Tree Pruning Rights on Property Lines
June 21, 2018
Trees, property lines and neighbors. Three things that, when combined, can cause more than a few headaches. But, it is super important to know your rights as a homeowner regarding your trees and those of your neighbors, especially in regards to pruning. Informed neighbors can be better neighbors when it comes to trees they share.
Who’s tree is it?
For your trees in question, the first step is to establish who owns the tree. Easy answer: if the main trunk is clearly on your property, the tree is yours. But, if the trunk straddles the property line, both parties can claim ownership and,therefore, are both equally responsible for maintenance of the tree - as well as property damages caused by the tree.
What about branches growing over the property line?
Most frequently, issues arise when the tree is on one property but branches extend onto the neighbor’s property. Branches may pose a hazard or interfere with the homeowner’s roof, power lines or other structures. In this case, your neighbor does have the right to prune back your tree—but only the branches that extend over the property line, and up to the property line, and only without damaging your property. They do not, however, have the right to prune past the property line or trespass on your property to perform pruning.
Who should prune the tree?
If you are worried about the health of your tree (and what could happen should your neighbor choose to prune it for you), it is best to take proactive steps. Contact a certified arborist and have them preventatively prune any branches or limbs they think currently or could pose a problem in the future. It would be good to have your neighbor involved in the conversation. While you are still responsible for the costs incurred, proper care and involvement shows you are taking measures to keep your neighbor both safe and happy. If you’re willing to have your entire tree pruned properly - even the branches that hang over your neighbor’s property - you can prevent a bit of tree damage and discord. If you have a good relationship with your neighbor, you might be able to ask them to contribute to the work.
Who’s at fault?
Now, since you are a responsible homeowner and preventatively prune your trees, you don’t have to worry about liability (or a branch) falling on you. But, what do you do if your neighbor does not maintain their trees and a large limb falls on your property, causing damage? First, if you notice immediate danger posed by an adjacent tree, you are justified in taking action to correct or mediate the dangerous limb in order to protect your property or life. Texas law notes that you can take action on your neighbor’s property if it is a justifiable case. Secondly, if that damage has already occurred due to negligent neighbors, they are considered liable for the damage. Likewise, if you do not properly maintain a tree on your property, and it causes damage to a neighbor’s property, you are at fault.
The best way to protect yourself in situations regarding property lines and trees is to engage a qualified tree care company to care for your trees proactively. Proper pruning and feeding can help prevent storm damage and other seasonal tree problems. If you find yourself in need of help with a legal matter, or need to assess risk for a tree, always contract a Registered Consulting Arborist.