Help! The trunks have become one with the chain link

alexis717_dfOctober 22, 2008

Last year I purchased a home in suburbia. Being from the country (and no neighbors within shouting distance), this is all sorta new to me. Here is my issue: My house and my neighbors house are fenced with Chain Link. Sharing one common fence between my driveway and their side yard. They have 4 (yuck) 25-30' maples that are growing right next to the fence. Three of them actually have the chain link growing in their trunk. And not just a little bit. These trees are planted no less than 4' to 5' from each other and their canopy's are just one big jumble. The chain link is starting to look a little pulled. Second issue is that these trees are starting to crack my driveway and raise it up.

I get along with these neighbors fairly well and since we live right next door I don't care to make an enemy. However, I hate these trees and the fact that the neighbors could care less about the destruction. Can anyone give me some ideas as far as where I stand legally and how I should approach this. Thank you


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If it's on your side of the property line, you can trim it.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2008 at 8:28AM
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as joed says, if it is on your side of the line you are responsible. as to the damage to your drive, again, your problem to deal with in most areas. some places do hold the treee "owner" responsible, but not many.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2008 at 10:38AM
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Joed and David thank you for your responses. The fence is on the line. In order for me to trim the fence out of one of the trees I would end up slicing a piece of the trunk approximately 10" wide by 13" tall and up to 2" deep. The remaining two trees would require only slightly smaller slices removed. If I removed this much from their trunks couldn't it potentially kill them?

As to the driveway, any suggestions. I can see on at least two of the trees where a very large major root goes under the driveway and the resulting cracks and lifts. I've seriously considered drilling 1" holes in the top of the roots and pouring in brush killer. But I'm afraid that would open up a whole can of worms. I know, I know. In the first paragraph I show concern that I might kill them, than in this one I've actively thought about it. In the first instance it would obviously be my fault, and I fantasized in the second instance no one would know it was me that had killed them. And to top it off they have powdery mildew. Which means I have it too. GRRRR

    Bookmark   October 23, 2008 at 12:01PM
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Have you brought the matter to your neighbors attention. Show them the drive way and the problems. Offer to pay to remove the trees if necessary.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2008 at 4:12PM
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The neighbors are well aware of the problem but don't seem to care nor do they want the trees cut down. Which has a certain amount of irony to it since I have two Siberian Elms, one Maple (seedling from their trees) and one unknown tree that are all fairly large (ranging from 20-40' tall) growing on my property between their garage and mine. They are very crowded not only to each other but to both garages. When I mentioned that I was going to have all four cut down they got all excited. Seems they had disagreements with the previous owner of my house over these very trees.

On top of this is the powdery mildew issue. When organic methods didn't work I had to buy chemicals to spray on all my new landscaping because several of my plantings have gotten powdery mildew from their maples. Unfortunately the wind always blows away from them and towards my house. Usually I don't mind, I shred the leaves and use them for mulch. But now my yard is littered with leaves and seed pods covered in white spots. My neighbors frequently tell me how nice the yard is looking and occasionally ask me gardening questions since they do not garden. Yet when I pointed out to them that their maples were spreading this disease all they said was "Oh".

I know this problem is small compared to others I've read on this forum, but it is really frustrating. I've put over a thousand dollars in landscaping and untold hours of labor this last 12 months and now so much of it is covered in white spots.

I'm beginning to strongly consider slowly poisoning these trees. Or I could plant Virgina Creeper on the chain link and hope it smothers the maples. That is if the mildew doesn't kill it first.

Sorry, I got on a rant. Mildew aside. My biggest concern is the fence and driveway.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2008 at 6:13PM
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yep, plant a creeping vine(kudzu is good but it will consume everything) and let it kill teh trees.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2008 at 2:25PM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil

Removing a side of the trunk will almost certainly kill a tree.

If the fence is on the line and the trees are in the fence then it seems to me the trees are on the line. Therefore they are co-owned. How about you propose to them that you or they remove one tree per year or something to reduce the visual shock, and come up with an agreed plan to relandscape the area (if you both want that). They could plant something farther away on their side or you could or both. If that doesn't work, you have to explain to them that the damage to your driveway can't continue, and even though you love trees, if they don't come out of there you would have to excavate down and cut those roots to save your driveway, and that would likely kill them anyway. Also explain that silver maples naturally have shallow roots, so it was not the best tree for that spot, and it is generally not good practice to plant trees so close that they grow into a fence as it is neither good for the tree nor the fence.

If all this doesn't appeal to their common sense, you can poison away!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2008 at 5:04PM
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If you're going to have the trees near the garage removed, get a bid for the removal of the trees on the fence. Once the guys are out there for the initial job, removal of additional trees will be less.
I'd bring it up with the neighbors and see if they'd split the cost to remove the fence trees. I'd also explain to them how you'll need to cut and possibly remove the roots if you have to patch your driveway and how it could lead to the death of the tree........which will eventually lead to another set of problems as the limbs die and start dropping!

As for cutting the fence out of the tree, you'll need to do just that........cut the metal where it enters the tree and leave the rest in the trunk. You'll end up with a hole in the fence so that will have to be repaired.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2008 at 3:44PM
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or cut the tree off above and below where the fence is grown in it. then in 10-15 year the stub will rot off teh fence! i say that in jest, but i see it done that way all the time.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2008 at 10:37PM
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Tox: Unfortunately relandscaping on my side isn't an option. The fence is on the property line, my driveway is about 4"'s from the fence. You're right about the driveway damage not being able to continue and I do like the one tree per year idea.

Annz: That's a good idea about getting the quote to include those trees also, and maybe just one tree, since I was already going to include cutting the limbs on their trees that overhang my roof. I also figured the best way to get the fence out of the tree was simply cut the fence and patch it.

Davidandkasie: That is no jest to me but a reality. They've already done that to three previous trees. I/we have three 4-6" diameter trunks that have been cut above and below where they grew into fence. These just suspend from the fence looks Pretty strange. The three trees that are grown into the fence now I don't think we could do that with. I don't think I could put my arms around their diameters their that big around.

Thank you for all your good advise


    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 7:53PM
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I would discuss the issue with the neighbor and attempt to find a solution splitting the cost between both. If your neighbors want no part of removing or having the trees removed, I would inform them that the driveway will have to be fixed and some of the root system will have to be removed to correctly repair the driveway which could ultimately kill the tree or trees. If they still do not want to work with you I would get it in writing before you start work on the drive that you have made attempts to come to a working solution for both parties and IF any tree dies after the repair it will be up to them to front the removal cost.
Oh and while the dirtwork was being done the night before the concrete is poured I would find the roots below the gravel and put a little Tordon RTU on the roots in a place or two under your drive.. a little dab will do ya and within a year the tree will slowly die.

oO(Wow Jim it sure is too bad we didn't go ahead and get that tree out.. it looks like it could crush your garage any day) heh

    Bookmark   October 29, 2008 at 11:51PM
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If you remove roots and kill the tree that is just as much on you as if you remove branches or part of the trunk and it gets killed. So I wouldn't spout off about that.

Having the fence embedded in the tree is not at all good for the tree. Is cutting the fence out of the tree not a possibility? In other words, remove that section of fence as much as possible.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 11:59AM
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Heimert: As I said earlier, I will probably cut the fence out of the tree not the other way around. Even if I cut the trunk out of the fence I would still be left with a hugh chunk of trunk left permanently in the chain link.

Countryboymo: ROTFLMBO. Problem is not only would "Jim's" garage be in danger, so would my house and garage. Your advise is solid. Getting it in writting, I didn't think of that. I've never heard of Tordon RTU and I'm not sure where to find it, but I'm definitely going to try and locate it. Thank you

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 7:51PM
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OK, twice you have said "The fence is on the line."

Anywhere I have lived that would be against building/property codes. There is a reason code requires fences to be a certain number of feet away from the property line and this is a GOOD EXAMPLE.

I am sure if you check code for your area, that you will find the fence does not meet the code stipulations and maybe you can use this fact to your advantage when you tackle this problem.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 10:26PM
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I'm intrigued. Here the fence is ALWAYS along the property line, and more or less defines the property line. So, if you build a fence so distant from the property line, and your neighbour does the same, do you then have a sort of "no man's land" gap in between? Who looks after it/keeps the weeds and grass down etc?

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 8:26AM
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dilly dally, that is the code in YOUR area. in my area teh code in town allows(prefers actually) that a fence be on the line. if it is not and a neighbor maintains your property on their side of teh fence, they can argue and get adverse possession after just a few years.

my parents neighborhood had covenenants in place that required all fences if erected to be 6' wood fence, no rail or chainlink. these must be placed 1 ft back from teh line. shortly after we moved in they rescinded the setback portion, as they found out that they were getting a bunch of 2' "alleys" between lots. you could not fit a push mower between them, so you had to squeeze in with a weed whacker. many of the folks could not do this, so they had weeds in teh alleys adn the association had to clean them up. now my parent's fence is ON the line and everythign works great.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 1:20PM
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Thanks for the thought dilly dally, but our code prefers fences built on lot lines.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 5:47PM
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Posted by davidandkasie:"dilly dally, that is the code in YOUR area."

Yes, that is what I meant in my post by "Anywhere I have lived".

"in my area teh code in town allows(prefers actually) that a fence be on the line. if it is not and a neighbor maintains your property on their side of teh fence, they can argue and get adverse possession after just a few years."

Absolutely not.

Posted by alexis717:"Thanks for the thought dilly dally, but our code prefers fences built on lot lines."

OK. Just a thought that could turn out to be something to work to your advantage. Apparently you checked this out and the fence is code in your area. It could have been another angle from which to attack the problem. Back to Plan A then.

Here is a link that might be useful: Legal: What adverse Possession Really Means

    Bookmark   November 1, 2008 at 4:58AM
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see the link below adn goto sec 15-1-13, in MS 10 years is all it takes. so in my area ABSOLUTELY SO.

you can even get clear title to property by simply paying the taxes on it for 3 years running. a good friend of mine bought the empty abandoned lot next to his house this way. the owners did not pay teh taxes so he did it for 3 years running. he then was given the land by the state. the owners tried a couple years later to recover the land, but had simply waited too long.

again, this varies by state so it may or may not apply in other areas.

Here is a link that might be useful: MS code

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 11:37PM
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So, who actually owns the fence? You or the neighbor?
Here it is a fence must be 6" inside the line (I think).
Kathy G in MI

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 10:06AM
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kathyg: The fence is co-owned. Fences were put in by the builders at the time the subdivision was constructed. There is no one owner. Fence maintenance is "supposed" to be a shared expense. Unfortunately my neighbors really don't care one way or the other. So if I want it fixed it's on me even though the trees are on their property. God, I wished I still lived in the country where my nearest neighbor was 20 acres away.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 5:41PM
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The key words in your post are *the empty abandoned lot next to his house* and *owners did not pay teh (sic) taxes*.

A neighbor cannot steal your property while you are living on it, using it, and paying taxes, just because they mowed some of the lawn. I don't know why so many people think this.

My next door neighbor mows between the houses all the way up to my house because it looks better that way, than to have it half mowed between the houses. No way can I lose my home because of this. No way. Another neighbor uses his snowblower on my driveway as a nice gesture during blizzards. Gee, am I going to lose my whole driveway and garage because of this?!?! I better start raking my neighbor's leaves this fall so I can "argue and get adverse possession after just a few years". I'm going to become the biggest land baron in the whole state!

One thing that people don't realize about the "adverse pocession thing" is that if a neighbor does something on your property with your permission then adverse possession does not come into play. (There might be other problems steming from this but adverse possession is not one of them.)

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 6:32PM
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you are confusing the 2 parts of my post. i gave an example of taking an entire lot by taxes. but you can gain adverse possession of PART of a lot by openly and hostily controlling it for 10 years. you treat it as your own and it becomes yours, with certain conditions.

my grandparents lost a 5' wide strip of their lot due to AP. when the house was built they put their fence up and were forced to stop 5' back due to a utility easement. the neighbors behind them did the same thing. a few years later the utility company disolved the easement and gave full possession back to the owners. my gradnparents neighbor decided to just extend his fence to theirs. they did nothign about it as they saw no big deal. this was in 1969, fast forward to 1984 when they were refiing their house and found out that at some point 2-3 neighbors before had filed for adverse possession and won teh strip. they were never even informed, but since title had changed hands several times since then they really could not do anythign about it. yes, since that time some changes have been made to the AP laws here, but still 10 years controllign an area of land without permission from the real owners and you can get it. it does not have to be the whole lot, just the portion you control.

and i agree, IF you grant your blessings then AP is out teh window. but make sure you do it IN WRITING or it will be hesaid/she said!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 9:20PM
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OK so I bet that when these trees were planted they were on your neighbors' side of the fence and on their property. Based on your description this had to be the case. So they are your nieghbors' trees. What does city code say about someone else's trees causing property damage? Forget the fence, you can plant something up it to hide it (dangling trunks and all), the big issue is the driveway, and then the driveway again, and again. Pretty clearly removing 50% of a large tree's root system will kill it even without chemical warfare. If the neighbors won't be reasonable and take your generous offers to cost-split etc then it seems that you will have to take two steps: dig up roots for driveway, and then get on neighbors' case about potential property damage from dead trees falling your way. If nothing else, they probably won't care if you pay 100% to remove a dead tree. One other consideration is that a dead tree usually topples in the 'heavy' direction. You can limb up anything hanging over your side of the line (you might want to go ahead and have your tree removal guys do it - shave straight up to the top). The heavy direction then becomes away from your property. You do have to live with gross trees for a relatively brief while.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 4:06PM
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If you are friendly with them , point out the damage to your driveway and ask if they are willing to remove the trees. Offer to pay for the removal. We have a next-door neighbor (an older widow) whose maple tree was dropping leaves in and shading our pool. We asked if we could pay to get it taken down. We paid, she agreed, we are both happy with more sunny yards.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2008 at 7:25PM
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Alexis, welcome to the suburbs! It seems that you need to check your county or city code. In most places, if you kill your neighbor's tree, they can sue you for the damage. In your situation, with the trees causing the driveway to buckle, I think you could get the county to order the neighbor to remove the trees.

My suggestion is to find out exactly what the code in your area says about trees that are causing damage to a neighbor's property (driveway and fence) and then (if it is in your favor) give a copy to the neighbor and tell them that you would like to discuss the situation with them so you can both agree on a solution.

You could also get an estimate for a new driveway and replacing the fence in addition to the estimate for removing the trees before you raise the subject with your neighbors. This might let them know how EXPENSIVE their trees have become.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 27, 2008 at 7:09PM
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Colorcrazy: Those are excellent suggestions and the ones I believe I will start with. Thank you so much


    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 4:52PM
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Know the by-laws of your area inside and out. They are different everywhere. Also get a certified arborist. They write a report about the tree (and damage) which you can use to get the tree(s) cut down even if they're not your trees - it's your damage. I am going through something very similar...our garage is about to collapse because of the roots of trees that grew on the property line long before we bought our house. Their trees and they want them to stay. Our by-laws & civil laws state we need an arborist report to prove that the damage of the laneway came from the tree (easy) and the trees can be cut even without their permission. Also, to remind you that bylaws are different everywhere, in our city, fences can be erected right on the line. If it's their tree but your damage, they are responsible to pay (if you want to take it to court). Refer to your survey, by-laws and civil law to make informed decisions. Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 6:09PM
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This post is almost 5 years old, but just to clarify if someone is still reading, the maples (and the overcrowding was probably leading to the mildew issue) were not infecting the adjacent property with more mildew unless to any maples being grown there. Powdery mildew is not one fungi, but a multitude of types. These spores are wind-blown to other parts of the same plant or other plants of the same species, meaning powdery mildew fungi are host-specific, mildew on maple will not spread to dogwood or roses, and vice-versa.

I'd have been concerned about the driveway damage from the surface rooted trees and hopefully that's been resolved by now, and about the stability of the trees with the chain link fence embedding itself into them, but the trees can't be blamed for all the issues in the landscape :)

Also, you can prune anything over property line in most states without the neighbors permission but only if the pruning does not injure or cause damage or disfiguration to the tree/shrub.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 12:11PM
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