The Trouble with Trees: How Tree Liability Issues are Handled



Trees can be a major source of neighborhood problems, believe it or not. From cases of tree debris coming from a neighbor’s tree getting into your yard to major damages caused by that neighbor’s tree, we’re going to break down some of the tree trouble that is most common and let you know what your tree rights are so that you can be fully informed on how tree liability issues are handled.


Whose Branch Is It, Anyway?

 Let’s be honest, nothing is more annoying than cleaning up your yard, just to have your neighbor’s tree ruin that freshly cleaned lawn. If your neighbor’s tree has branches that hang over your lawn, you have probably asked yourself a time or two whether you are allowed to trim that branch or not. Cases like this show you how important it is to know how tree liability issues are handled. The quick answer to the question of whether or not you can trim a branch hanging over your property is, yes. You do, in fact, have the right to trim the branch hanging over your lawn. With that being said, you can only trim the parts that are actually on/hanging over your property. You are not allowed to touch anything past that and if the tree is damaged, you can actually end up having to pay a fine that could be up to three times the value of the tree. Because you definitely don’t want to do that, it’s important to be cautious when trimming the branch hanging over your property. Knowing how tree liability issues are handled could keep you from a very costly fine.


Who Really Owns the Tree?

Sometimes figuring out who owns the tree can be a huge issue. The trunk is the thing that will answer this question. The tree belongs to whoever has the trunk in their yard. It doesn’t matter where the branches are or even where most of the tree is. The trunk trumps all when it comes to ownership. Sometimes there are cases where the trunk is split in half between two property lines. While this is a somewhat rare scenario, it does happen. If this is the case and the trunk is in your yard as well as the neighbor’s yard, then you both have rights to the tree. In this particular case, it is extremely important to know how tree liability issues are handled. Knowing that you technically own half of this tree is the first step to figuring out who is liable for what if something were to happen. The tree being owned by both you and your neighbor ultimately means that you share responsibility for the tree. You cannot, however, remove this tree without permission from the other co-owner of the tree. This is because they technically do have some ownership over it. This is yet another reason why it is so important to know how tree liability issues are handled. If you would remove this tree without permission from the co-owner, you could be liable for some hefty fines. Nobody wants that, so it’s best to figure out who owns the tree and make sure all parties are involved in any decision making.


What if the tree looks like it could cause damages?

If a tree looks like it is going to cause damages to your property, your first thought is probably to do something about it in order to protect your property. Although you technically cannot physically do anything about the tree yourself, you should keep in mind that the owner of the tree has a responsibility to maintain this tree and make sure it is taken care of. If it does fall on your property and cause damages, the owner of the tree can be held liable. Because they probably do not want to pay for a large amount of damages, they will most likely maintain their trees. If they do not, an option could be speaking to them about the issue. One important thing to keep in mind when considering how tree liability issues are handled in this particular case is that you can file a nuisance case. This basically means that the tree and the looming thought that it may damage your property is actually holding you back from enjoying your property. By filing this claim, you are bringing this in front of a court that will decide whether or not the tree needs to be removed. 


To Wrap Things Up…

The bottom line is that it is important to know how tree liability issues are handled. By reading this and doing further research on your own, you will equip yourself with the knowledge to know your rights. It is so important to know your rights because this dictates whether or not you have ownership of the tree, how to go about things and more. Once you know how tree liability issues are handled, you can hopefully have a worry-free relationship with your neighbors and not have to ruin relationships over trees. By knowing how tree liability issues are handled you allow yourself to relax and enjoy the trees in yours and you neighbor’s yards because you’ll know how to handle any issues, should they arise. So know that you know more about how tree liability issues are handled, you are good to go enjoy your summer, maybe even under the shade of a tree. As always, feel free to get in touch with us to answer any of your insurance or liability related questions you my have! 

Posted 12:00 PM

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NOTICE: This and all content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended to be used as tax or legal advice. Please consult with a tax and/or legal professional for detailed information regarding your individual situation. Some of this material was developed and shared by Cobos Insurance Center, Inc. to provide information that may be of interest. Cobos Insurance Center, Inc. is not affiliated with the named representative, broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.
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