Trees & Neighbors
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Trees & Neighbors
We are Berkeley residents, whose next-door neighbor has
planted a row of tall trees along the fence line between
our property, which in effect have raised the height of
the fence to 15-20 feet. The result is not that our view
is blocked, but that our once sunny patio area is now
completely covered in shade. (This is not how we planned
or intended the space).
Do we have any recourse? Do any of you have any advice
for us? Will the City intervene, using the fence laws?
Thanks for any help/recommendations/suggestions/ideas.
Sunny area obliterated
Berkeley ordinances don't distinguish berween a property
line fence or hedge However, enforcement is another
question. Height is limited to 6 feet. Here is my
experience with this. My neighbor planted additional hedges
and erected a 7' tall bamboo fence between the hedges and
my new redwood property line fence (6') blocking light and
views across our property line. When I first sought relief
via code enforcement, they seemed very concerned and told
me what he had done was illegal. However, several weeks
later when they came out to look at the fence and hedges,
they clearly changed their mind and told me: ''It doesn't
look that bad. You have no reason to complain. Call us
again if it gets too much higher.'' At that time the hedges
was 8' high. I called again the following year when the
neighbor extended his 7' bamboo fence all the way acroos
the property line, leaning against my fence, and the hedges
were over 10' tall. They refused to look at the proplem
again with me and insisted on viewung the conditions only
when I was not there. Their response was: ''Why don't you
quit harrassing your neighbor...'' I sited the ordinances to
the head of code enforcement, and insisted that it was a
violation of the ordinances. I then told me that they
couldn't be bothered with this problem, the law was
whatever they said it was, and if they didn't feel like
enforcing any particular ordinances, that was their choice,
they had no obligation to do so, and no one could do
anything about it. This is a very simplified and condensed
version of events that lasted 6 years. Bottom line is, if
the neighbor knows someone or has connections at City Hall,
code enforcement will let them do whatever they like. If
you complain that the ordinances are not being enforced,
you will be insulted, berated and told to go away. I
appealed to my City Council member about the events and got
a similar reaction. At first she was sympathetic and agreed
that code enfourcement should act, then she reversed course
the next week and,likewise, accused me of harassing my
neighbor and causing trouble. She insisted that I just give
it up, because nothing was going to be done, and if I
didn't like it I should go and hire a lawyer. The hedges
are now 10'-16' tall and eliminate direct winter light from
my rear yard. Good luck.
Hi, I live in Kensington, and have trees that were planted in the
sidewalk above our house. I have been paying to have them
trimmed so that my uphill neighbors have a view. I was wondering
who owns these trees? I think I am responsible for maintaining
the sidewalk in Contra Costa, but don't know about the trees. I
don't want to trim the trees, or pay for their care, but I also
don't want to alienate the neighbors who seem to think that I am
responsible for it. I was wondering legally, who owns them? and
who is responsible for their care?
To the best of my knowledge, the trees are planted by the city.
Try contacting them for trimming. I know you need to check with
them if you want to cut one down.
Call the town offices. Usually, pruning street trees is a
This is the very reason why I will never live anywhere unincorporated again.
is no easy path to get your questions answered.
You are definitely responsible for the sidewalk. I can't see a reason why you
not be responsible for the trees on the sidewalk. I believe this is the group
can help you to find out. I would contact the chair.
Kensington Municipal Advisory Council
Meets last Tuesday, 7:00pm
Call 273-9926 for information.
We have neighbors on either side of our house who continually
cut back our plants and sometimes large branches of our trees
that hang over on to their property. We've asked more than
once to let us know if they want something cut back and we will
do it (they do such hack jobs that we worry the plants/trees
might die.) However, this never happens. Does anyone know how
to find out where the law really stands on this issue? We've
asked both attorneys and our city hall and have gotten
conflicting answers. We live in Benicia. Thanks for any
As a former landscaper I can tell you that your neighbors have
the legal right to cut anything that hangs over on to their
property in any manner they choose. I think the only thing you
can do is talk to them again....or just pay REALLY close
attention to the plant growth so you can get to it before they
do. Good luck. I know it's frustrating.
I'd be pissed at my neighbors, too. At the same time, if you
KNOW it's a problem, and you KNOW they're going to cut your
plants when they hang over the fence, CUT 'EM YOURSELF ALREADY!
See any patterns here?!? If you're so concerned for your plants
and trees, take better care of them yourself so that the
neighbors are never tempted to take matters into their own hands.
Should they ideally talk to you? Yes. But they don't. You want
to complain about how they SHOULD act? Or solve the problem?
They sound like unreasonable nutjobs -- so why are you trying to
be reasonable with crazy people? I'd be focused on trying to
find a way to minimize the risk of irritating the lunatics next
My advice would be to get out there and trim them BEFORE they
grow into your neighbors yards. Then it probably wouldn't be an
issue. I wouldn't want to have to call my neighbor every time I
wanted to trim. I would expect them to be proactive about it if
they were that concerned. The usual theory is that they can cut
anything on their side of the fence as long as it doesn't kill
Try to remember that nothing can kill a warm-fuzzy neighborhood
feeling like fighting over trees and plants. Be the good guy and
keep them trimmed. Sounds like that would keep you AND your
Be a good plant parent.
Take the hint, it would seem that your neighbors don't like your
trees overhanging into their yard. It is understandable. The
solution is very straightforward AND friendly AND, your
responsibility. Not theirs. Regularly monitor your own trees
and keep your trees trimmed back. How hard can that be? In this
way, you can maintain your trees properly w/o worry about your
neighbors hacking at your trees. Your neighbors will appreciate
your consideration and your trees will get the proper care.
Doing your part will go a long ways towards good neighbor
relations. Legally, your neighbors have the right to cut back
those trees that hang over onto their property. I see no reason
to be litigious, unless you have a lawyer that cuts trees on the
Signed, K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, silly)
I live in Kensington, same issue; I have no trees on my
property, but both neighbors have HUGE trees that overhang my
property. I have asked also for them to cut-back, but to no
avail. I read somewhere that you are under no obligation to
advise your neighbor that you want to cut the over-hang; you
should be allowed to do whatever you wish on your side of
the ''fence'' (regardless of who pays)
However, as we are supposed to be good neighbors, we should
share the expense, or at least talk about the situation. Too
bad we don't all live next to good neighbors.... I think if you
are not getting a response, and you have the budget to cut back
with your own money, then do so. Obviously, if your neighbor
does not even respect you enough to respond, and you have made
the effort, then you should do whats in your best interest.
Why not cut back the trees yourself when they start to hang over
your neighbor's property? You might even ask them if you can do
it from their yard, or tell them that you'll hire a gardener to
do it. Sounds like they really don't like your plants in their
yard, and I'd say they have a right to cut it back if it's in
their yard or overhanging their yard. So be respectful. Prune
your plants before they get there. (and their ''hack job'' is
probably more un-aesthetic than harmful to the plant. If it's
really potentially harmful, you'd take care of it yourself before
it got to that stage, wouldn't you?)
Our neighbor's tree roots are making their way towards our foundation. We know this
because they've started to push up our concrete patio and you can see the direction
they're headed. Anyone been through this and have any advice? (non-legal, of
The unfortunate thing is that this neighbor has been pretty uncooperative with tree
issues in the past, and has several very large trees in a very small yard. We will
definitely go the route of talking to them to try and solve the problem, but wonder if
anyone has suggestions on protocol or experience with a similar situation. We'd like
to maintain a positive relationship AND don't want our foundation compromised. We
also don't want to shell out a ton of $$ for something that's someone else's
Fair Fred in El Cerrito
You are allowed by law to do anything to your neighbor's tree
that lands in your yard. So you could, for example, hire someone
to come in, dig down, and chop all the roots away that are
growing toward your foundation and put up a retaining block or
salt the earth or whatever under the ground to keep them from
growing back there. Warn your neighbor if it may hurt or kill the
tree, but you have a right to protect your property and it would
be legal. (Of course the best situation would be to have your
neighbors agree and share the cost so you can remain neighborly.
Just don't count on it.)
If it is their tree, then they are liable. You might want to
make sure it's not a city tree...because then the city is liable.
Your insurance may cover this, if/when it gets to the
foundation, but then they redflag you. Talking or mediation is
always a great first step...but I suggest you find out whether
or not it's his tree for certain prior to starting the dialogue
process. Also, if his tree is about to destroy your foundation,
you may want to see if the roots are going to, or have, damaged
your sewer lateral. I know, more info than you wanted to hear...
You may legally cut any tree part that is on your property
whether it's underground or hanging over a fence.
If your neighbor is uncooperative he/she likely will not want to
share the cost of you digging out his tree roots. Hopefully the
roots are not main roots that will damage the tree....but if
that is what you decide to do (and foot the bill) you should let
your neighbor know this.
Peter Rudy is an excellent, knowledgable arborist. His number is
in the book. He can give you great advice. He'll know what to do
and how to do it.
If your neighbors have been uncooperative in the past, they probably won't stop
now. We had the same thing, tree in the neighbor's yard was getting close to our
foundation. We offered to pay for the whole thing though because we felt it was for
our safety and also wanted to keep a positive relationship, like you said. So
what we did. And it cost us ALOT, not cheap. But it was still worth it.
Ironically, our neighbors received some notes on their door about how cruel they
were for cutting down that tree (even though they didn't, we did), the birds &
squirrels were losing their home. So I guess we should've lost our home so the
and squirrels could stay?
Since a couple of people who responded to your post mentioned
cutting out the tree's roots on your side of the property line as
a solution to your problem, I think I should point out a serious
disadvantage in going that route.
Yes, you do have the legal right to do that, but as a
horticulturist, I know that it can have the effect of
destabilizing the tree and making it vulnerable to toppling over!
I really doubt that you want to take that risk since doing so has
the potential of causing just as bad consequences as foundation
damage- the possibility of someone being injured, or worse, as
well as serious property damage.
And- although most trees can sustain some very carefully and
knowledgeably done removable of a few roots, taking out half of
them, or even just the big major ones that you fear may endanger
your foundation, carries a good possibility of killing the tree-
which would increase the odds of it falling down unexpectedly.
The mediation route that's been suggested is a much better way to go!
In spite of the apparent good intentions of those who wrote in
saying you could do anything you wanted to your neighbor's tree
if part of it was on your property, they are apparently not
sufficiently well versed in California law. While the gist of
the ''my property, my rules'' approach is generally true, there are
some very important exceptions, and it sounds like your case may
fall into the ''exceptional'' category.
For instance, let's say you have a three hundred year old oak
growing near the fence line of an adjoining property. Your
neighbor sells, and the new owner of that property decides they
want more light for their lawn, and has your oak brutally pruned
right to the fence line, permanently damaging the aesthetics,
health, and structure of your heritage oak. Historically, court
precedent would be AGAINST your neighbor, holding them liable for
YOUR lost property value, and in some cases other damages as well.
Similarly, even if your neighbor's tree is impinging on your
foundation, if you cut the roots and the tree then falls onto
your neighbor's house during the next windstorm, there is every
possibility that you will be held liable - especially if the
neighbor can show that the root-cutting weakened the tree, and
you cannot provide clear and convincing proof that the roots were
affecting your foundation in a significant way. It is almost
never safe to say that you can do ''whatever you want'' without
regard to the consequences, even if it is your own property.
My advice would be to contact a reputable consulting arborist,
and perhaps a lawyer, before having anything cut. If you have to
cut roots to preserve your foundation, it would probably be wise
to inform your neighbor of any risks associated with the work, so
that they can take appropriate action as necessary. Whatever
your relationship with your neighbor, failure to do so may be
perceived as negligence, or worse.
concerned for your well-being
Could you, please, pass on to me any information, personal experience, or contacts
regarding a neighbor's responsibility, or otherwise, to maintain tree heights and
in the Berkeley hills? We are having a tough time with this non-issue. Thank you.
It's not clear how much research you have done yet. If you
haven't looked up the Solar Access and Views Ordinance, start
If this link doesn't work, go to the City of Berkeley home page
at www.ci.berkeley.ca.us and click on Municipal Code & Zoning
Ordinance (near the top) and in ''Contents'' on the left navigate
to Title 12 and then to Chapter 12.45
Our neighbor, whom we share our back yard fence with, has
secluded herself with trees as high as 20 ft. some fruit trees
are hanging above our yard, and when the fruits fall, it all
goes on the ground. There is one tree which has small white
bloom (no fruits) and is the tallest. It makes such a big mess
in our yard, all over, and on top of that, blocks the view.
Over the last 6 years since we bought the house, the view to
the bay (which we feel is part of the house value) has
gradually become more and more limited.. I tried to approach
her once and she got defensive, and said she would not trim it
down, since it has been there for over 25 years.
I should also add that we live in an unincorporated zone and
the border between us and the Richmond city IS our shared fence.
Any ideas how to handle this situation?
Our neighbor had the same attitude (he's a lawyer and said 'so
sue me' at one point). So we sliced the trees, as if a laser
came straight up from the fence. If it was on our side, we cut
it, and all was good. Have fun
Our situation is opposite of yours - we are considering planting
some trees so that our neighbor, who has built up and UP and UP,
can no longer see into the living room of our house.
Unfortunately, our trees could partially block her view of the bay.
Our town has the local ordinances online. In our town in Contra
Costa county, ''A claimant has no right greater than that which
existed at the time of the claimant's acquisition of the property
involved in the view claim.'' I assume this to mean that our
neighbor only has the right to the view they had when they bought
the house, that is, their pre-addition view. If there is a
similar ordinance in your town your neighbor might be legally
obligated to trim her trees.
Our ordinance also states that the claimant has to provide
''evidence.'' Pictures or video, I guess, of the original view.
It would be good to know specifically where you stand with local
regulations before talking to her again. It's too bad she's
defensive. Would it be worth it to you (to preserve neighborly
good feelings) to split the cost of the tree trimming with her?
I'm going to take your neighbor's point of view at least slightly. We have
an oak tree overhanging our deck and yard that is growing primarily in
our neighbor's yard. Having the tree is, we feel, a major part of the
beauty of OUR view. In the time that we've lived there, we have had a
neighbor who lopped off, without any regard for the health or beauty of
the tree, the top two-thirds of the branches. After this happened, I
couldn't stop crying for hours. It totally messed up, for us, the feeling of
living in the treetops that we had had before that.
So please understand, the trees may be to your neighbor what the bay
view is to you.
I am not saying don't work with your neighbor to get the trees trimmed.
But please, please understand what your neighbor may be afraid of, and
that your neighbor may love the trees very much. With that in mind,
perhaps you could approach your neighbor again, explain that you
would be willing to pay for at least half of the services of a GOOD,
SENSITIVE tree-trimming company, who could truly trim (as opposed to
butcher) the trees, making them healthier and more beautiful as well as
helping out with your view issues
Read the book Neighbor Law: Fences Trees Boundaries and Noise
published by Nolo Press (probably available at your library)
for ideas for solutions - I believe that you have the right to
trim the portion of the tree that hangs over your property
If i were you, my first step would be to have an arborist
(certified or licenced?) visit your yard and take a look at the
trees and see what they would do IF they could do it. And get
an estimate. It often helps to get an expert opinion. You can
probably find recommendations for arborsists here.
Before or after that, see if there are tree ordinances for the
City of Richmond and for COntra Costa COunty unincorporated
areas. Get yourself educated.
Once you get an ideaa of responsible options for pruning or
otherwise caring for the trees, then you could casually approach
your neighbor and try another dialogue. Perhpas you can set up
a meeting with you, your neighbor and anarborist to go over
recommendations and costs.
The last resort, I think, is to trim back what you think needs
trimming on your side of the fence. I am not an expert in the
law or in your local ordinances, but I THINK that usually one
can trim anything hanging over their property line. My BIG
caution would be to not trim anything that would make the tree's
sprouting worse (that is why you need professional advice). And
definitely don't go on her property (or ask your arborist to)
without her permission
Tree Lover and View Lover
As far as I know, if your neighbor's trees hang over your
yard/property, you are allowed to trim the tree back to the
property line. You don't need their permission, just do it.
The only caveat is if you trim it so much that the tree dies,
then you're liable for the damage to their tree (i.e. don't
trim so much that it affects the tree on their side of the
My husband and I recently bought a house in the Berkeley hills
with a view of the Golden Gate bridge. For the most part, it's
not an uninterrupted view, as many trees, telephone poles and
such are in the way; but we can see the bridge from parts of
the house and from the backyard, which is upslope from the
house. My neighbor, who has an uninterrupted expansive view of
the bay, has decided to plant a wall of sycamore trees along
our shared property line. These trees, when fully grown, will
block most of our view from the back yard.
We have had a good relationship with these neighbors. We
converse regularly, pass garden vegetables over the shared
fence, and we have never complained about the constant barking
of their two German Shepherd dogs.
We have had several polite conversations about the proposed
sycamores, where we've expressed our concerns about our view,
and suggested alternatives (different types of plants, shorter
trees, etc.). However, our neighbor has decided to plant these
trees anyway (though he hasn't yet). His argument is that our
view is from our house only, not from the backyard. He wants to
plant these trees to block his view of our roof from his
We continue to have a friendly dialog about about planting
these trees. However, he is growing more adamant, and I'm not
confident that he can be persuaded.
Does anyone have any suggestions on what else I can do? Does
Berkeley have any view ordinances regarding trees (not
buildings)? Thanks very much for any ideas.
I've read that Berkeley does have an ordinance protecting your
view. You have the right to the view you had when you bought your
house, but if you have to pay for your neighbor's trimming if you
insist on maintaining that view. You'll want to investigate this
further and then inform your neighbor.
Obviously it's better if you can dissuade your neighbor now.
Berkeley also has a low cost mediation program that might help
you. In the meantime, you might take a few photos of your view
for future refernce.
There is a tree/view ordinance in Berkeley though I don't
recall precisely what it says. You should be able to get it
through the City's website. I would also recommend you
initiate mediation. Berkeley Dispute Resolution Services
(BDRS) does just this sort of neighbor mediation on a donation
basis. Whether you resolve it on your own or through
mediation, check the ordinance first so you know where you
stand legally on the issue.
Before your neighbor plants the trees, give the East Bay Community Mediation a call.
(http://www.ebcm.org/index.html) They are located on San Pablo Avenue. They
offer consultations and mediations to neighbors. They will send out a letter to your
neighbor asking for a mediation. You can then talk about the trees and the barking
dogs in a neutral setting with two mediators. Last I checked, it was about $40/
sliding scale. Well worth the money.
I commend you for wanting to resolve this issue before it becomes
confrontational. Your situation is challenging because these are your neighbors
who you will see/live with for a long time to come. Also, they have a right to plant
their trees even if they are blocking your lovely view. I hope you come to a happy
resolution what ever it may be--different trees, different location, different sleeping
area for dogs, different time schedules for dog run.
a former mediator
You should talk to an attorney. California has a law that
limits fences that I believe has been interpreted by courts to
apply to trees that block views, and most cities have similar
ordinances (I'd be shocked if Berkeley didn't - you can even
check online because most cities post their ordinances). There
is definitely case law on the issue of a neighbor blocking
another neighbor's view, and the neighbor with the view may be
protected. I don't think it matters whether the view is from
the house or yard. Anyway, a real estate or land use attorney
should be able to help you. Try Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger in
SF, I think they specialize in this kind of thing, or could
refer you to someone.
Berkeley has a view preservation ordinance that addresses tree
blockage, codified as Title 12, Chapter 12.45 of the Municipal
Code. You can find the Municipal Code on-line at
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/bmc. I think that the ordinance
extends to backyard views, although I'm not sure. You might
also call the City and ask if they have any regulations of this
particular sort of tree -- some cities require a permit for
trees that are particularly apt to cause view problems.
We have been on the other end of things with a very unreasonable
neighbor who aggressively ''suggested'' that we top or cut down a
beautiful, mature tree that is older than his house (and on the
opposite end of our property from his) in order to preserve
something like 1% of his panoramic view. Over the years we have
learned a lot about the tree/view ordinances in the area and
strongly suggest that you read Berkeley's ordinance for yourself,
from beginning to end. However, the bottom line is, you don't
own the air space over your neighbors' properties. If you
approach it from the standpoint that you will be asking your
neighbor for a favor, you will get much further than you ever
will by going to court or even a mediator. Invite your neighbor
to your home to talk about the problem. Serve refreshments. Show
the neighbor the problem from your standpoint. Invest in the
relationship, show courtesy and interest in his point of view,
and be willing to compromise. Offer to share in the expense of
replacing the new plantings with low-growing species. Offer to
pay for an arborist's visit to get a good recommendation.
Consider it a long-term investment in your peace of mind. This
is a very hot issue all over the Bay area so there's a lot of
experience to draw from. Although some people are impervious to
respect and reason, my advice is to brush up on your people
skills before running to a lawyer. Good luck.
We have a number of palm trees on our property which we love. However, there is one palm and a redwood that is growing right on the
edge of our property. The condominium complex next to ours has
decided that they don't like the palm and redwood. They have gotten an
expert to look them over and decide that the palm presents a ''hazard to
life and limb''. They originally wanted us to get rid of the redwood
because it was causing their sidewalk to crack. They apparently couldn't
get the tree guy to say that the redwood was damaging their foundation
but they are still going after our palm. Their groundskeeper has pulled
off half of the frond bottoms that you leave on the tree. I think the tree
only extends about 2 inches onto the separating curb and does not
impinge or protrude onto their sidewalk between both properties. They
are now insisting that we remove the tree at our own expense. Any
advice on how to handle this situation? Does the condo association have
the right to rip off parts of our tree? Are we legally obligated to tear
down a tree that we really like and would like to keep because of their
complaints? Your advice is much appreciated.
The book Neighbor Law, published by Nolo, covers many of
these issues related to trees and property lines.
Unfortunately, sometimes the answer is ''it depends.''
Available at the library or any good bookstore. You could
also try the Nolo outlet in west Berkeley, but every time I
used go there they were out of the thing I wanted.
If you are considering legal action, you might want to first
try mediation, which is almost certainly cheaper.
David in Berkeley
We have a couple of trees in our yard (some dead, some alive)
that are leaning towards our neighbors yard and house. He has
asked that we cut one down (or at least trim it), because he's
worried that it will fall on his house or fence. I've been
assuming that if the tree falls and damages his property, our
homeowners insurance would cover it. I also have been assuming
that if I remove it now, insurance will not cover it.
Can anyone answer the following questions? Also, feel free to
add any thoughts of your own.
1. Are my assumptions about what insurance will/will not cover
2. Do I have any obligation to do anything now to take the tree
Let's say the trees were in your neighbor's yard, leaning toward
your house and threatening to fall onto your property and damage
it or potentially injure you or one of your children. Should
your neighbor's primary concern be whether s/he was going to have
to pay for removing the tree, or should s/he be more concerned
about the risk of injuring you or damaging your property?
Your message does not make clear what type of damage might be
imminent should one of these trees fall, but it does make clear
that your priorities are misplaced. If the thought of damaging
your neighbor's property or potentially even injuring your
neighbor leaves you unmoved, perhaps the thought that the
neighbor might have grounds for an expensive lawsuit that would
exceed the bounds of your homeowner's insurance policy might stir
Golden Rule applies here
If lightning struck a healthy tree and it fell on your
neighbor's house, either your insurance or your neighbor's --
probably both -- would cover the damage. But if the tree just
fell over one day because it's dead and leaning, particularly
given that you knew about this condition but did nothing to
resolve it, you could definitely be held liable and would have a
much harder time getting full in! surance coverage.
In other words, yes, you have an obligation to take reasonable
preventative measures in a situation like this. Remember that
besides your neighbor's fence, a falling tree could hurt or kill
a person who happened to be standing in your yard or the
neighbor's at the wrong time. It's worth spending a little
money and time to ensure that isn't likely to happen. Your
neighbor may be willing to share the costs with you if you can't
afford it otherwise.
You may want to visit the library or bookstore and pick up a
copy of the Nolo Press book on Neighbor Law.
An obvious answer to your question is that you can ask your
insurer about the coverage.
The question I have for you is why you would consider
damaging the relationship you have with your neighbor over
a couple of dead trees? Even if you have to pay to have the
trees removed, it is the correct and polite, and neighborly,
thing to do. Your trees are your responsibility.
Your homeowners policy undoubtedly requires you to perform
maintenance and repair problems that you know about. If a tree
you realized was leaning finally falls down, certainly this
could be construed as maintenance you failed to perform. Read
your policy. Homeowners insurance is supposed to cover true,
I'm not sure why you think it's ethical to transfer
responsibility for a problem you are aware of to your insurer.
Not to mention, waiting until the tree falls puts your neighbor
at risk of injury from a tree falling on his home - do you
really want to risk this? Your neighbor's request seems
perfectly reasonable to me.
You should check directly with your insurance provider to see
what is covered. Have you considered also that if the trees
are large enough for you to worry about fence damage, they are
probably large enough to cause human injury --possibly even
kill someone. I think you are being somewhat short-sighted not
to consider that possibility. You might be liable for your
neighbors injuries--not to mention the ethics of failing to
prevent a forseeable accident.
Please, you don't! want to risk someone getting hurt. Be
respectful and considerate. Take care of the trees. You may
think you will save money by letting the insurance pay for it
after the damage is done, but more likly, your insurance will go
up. Try collaborating with your neighbor. Maybe they would be
willing to pay for some of the work if they enjoyed some
Uhh, forgive me if I'm wrong, but it seems that your thinking
goes like this: I don't want to spend the money to cut down those
dead and leaning trees, so I'll just wait until they fall on my
neighbor's house and then I'll let my insurance pay for the
damage. If so, I respectfully submit that your thinking
is--please pardon me--selfish as well as shortsighted. What if
someone gets hurt by the falling trees? Not only would you feel
terrible (I assume), but you could be bankrupted if your
insurance coverage doesn't meet the medical needs of the injured
person. And even if the only thing injured is a fence, you're
still going to get bit in the butt if you claim the damages
through your insurance. Your rates will go up, and in today's
climate, you may very well be subsequently dropped by your
insurance company (Allstate recently tried to drop us because we
had two small theft claims in a period of less than five years.
It's the norm these days.)
For what it's worth, our neighbor's tree had some branches that
were bumping against our house. After asking his permission, WE
hired a tree person to trim the branches in question. When the
same tree was subsequently blown over in a recent windstorm and
actually fell against our house, HE immediately--that
afternoon--got someone out to cut the whole thing down.
I think you absolutely have an obligation to take down those trees.
In regards to your leaning trees, I think you should cut them
down. Although it is true that your insurance will cover it, you
are being rather impolite by assuming that your neighbor will
not mind the damage it does to his house or yard! What if one of
your trees causes damage to his roof and it is raining? His hand
made rug is ruined, his precious porcelain vase is broken, his
house is now very cold...he will be furious! That is a MAJOR
inconvenience which could have been avoided if you have kept up
your yard properly.
I think that being a good neighbor requires you to consider the
damage and trouble your trees would cause your neighbor and do
what is necessary to prevent that.
What a timely question! In last week's wind/rain storms, one of our
snapped off and was hurled into out neighbors yard, destroying the
front of his
garage and decimating a 75 year old maple tree. Luckily, no one was
the damage was minimal. The trouble with falling trees is that you
don't get to decide which way or when they fall.
To my surprise, our insurance did not cover this incident. It was
Act of God that created a falling object and our neighbors homeowners
insurance is covering the damage done to the garage. (They are also
his rates as a result, which seems so unfair, but is the topic of
AND, neither insurance company covered the cost of removing the cedar
maple. You literally couldn't get to his house, but his insurance
stated that they insured his house, not his tree or landscaping.
were under no obligation to pay for anything, we felt it was
appropriate to pay
for removing both trees at a cost of about $1600 to us.
Now in our case, we are talking about a healthy tree that we could not
would do this damage. Not tending to dead and/or leaning trees could
seen as negligence and leave you open to a lawsuit - especially since
pointed it out to you and asked you to take care of it.
IMHO - it's better to be safe than sorry. Remove your dead trees.
Take care of
the other trees that are leaning. Show some good faith that you are
about the safety and well-being of your neighbor and his property. It
protect you and keep your neighborhood relations in good standing.
Hope this helps!
Let's see -- because your neighbor has put you on warning, you
are indeed liable if a tree falls on your neighbors property.
I'm not sure how tall your tree is, but beware! If a tree falls
and kills or injures someone, it would be your fault both
morally and legally. Your homeowners insurance would cover the
damage up to the limits of the policy (most likely) but if you
really want to be certain you should ask your insurance broker
if your policy would cover these things.
Your best bet would be to get an arborist to come take a look at
your tree. Most arborists will come out and give a free
estimate. If an arborist says that the tree is not a risk, then
they assume the liability of a future tree failure. And, most
importantly, tree removal is not the only option. Structural
pruning can definitely improve tree safety!
We recently had Maxwell Klump remove a large and hazardous 100'
cypress tree. It was expensive, but his bid was low compared to
the other 5 bids we obtained. Here is his info -- I highly
Maxwell Tree Service
- Candace (arborist in training)
We have two really large trees hanging over our neighbors' property (as
well as our own house). I asked my insurance company about our
liability if a limb falls on the neighbors' house. They said PROVIDED
could demonstrate that I'd routinely maintained the trees by
inspection and trimming, then a falling branch is considered an ''act
God'', and they will cover the damage. However, it seems unlikely that
dead or leaning tree that you have declined to remove after your
neighbor has requested it would fall into that category. Besides,
someone could be hurt or killed if they're under the tree when it
Sorry, I am afraid that it is your ethical and financial responsibility
or remove the trees before they do any damage. If they were healthy
trees that the neighbors wanted trimmed for view enhancement it is
reasonable to expect them to pay for this service. But it is your
responsibility not to endanger your neighbors or their property.
--circumspect tree hugger
We have a tree on our property, some branches of which
extend onto a neighbor's property. The neighbor would like
to trim the branches to increase sunlight. What's the norm
around here for paying for that trimming -- does he pay, do
we, or do we share the costs? (I know he has the legal
right to cut them and does not have a legal right to demand
payment; I just want to know how good neighbors
My husband, Richard Trout, UC campus arborist and consulting
arborist, gave me the following answer:
Who pays varies, but the rule of thumb is that the person
who benefits pays for the trimming. If the tree does not
loom over and dominate the neighbor's property, the neighbor
typically pays. But it gets tricky when you consider the
issue of how much growth over a neighbor's property is
reasonable. If a tree cuts off all sun to a backyard, then
it is often reasonable for the owner of the tree to pay, or
to split the difference. And, if there is encroachment over
a neighbor's roof, for example, then it is reasonable for
the tree owner to pay.
A couple of things to consider. If the neighbor wants to
cut so much that the form and/or health of the tree is
affected, the tree owner may not wish to pay. And, the tree
trimmer's client is the person who writes the check. Many
times, a tree owner will pay, in order to ensure control
over just what gets cut, and to make sure that the job is
well done. Nolo Press has a good book ''Neighbor Law,'' which
deals with trees among other subjects. It covers common
sense reasonableness and also addresses legal issues. For
example, have you considered the possibility that your
neighbor hires an uninsured person to cut your tree, who
then falls out of it and is injured? Who is liable? Not that
that ever happens, but these things should be worked out
ahead of time.
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