your neighbor’s rights – There is also the fact that a good understanding of the law can help you to avoid unintentionally infringing the rights of your neighbor. For example, if you decide to cut overhanging branches, cutting the branches past the property line could land you in legal trouble. Therefore, knowing how far your rights extend will limit your exposure to legal liability.
To ensure compliance with the law – Even if a neighbor has a right to trim any overhanging branches, in some jurisdictions, they may still need a permit. This is so, especially regarding certain species of trees designated as protected.
Trimming the tree without a permit may attract fines and other penalties from your local authority. Therefore, knowing what the law says in your area may help to prevent such inconveniences.
First, suggest a trim
Cutting down a tree is a drastic measure that your neighbor may balk at. Therefore, if the problem that you are having with the tree can be solved by simply trimming it, it is best to suggest it as a viable option. You have the legal right to trim branches and throw them over their fence, but if you want to maintain a good relationship with your neighbor, I would talk with them before doing this.
It is a less costly and less drastic measure. As a result, your neighbor may be more open to considering it.
Offer to pay for the work
Sometimes, a neighbor’s reluctance to comply with a request for tree removal may be related to the cost of the removal. Therefore, when you offer to cover the costs of tree removal, they may be more amenable to granting your request.
Offer to replant another nicer tree
However ugly or unsafe a tree may seem, it may still be of some value to your neighbor. It may be providing shade, privacy, or supporting birds and other wildlife. These things may be important to your neighbor, and this may make cutting down the tree to be harder for them.
By offering to replant another nicer tree, you take some of the sting off the pain of losing the tree. Doing so may make it easier for your neighbor to agree to cut down the tree.
How to escalate
The first step of escalation will be to write a formal letter expressing your concerns. The main aim of this letter is to create a paper trail of your conflict. It will act as evidence that you informed your neighbor of the danger or nuisance that the tree is creating.
Homeowners Association (HOA)
The next step will be to then report the matter to your HOA. If the tree’s status is against HOA rules, they may be able to force the neighbor to cut it down. This is so especially if it poses a risk to other neighbors, is poorly maintained, exceeds the height limits, or is poisonous.
If your HOA cannot help you, then you can go to the local authority in your area. They may be able to step in if the tree is a danger to the public. In such a case, they can remove it and then bill your neighbor for the costs. They may even force the neighbor to remove it.
And if the tree is next to utility lines or is impeding their use in any way, you can indirectly have it removed by simply contacting the utility company. This is so especially in cases where a tall tree is next to power lines.
But if that doesn’t work, you can always go to court. You can file a successful claim if the tree is a nuisance, interferes with your ability to peacefully enjoy your property, or causes damage to your property.
You can take the dispute to court in case your neighbor’s tree is overhanging on your property. When exploring the legal avenue, you can seek:
- Compensation for damages caused by the tree on your property. This may be tree roots damaging your plumbing and buildings, to branches damaging your roof shingles
- Compensation for the cost of trimming the branches of the tree
- An order to compel the neighbor to cut down the tree if it is forming a present and imminent danger to the public or your loved ones
Can I make my neighbor cut down their tree?
No, you can’t make your neighbor cut down their tree if it is on their property. This is because they have an absolute right to plant whichever tree they want on their property.
However, if the tree is dead, dying, pest-infested, structurally compromised or poisonous, you can indirectly make them cut down the tree by:
- Requesting them to cut it down on their own by pointing out the danger it poses
- Reporting them to the HOA
- Reporting them to the local authority in your area
- Filing a case in court seeking compensation for the damage caused by the tree, to an extent where it becomes too costly to not remove the tree
Can I make my neighbor trim their tree?
No, you can’t make your neighbor trim their tree if it is solely on their property. This is so even if it is ugly and is thus ruining the aesthetic appeal of your property.
However, if the tree’s branches are overhanging onto your property, you have a right to ask them to trim its branches. If they fail to do so, you can trim the tree yourself up to the property line.
You can also go to court in order to force them to trim the tree. And if you have incurred any damage as a result of overhanging branches or intruding roots, you may even get compensated as the law treats overhanging branches and intruding roots as nuisance incidents.