Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Boundary Trees Revisited

Tina writes:

You say "both share the cost of its upkeep or liability for its lack of upkeep, in proportion to how much of the trunk is on whose side of the line", but the 2006 edition of Nolo's _Neighbor Law_ says that in California the tree is %50 your neighbor's, even if only a little bit of the trunk is on his property. If the tree was originally only on your property, then the trunk grew to where it was also on your neighbor's property, your neighbor becomes co-owner.

So I'm a little confused here--proportional, or 50%?

Curious (and yes, I do have a tree problem),

Dear Tina,

Well, as in the law generally, there are two (or more) sides to every issue. The law is ambiguous, so the sides are fuzzy too, like a shaggy barked Eucalyptus. I hope it's not a Eucalyptus coming between you and your neighbor. There are no hard and fast rules. You are both responsible, true, and neither can remove or damage the tree without permission of the other. You may however, trim the branches on your side of the line, so long as you do not damage the structural integrity of the tree.

The reason these problems are not so commonly written about today is 1) most of these issues came up in the days when farmers planted windbreaks to protect the crops along their boundary lines and 2) many people today use the services of a trained mediator to resolve disputes.

That is what I would suggest if you are having a problem with a boundary tree. Your town or County may have a mediation service for just such disputes. If not, you and the neighbor need to agree to hire someone and split the costs.

I wish you good luck with your tree and if you need further advice, consult your local Bar Association for the name of a good tree lawyer in your area.

Dotty LeMieux


Anonymous said...

I've read all the past comments on property line fences, but I have a different problem. The fence is leaning so far into our neighbors yard, I can practically walk up it. It really needs to be fixed and we are willing to pay half but the property owners are now living out of state and renting the house. We have talked to the renters and they have talked to the owners but the owner said they are not goint to do anything about the fence that it's our problem. So now what do we do?

Dotty LeMieux said...

You don't say if the fence is directly on the property line, your own property or that of the neighbor.

If it's on your property, yes it is your problem to maintain. if it's on the neighbor's, it is his. However, if it is directly on the property line, maintenance should be shared. Have the parties mutually maintained this fence in the past?

if the other owner balks, it's hard to force them to do anything without a court order,and that can be more trouble than just fixing the fence, if you can.

I'm assuming you have a recorded survey showing exactly where the property line is, so you know whose fence it is.

You don't say what state you are in, so you will need to review your own state and local laws and ordinances regarding fences before taking any action. Most municipalities have height regulations for fences as well.

Good luck.