Everyone wants to be able to have trees on their property. They are beautiful and they enhance the property values for everyone, not to mention the health of the community. However, conflicts can arise when careless homeowners allow their trees to grow onto their neighbor’s property.
There are a variety of reasons why it is frustrating for homeowners to have to deal with other people’s trees growing on their property. Firstly, there is the potentially safety hazard that unchecked tree growth can create. Not only that, but branches growing out of control can obstruct the view that you paid for, which is also an integral part of your property values.
If you find that your neighbor’s tree has invaded your area, you should not hesitate to find a solution. First, you need to establish whose tree it actually is. This is usually simple enough: the tree belongs to the person in whose yard it resides. The issue becomes murky if the tree is planted exactly on the border between your neighbor’s property and your own. If this occurs, you are both responsible for the tree.
If a tree that your neighbor is responsible for damages your property or injures someone, he or she is legally culpable. However your neighbor is not responsible for leaves, small branches or other debris that ends up in your yard. This is considered normal and you are responsible for it yourself.
If you do find yourself having issues with your neighbor’s tree, there are a number of steps you can take. The first should always be to communicate with your neighbor. The vast majority of people are reasonable and if your neighbor respects your wishes as a homeowner then steps will quickly be taken to solve the issue. Many problems can be solved simply by calling your neighbor and explaining the problem.
The unfortunate reality, however, is that sometimes people will refuse to take responsibility for their own property. It may happen that your neighbor ignores your request to have his or her tree trimmed and if this is the case, you may have to turn to the law to solve your problem. Portland, and other cities, have laws in place to protect homeowners. Most communities that you move to will have similar rules in place. You should always familiarize yourself with your community rules when you move into a residence.
Your community most likely has ordinances in place to protect the residents and the view they paid for. Check on these rules. If your community has them in place, then you should be able to solve your problem very easily. However, some communities do not have any such rules in effect. If your community does not the next option is to check the local laws of your city. Many cities have their own laws in place to protect homeowners and you should be able to use these to your advantage. These laws may get very specific. Often, there are city ordinances dictating exactly what types of trees can and cannot be grown in your city.
If your neighbor is found to be in violation of any of these rules – and they apply to things such as tree height as well as species and other details – they may open themselves up to litigation. In the interest of avoiding this, your neighbor will hopefully agree to have their tree trimmed. In the interest of diplomacy, you may offer to split the cost of a tree service with your neighbor although you are by no means obligated to do so.
The majority of problems can be solved without making the matter a legal one. Even if your neighbor decides to be difficult, you should be able to gain leverage by informing him or her of the local laws that are in effect. Once again, you should take great care to familiarize yourself with the laws as much as possible. The laws will be very detailed, and may cover the buildings themselves as well. It’s also possible that exceptions will be made for trees owned by the city, which is another reason why it’s important to be sure who exactly owns the offending tree.
The diplomatic solution is almost always the most peaceful route to take, so have patience as you attempt this difficult discussion. Even as you do so, however, take note of exactly what limbs and branches of your neighbor’s tree are encroaching on your property. If it does turn out you have to take the matter to court, you will need to provide as much information as possible. If there are other residents in the area that are having similar problems with this neighbor’s tree, ask if they will approach him or her with you. You may be able to accomplish together what you could not do alone.
If you have exhausted all other options, then you may have no choice but to pursue litigation. This is an expensive process, not to mention a time consuming one, but if it is the only option left then you should seek out a lawyer whose specialty is disputes between homeowners. You will most likely be taking the matter to small claims court. Often, even the threat of a lawsuit is enough to get an unruly homeowner to cooperate, so while you should not be afraid to stand up for yourself and do what needs to be done, avoiding litigation at all costs is still the best solution.