pine tree along property line “My neighbor’s tree has branches crossing over my fence. Can you cut them back to their side? And while you’re at it, can you cut all the roots that are in my lawn?”

If I had a dime for every time someone asked me that question, I’d be the better looking version of Bill Gates. No, not really, but I would be able to take the wife to a dinner and show at the dollar theater.

Most of the public believes that they have the sovereign right to do whatever they want to do. Especially when it comes to branches or roots that encroach from a neighboring property.

…but that isn’t true.

Let’s look back at how the courts have ruled on this issue so we have a better understanding of the legal ramifications.

In the 1994 case of Booska v. Patel, Patel (the neighbor) hired a contractor to remove the roots from the large Monterey pine his neighbor (Booska) owned. Patel claimed the roots had started to damage concrete around his property. The contractor dug a 3′ trench along the property line, effectively severing a significant portion of roots needed to survive. This damaged forced Booska to remove the tree, at his own expense, and to seek legal judgement. Ultimately an appellate court handed down a judgement that awarded him significant restitution.

So, you’re wondering – is this the only case?

Au contraire…

In the 2012 case of Rony v Costa, a property owner hired an unlicensed day laborer to trim limbs that crossed his property line from a neighboring tree. Instead of researching the issue, the day laborer was turned loose on the trees like Jason in Friday the 13th. Except the trees were the unlucky cabin campers. For his efforts, the property owner was forced to pay restitution in excess of $45,000.00.

Yes, THAT much.

So, what is the take-away from all this you ask?

First, familiarize yourself with your responsibilities as a property owner.

Second, hire a certified arborist that knows the law and what you may and may not do.

When people call us for an estimate on property line trimming, we ALWAYS start by informing them as to what their rights and responsibilities are. We also explain that what they want to do may not be legal or give them the outcome they desire.

Ultimately, if there is no possible way of seeing eye to eye with your neighbor, consult lawyer that is familiar with aboriculture law.

Click here for frequently asked questions to help you deal with troublesome trees on or near your property.