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#1
Old 05-02-2012, 06:06 PM
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If a property line runs through a tree...

Whose tree is it? I have this problem.
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#2
Old 05-02-2012, 06:10 PM
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According to this site, you both do. Law is liable to vary by jurisdiction, though. I'd call your local zoning office.
#3
Old 05-02-2012, 10:03 PM
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I don't think the zoning office would care. They deal more with the use of the property rather than what is growing on it.

Many property lines go through trees. There are a lot of legal fights over trees. If the tree is on your property, yet hangs over the neighbor's lot, people can come unglued as to who can do what.

For a common tree as you have described, I'd say both property owners must agree before anything is done to damage the tree. You can't saw away your half, and dig out the roots. Your neighbor isn't allowed to chop down all the branches on his side of the line.

If the tree falls down because of a storm, you BOTH have to clean it up.

When a property line goes through a tree, there is the potential for a real estate attorney (or two) to make some extra bucks.


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#4
Old 05-02-2012, 10:16 PM
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Through experience I found out that a tree can become more than just a tree. Before surveying became an exact measurement a deed may be drawn where a tree was part of the lot line. That was the case on a piece of property I owned. "The large oak tree" was the corner of the lot. The oak tree died and fell. The neighbor cut it up for firewood and asked me to take whatever I wanted. There really was no hassle and no contention. We were all cool about it. After that the property was properly surveyed. Still, it is easy to see how something like that could raise a point of contention. The tree is gone. Where was it? What is the property line?

So, I'm not answering the OP but I understand the concern. It can become a very real, contentious concern.
#5
Old 05-02-2012, 10:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VOW View Post
I don't think the zoning office would care. They deal more with the use of the property rather than what is growing on it.
But they are nevertheless likely to know what the local law is, which was my point.
#6
Old 05-02-2012, 10:25 PM
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Here's an actual case involving a guy I knew in my neighborhood who forced builders on an adjacent lot to build around his tree.

Tree house under construction.

More
#7
Old 05-02-2012, 10:26 PM
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it is common because trees were left on or near property lines as a marker. trees may have been planted as markers. trees that were on or near the line ans small are now large.
#8
Old 05-02-2012, 10:29 PM
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Originally Posted by KneadToKnow View Post
But they are nevertheless likely to know what the local law is, which was my point.
Surveyors and attorneys are licensed at the State level.

There could be some ordinance which controls decorative trees within the public right-of-way, or for properties determined to be historical landmarks.

The only other legally binding situation which could possibly override the general "you each own half a tree" would be Codes, Covenants and Restrictions (CCR) which are part of a deed to property in a Property Owner's Association or Homeowner's Association.

The local zoning office may know of ordinances, but I doubt they'd be aware of any CCR restrictions.


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#9
Old 05-03-2012, 01:47 AM
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Perfect timing, this thread. A tree in my back yard has died, and it sits exactly on the property line. My neighbor and I are splitting the cost of its removal.

Actually, this particular neighbor also happens to be my partner, so it's a moot point.

Last edited by panache45; 05-03-2012 at 01:49 AM.
#10
Old 05-03-2012, 08:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VOW View Post
For a common tree as you have described, I'd say both property owners must agree before anything is done to damage the tree. You can't saw away your half, and dig out the roots. Your neighbor isn't allowed to chop down all the branches on his side of the line.
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Is that true? I thought that you could trim branches overhanging your property even if the tree clearly belongs to you neighbor.
#11
Old 05-03-2012, 08:29 AM
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Originally Posted by What the .... ?!?! View Post
Is that true? I thought that you could trim branches overhanging your property even if the tree clearly belongs to you neighbor.
I don't think trimming is the same as "chopping down all the branches on his side." He can trim for safety, health and aesthetics, but most trees won't do well with half their limbs removed. Makes 'em wobbly, and prone to infection, and whatever the tree version of anemic is.
#12
Old 05-03-2012, 08:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by What the .... ?!?! View Post
Is that true? I thought that you could trim branches overhanging your property even if the tree clearly belongs to you neighbor.
My understanding is this: you can trim, you can maintain, whatever - but you owe it to your neighbour to not do anything that would harm the tree. Trimming around powerlines for example, is reasonable. Cutting off everything hanging over your side, making the tree dead, sick, or unbalanced enough to do damage, that is not OK.

In between there is the word "reasonable", which has paid so many lawyers' golf club memberships. You can do what you and the courts agree is reasonable. But you can't hurt his tree, any more than you can rearrange your lot drainage so that it all flows into his basement, etc.

I assume in the case of a tree held in common, half-and-half, any overt action that affects the tree's viability and health, beyond normal pruning, must be agreed to by both. If his refusal to allow chopping is negatively impacting your quality of life or is a risk to your life or property, there are courts. There are also rich lawyers.

(Apologies to lawyers - most of these disputes are due to 1 or more a$$h*les and the lawyers are only carrying out their wishes. Some guy would rather spend thousands or tens of thousnads screwing over a neighbour than chop down a tree, and he's entitled to his day in court.)
#13
Old 05-03-2012, 09:18 AM
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I own half of a large tree in my back yard. Luckily its positioned so that it poses no problem to the two land owners if its alive or dead.

I've often wondered what the my legal responsibilities are if it should ever cause a problem.
#14
Old 05-03-2012, 10:44 PM
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Anybody betwen ATL and AThens here?

Well I bought some property in GA when it was still 'cawntry." Then a subdivision was built behind my prop effectively giving maybe 4 homeowners a 5 acre wooded back yard. One guy built himself a deer stand on my prop. So I guess the trees on the line are mine because where the subdivision is was a loggers _____ (whatever you call acreage that was mined ? by loggers.

Anybody in Walton County GA area around here?
#15
Old 05-03-2012, 11:12 PM
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To cynyc:

It might require a deed search to determine if that tree stand is on your property or not. You could hire a surveyor to indicate the property line, but that's usually not a small expense.

If the tree stand remains there and in use for a certain period of time, you could forfeit the right to tell the hunter to get off your land.

And you cannot rely on simply pacing off or using your handy Stanley tape measure to locate your property lines based on your deed description. That rarely works.

Just ask a clerk at the Assessor's Office about junior and senior deeds, and get ready to hear some entertaining horror stories.


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#16
Old 05-03-2012, 11:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by What the .... ?!?! View Post
Is that true? I thought that you could trim branches overhanging your property even if the tree clearly belongs to you neighbor.
Quote:
Originally Posted by WhyNot View Post
I don't think trimming is the same as "chopping down all the branches on his side." He can trim for safety, health and aesthetics, but most trees won't do well with half their limbs removed. Makes 'em wobbly, and prone to infection, and whatever the tree version of anemic is.
It's an incredibly complex area of law.

At least in the US, you have the absolute right in every state to remove any portion of a tree which overhangs your property, provided you do it with trespassing on your neighbor's land. You can even chop off any roots which encroach.

Some states require you to compensate your neighbor if the tree dies as a result of your choppin'.

As far as what rights you have beyond cutting bits off yourself, there are three main rules: Massachusetts, Hawaii and Virginia.

Massachusetts law basically says if your neighbor's tree is damaging your property, tough titties. You can cut off the encroaching bits and that's it. This used to be the most popular approach, but no longer.

Hawaii (and a plurality of the states) say you can sue for damage done to your property by neighbor's vegetation.

Then there's the Restatement rule, which distinguishes between natural and artificial vegetation. In other words, if you planted the tree that fucks up the neighbor's fence, you're liable. If it was already there or just showed up, you're not. This one has been adopted by only a few states, probably because it's arbitrary and pointless.

There used to be a Virginia rule, which distinguished on the basis of whether the vegetation was "noxious", but even Virginia abandoned that a few years ago because nobody could remember what noxious meant in the context of a bush.

Last edited by Really Not All That Bright; 05-03-2012 at 11:29 PM.
#17
Old 05-04-2012, 09:49 AM
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Great info!

What happens when branches, large limbs or even your neighbor's entire tree falls down into your yard? Who is responsible for the cleanup?
#18
Old 05-04-2012, 10:08 AM
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If it was a healthy tree, your neighbor is generally absolved of liability under the "act of God" doctrine. For example, if a hurricane ripped off your roof and deposited it in a lake, the EPA is hardly going to demand that you pay for it to be dredged. In other words, you/your homeowners' insurance carrier pays to remove it. Same thing with branches.

If the tree was dead or dying, then things are a bit more complicated.

Incidentally, I meant there were four main rules (Hawaii, Virginia, Mass, Restatement) in the post above, not three.
#19
Old 05-04-2012, 12:32 PM
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It's also common because when a tree self seeds on the property line, neither neighbour is sure whether it's theirs, if their neighbour likes it etc. So it just grows and grows. Very common.

Most jurisdictions have like a 4" leeway on the property line. That helps with it, but can still cause confusion, as you see.

Also most places say you can, and, in fact, are responsible for the branches that overhang your property. So even if you neighbour loves it, you're within your rights to totally harsh your side of the thing.

Cutting it down entirely, consult city hall, they should set you straight. Also consider just asking your neighbour. It's very common for everyone to assume the other guy likes it, often when such is not the case.

If it's roots are impacting your plumbing, it's fruit damaging your car etc, different rules may apply. Call city hall, they probably take such calls routinely and will have the, y'know, straight dope!

Last edited by elbows; 05-04-2012 at 12:33 PM.
#20
Old 05-04-2012, 01:01 PM
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Unfortunately with the municipal cutbacks, City Hall may not have anyone on staff who knows anything. Common civil service clown response is, "That's not our job." This is real estate law territory, and if you are talking major tree, you'll need a real estate attorney and possibly a surveyor.

The branches of a big tree are typically the problem.

We lived in a house on a narrow lot (50-foot wide) that had a BIG ASS English walnut tree in the back yard. The guy next door to us was a literal shade tree mechanic. He parked a clunker car he was working on near the fence, in the shade of the walnut tree, and was working on it at his leisure.

Hubster crawled up the tree to do some heavy duty trimming. The neighbor said, "Leave the limbs hanging over the fence, I want the shade." Hubster obliged.

Due to the nature of English walnut trees (they're "self-pruning"), the nice big limb providing most of his shade fell. On his car. The windshield was busted.

Mister Neighbor expected US to reimburse him for the windshield.

I knew that there was a 99% chance that we didn't owe him a DIME. The branches were on his side of the fence, he had declined pruning, etc etc etc.

However, in the interest of being a good neighbor, I said that IF the car had been insured, he would have had a deductible. And I gave him fifty bucks.

Since we were all equally miserable, the peace in the neighborhood was preserved.


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#21
Old 05-05-2012, 09:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
If it was a healthy tree, your neighbor is generally absolved of liability under the "act of God" doctrine. For example, if a hurricane ripped off your roof and deposited it in a lake, the EPA is hardly going to demand that you pay for it to be dredged. In other words, you/your homeowners' insurance carrier pays to remove it. Same thing with branches.

If the tree was dead or dying, then things are a bit more complicated.

Incidentally, I meant there were four main rules (Hawaii, Virginia, Mass, Restatement) in the post above, not three.
I was thinking more in terms of clean-up rather than liability. I'm hearing the the neighbor would have no responsibility. Would he have any rights to it if he wanted the wood.... for firewood or maybe it's a relatively valuable hardwood?

How does the concept apply to anything else belonging to my neighbor that might blow into my yard due to an act of God?
#22
Old 05-05-2012, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by What the .... ?!?! View Post
I was thinking more in terms of clean-up rather than liability. I'm hearing the the neighbor would have no responsibility. Would he have any rights to it if he wanted the wood.... for firewood or maybe it's a relatively valuable hardwood?

How does the concept apply to anything else belonging to my neighbor that might blow into my yard due to an act of God?
It would be no more his hardwood than a hundred dollar bill would be his if it was blown out of your hand and landed on his doorstep. That's where property vs. liability is separated. If it is your property, you may always reclaim it. If it is damage (natural debris with no value that the neighbor has to clean up) then it goes back to the time honored principle of torts that "all liability is based upon fault."

If a hurricane blows debris into your neighbor's yard, you didn't do anything wrong so you aren't liable. Now, if you negligently failed to secure something of property so that it should not have been blown, then he may perhaps have a case, but in most states, a property owner has no duty at all to make natural conditions on his property safe to other property owners.

That river that runs through your property with a swimming hole and deep undertow with jagged rocks that the neighbor kids swim in all of the time? Light a cigar and watch them drown. You have no duty. Your tranquil pool that you didn't put a fence around and a kid drowns? Get ready to pay $$. (in most states, IANAL, etc.)
#23
Old 05-05-2012, 03:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cynyc View Post
One guy built himself a deer stand on my prop. I guess the trees on the line are mine because....
cynyc....don't guess! Ask professionals. A surveyor will mark your property line, and a lawyer will tell you if you're in potential trouble. (Yes, it will cost you money.)

I am not a lawyer, but I think you need one.
If people are hunting (and maybe getting shot accidently) on your property, or just climbing up trees (and maybe falling down and breaking their necks)...isn't that something you (and your insurance agent) ought to be aware of?

(of course, I don't live in rural Georgia, so maybe your situation is perfectly normal and legal down there. I dunno)

Last edited by chappachula; 05-05-2012 at 03:46 PM.
#24
Old 05-05-2012, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by chappachula View Post
If people are hunting (and maybe getting shot accidently) on your property, or just climbing up trees (and maybe falling down and breaking their necks)...isn't that something you (and your insurance agent) ought to be aware of?
Probably not. In most states (don't know about GA) a landowner owes no duty of care to trespassers. The only thing he cannot do is to be willful, wanton, and reckless to them. (Such as electrifying the deer stand so they get burned when they enter).

Also, most states (again, not sure about GA) have Recreational Use statutes which absolves landowners of liability when he allows people to use his land for certain recreational activities (like hunting) without a fee.

Either way, the OP should clear this up with the landowner because it seems, at minimum that people are hunting on his property without permission. Most of the time a chat will solve more than what months in court will solve. And cheaper.

IANAL. YMMV. This does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor does it constitute legal advice.
#25
Old 05-06-2012, 09:14 AM
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Originally Posted by jtgain View Post
It would be no more his hardwood than a hundred dollar bill would be his if it was blown out of your hand and landed on his doorstep. That's where property vs. liability is separated. If it is your property, you may always reclaim it. If it is damage (natural debris with no value that the neighbor has to clean up) then it goes back to the time honored principle of torts that "all liability is based upon fault."

If a hurricane blows debris into your neighbor's yard, you didn't do anything wrong so you aren't liable. Now, if you negligently failed to secure something of property so that it should not have been blown, then he may perhaps have a case, but in most states, a property owner has no duty at all to make natural conditions on his property safe to other property owners.

That river that runs through your property with a swimming hole and deep undertow with jagged rocks that the neighbor kids swim in all of the time? Light a cigar and watch them drown. You have no duty. Your tranquil pool that you didn't put a fence around and a kid drowns? Get ready to pay $$. (in most states, IANAL, etc.)
I think I understand what you are saying. If my neighbor's tree falls down on my yard he can either just leave it there for me to deal with or come onto my property to take it back.

I assume that I'd either have to allow him onto my property or make the effort to move it to his property for him.

If I let him handle it he'd probably would have to clean up after himself but would probably be able to leave any mess (small branches or indentations in the sod) that were clearly a result of the original act of God rather than his cleanup efforts.
#26
Old 05-10-2012, 01:38 AM
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In Ontario, you can trim any branches extending over the property line (not to the extent of damage, though), but the trimmed branches, and any branches or fruit that fall on your side, must be returned to the tree owner. I expect this law is geared more to agricultural situations rather than suburban back yards.
#27
Old 05-10-2012, 08:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jtgain View Post
It would be no more his hardwood than a hundred dollar bill would be his if it was blown out of your hand and landed on his doorstep. That's where property vs. liability is separated. If it is your property, you may always reclaim it. If it is damage (natural debris with no value that the neighbor has to clean up) then it goes back to the time honored principle of torts that "all liability is based upon fault."

If a hurricane blows debris into your neighbor's yard, you didn't do anything wrong so you aren't liable. Now, if you negligently failed to secure something of property so that it should not have been blown, then he may perhaps have a case, but in most states, a property owner has no duty at all to make natural conditions on his property safe to other property owners.

That river that runs through your property with a swimming hole and deep undertow with jagged rocks that the neighbor kids swim in all of the time? Light a cigar and watch them drown. You have no duty. Your tranquil pool that you didn't put a fence around and a kid drowns? Get ready to pay $$. (in most states, IANAL, etc.)
Maybe I didn't understand with post #25 after all.

If his tree falls in my yard I get to keep it? If something of value blows into my yard I get to keep it?
#28
Old 05-10-2012, 10:16 AM
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No. He means the opposite: that if your $100 flew away and landed in his yard, it would still be your property.
#29
Old 05-10-2012, 11:18 AM
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Aha!

The fruit from the neighbor's tree that hangs over the property line is YOURS. It's "windfall."

However it is only for your consumption and enjoyment. You may not set up a produce stand and sell it.


~VOW
#30
Old 05-11-2012, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
No. He means the opposite: that if your $100 flew away and landed in his yard, it would still be your property.
OK.... then my questions in that post about what one has to do to help somebody get their property from your yard still apply. I realize that nobody is required to answer it though.
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