After the Len Tillem Show (KGO 810 AM) on Sunday night, where I talked about neighbor law, barking dogs, trees and even peeping Toms, I started getting emails from interested listeners. I thought I would post some of them and the responses I gave. Please note that my responding to these writers does not constitute giving legal advice and does not establish an attorney/client relationship.
Only letters whose writers have given permission for me to publish them will be posted.
Land use News,
I was the probably the last caller for your show on Sunday and after waiting to get on and ask my question time ran out. I have a simple problem. My neighbor has a row of trees on her side of the property line (liquid amber trees). The roots from these trees have pushed up my nice poured concrete pathway on the side of my house . The roots have also pushed up my driveway concrete, cracking it in many places. Is she libel for the damage created? If I take her to small claims court, do I have a foot to stand on?
I am also not sure what to do for a solution to the problem. If I remove the concrete and replace it the roots will create the same situation in the future. Any ideas?
Dear Unhappy neighbor,
Thank you for listening to the Len Tillem Show. Sorry we were not able to get to your call. If the roots of these trees are truly tearing up your driveway and pathway, it is most likely the neighbor will be liable for it. You need to have the roots examined by a consulting arborist who can tell you whether the roots can be safely cut on your side without compromising the tree's health. If so you can cut them, and put in a root barrier to keep the problem from happening again.
The general rule is you may trim a neighbor's tree to the property line so long as you do not damage the tree's health.
If this is impossible, you may still bring an action for nuisance and damages. In small claims, the limit is only $7500, but that maybe enough to repair and/or move your driveway, if necessary. You would need to consult some kind of contractor to see if there is a stronger material to use on the new driveway, to prevent future damages.
Sometimes an arborist's report and letter from an attorney will do the trick to get the neighbor to remedy the problem. Have you discussed wit with the neighbor yet? I would advise doing that, in the hopes you can resolve it amicably.
Best of luck.
Land Use News