What to do with the neighbor’s tree

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bow saw sitting on tree branch

12/29/2016 | Author: TAR Legal Staff

I list many properties where the neighbors’ trees and bushes overhang fences or cross onto my clients’ properties. I always recommend that my clients ask permission from their neighbors before cutting any limbs, but are they required to?

Your clients do have the right to remove the branches that cross property lines, but you’re right to encourage them to talk to their neighbors. If your sellers damage a tree or violate any local ordinances regarding trimming and limb removal, they could find themselves liable for damages or facing fines.

Categories: Legal
Tags: trees, trimming branches


Norma Rasco on 03/10/2017

What happens when large tree roots have encroached into the neighbors yard and is affecting their sprinkler system.  Can the neighbor’s sue the owner of the tree that is causing the problem.

Kyle Ranne on 12/31/2016

Steve, you do not have the right to trim trees beyond YOUR air space.  While trimming a branch back to the trunk may be the best option in terms of tree health, visual appeal, etc. , only the owner of tree or one he/she hires can trim back to the trunk of THEIR tree.
All HO (homeowner) policies have provisions for coverage of fallen trees.  One caveat is that if your tree falls in your yard and does not damage your house, outbuildings or any personal property, then typically there is no coverage.
Insurance policies pay whatever is reasonable-documented by a fair bid from a tree company) to remove the tree from covered damage (such as a fence, house, detached garage, swing set, etc) and a separate fee (typically up to $500) to remove the tree debris from the premises once the tree is removed from the damage property so the property can be repaired or replaced.
Example:  A tree falls on a house insured at $300,000 w/ a 1% Deductible and the tree does $18,000 of damage to the roof and 1 side of the home.  A typical homeowners policy will pay the reasonable expense to remove the tree from the damage property and for the sake of example, let’s say it cost $3,200 to remove the tree from the roof and house to affect repairs. 
The policy will also pay to remove the tree debris from the premises once it’s removed from the house; this limit is usually $500.
In the above example, there’s $21,700 in damage and a $3,000 deductible.  The insurance company that covers the damage home will pay $18,700 and the owner of the damaged home will pay the $3,000, which was deducted from the total.
If the tree that fell was growing on the neighbor’s property AND it can be documented the neighbor was negligent in the tree falling, the insurance company of the damaged home will pay to get their insured’s property made whole and then subrogate against the negligent neighbor.
Clear as mud?  Just remember, like real estate, every insurance situation has to be judged on its own merits.
When in doubt, consult YOUR insurance policy and talk to your insurance agent.  Not all policies are equal.  Most often, cheaper policies offer less coverage and you typically get what you pay for.

Debbie Sherman on 12/30/2016

What Peg Said! (Giving Thumbs Up!)

Walter C White on 12/30/2016

David…The Gov is the jogger of which I spoke.

Marilyn Glendenning on 12/30/2016

Would appreciate advice…trees are located in my yard, but branches encroached into neighbors yard.  Neighbors had vendor reach over fence line and completely trimmed one side of all trees, leaving small stems etc.  I have completely lost one tree (just a 12ft stump left), dead and cut branches still in tree. Neighbors offered $250. I recd 2 bids from licensed vendors both in $1000 range to remove stump and make trees symmetrical. I used to have a mostly shady, private yard, now have a sunny yard with no privacy.  Mediation, small claims court?

Steve on 12/30/2016

So if I go to trim a branch extending onto my property, Am I only allowed to trim it at the property line or can I go back to the main trunk of the tree? Which is how it should be trimmed/cut off. People that trim branches half way is wrong and ugly. IMO

David Leffler on 12/30/2016

Nobody ever recovered damages from a falling tree?
I suggest that you look in to our Governor’s history with falling trees. It continues to be worth multi millions to him every year!

Walter C White on 12/30/2016

Things are a lot more fun when you live in the woods: We have our own trees, our neighbors trees, trees in the subdivision ROW,  trees in the neighbors pasture and in the National Forrest.
We have majestic oaks that spread 100 ft across, huge pines that tower 100 ft high, and they fall on our houses, our fences and cars, our neighbors fences and cars and houses.  One even fell on a passing joggers head.
With the alternate flooding and drought, there are dead trees everywhere, the oaks just lay over when it’s raining, tearing out the root ball from seemingly healthy trees, the pines dry out and snap off about half way up.
Outside of the jogger (who was a lawyer), I don’t know of anyone who has ever recovered anything (except their own insurance)  from a tree falling.
You pays your money and you takes your chances.

Bob Micklos on 12/30/2016

I have been a Texas Insurance license-holder.

Here’s a link to the Texas Insurance Commissioner’s offices.  I would try them, before a lawyer, if I had an insurance dispute.


Forrest Lunsford on 12/30/2016

Should a neighbors tree or anything looks like it could be a problem in the future. Notify the neighbor in writing. Send it by registered letter, with a signature receipt requested. You have a record to give the insurance company. I found this out after my neighbors tree caused me a $6000 claim, which I had to pay a $1800 deductible to my Insurance company.

Mariangel Wilkinson on 12/30/2016

I think a few people are confused regarding the tree fall.  And Kyle is right. But it also depends on the language in the insurance policy. Trees being blown over during a windstorm are covered IF you have the right insurance policy. Word to the wise; Advise you clients about things to look for in their insurance policy. They will love you for it later. You are not advising them other than to look for certain things. The insurance agent will take over from there.
In case some of you don’t know, a few things to look for; deductible-2 or 3% might give you a good rate but cost you money in the end when you have hail damage; There are usually 3 parts of the deductible- Named storm, wind and hail and regular stuff; look for things like exclusions on trees falling; try to get the lowest deductible the company allows; SHOP around; if the replacement cost doesn’t make sense- challenge it; and finally-the cheapest policy isn’t always the best deal!
Questions? call Mariangel or Kyle!! hahaha

Kyle Ranne on 12/29/2016

In my opinion, Juan is the closest to nailing the answer.  A slight twist on his comment is this: even if a tree is diseased, falls and does damage in a storm where no other trees were felled, there is no liability on the tree owner unless it can be documented he was aware of the condition of the tree; for instance an arborist report from a previous inspection, an email from a concerned neighbor prior to the event, etc.
Otherwise, a tree felled by a storm that causes damage is typically covered by the insurance policy of the person whose property is damaged.  The deductible is owed by the person whose policy covers the damage.
In addition to my real estate license, I also hold an adjusters license.  Some may not be aware that Hurricane Sandy had the most trees felled by a storm in the history of the insurance industry.

Jeff Deleon on 12/29/2016

Bottom line…always take care of your trees so no one else has too…

Cheryl Barnes on 12/29/2016

George- if neighbors were physically ‘relocating’ the tree, how was it considered an ‘act of God’??

Juan Garza on 12/29/2016

In this case if the tree was healthy and not in danger of falling on its own, and the damage was caused by circumstances outside of the tree owners control or an ” Act of God” such as a storm or natural disaster then the tree owner would not be liable. On the other hand of it was determined that the tree fell because of decay or disease and caused damage to a neighbors property due to neglect on the tree owners behalf, then the tree owners would be liable for the damage.
  As far as asking permission to trim branches from a neighbors tree that encroach onto your property, it’s more of a matter of courtesy than anything else.

Cary Fitzgerald on 12/29/2016

I believe that if you allow branches to exist for a period of time, you may be providing your neighbor with a prescriptive easement that would provide the right for your neighbor’s overhanging branches to grow further into your air space.

Peg Langen on 12/29/2016

Of course sellers, or any owner, could be liable for damages resulting from trimming tree limbs which hang over the property line between neighbors which is why we, as property managers, should always hire professionals to trim trees that are encroaching on to our managed property.  Professionals know what they are doing and assume liability. Additionally, we should never make the mistake of letting a neighbor talk us into trimming our trees which hang over on to their property.  To do so could cause all sorts of liability complications.  Each owns the air space above their property and has the right to remove any encroachments.

George Reinemund on 12/29/2016

My experience is just reversed.  My neighbor"s tree fell on our house.
Neighbors did not get my permission nor did I agree to give them permission to relocate the tree.  Since their insurance company and my attorney said it was an “ACT OF GOD”  it was left up to me to get the tree removed, and the damage repaired.  My insurance company paid for all but the deducible, which was sizable.  I lost a lot of time and my bride of 53 years was not happy to put up with the damage.

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