trees and property lines..also flood lights

birdwingDecember 13, 2005

Here's my situation.

Our next door neighbor called me last August and said that some trees in our yard were overhanging her property (and the roof of her house because they built their house about 3 ft from the property line) Any way she said she had one bid of $4500 to cut down 2 trees and we had 24 hours to pay half. I told her that wasn't possible and I would call her back. I found somebody to cut down 4 trees for $2000. She then told me I had to pay half of that or she could "report me to the city" if the trees were to remain. The tree guy told me I had no obligation to pay for anything or to even give permission to have the trees removed.

The trees have since been cut down. I'm not all that happy about it because I now have a much better view of their (to me) hideous modern house and worse yet they have 2 floodlights on the side of their house that shine directly into our master bedroom even with the curtains drawn. Even though I found someone to remove the trees for less than half her original bid she has said she wants to set up "a payment plan" so that we can pay for half the tree removal. I know I'm not obligated to do this but since they are unreasonable people or , as the tree guy I hired called them, "whack jobs" it makes things difficult. I'm wondering if anyone knows about the rules regarding flood lights. I mean I literally can't look towards their house at night because the lights are so bright.

Any thoughts or advice about this? I'm going to ask them if they can limit the time these lights are on or at least get a lower watt bulb or something, I'm not sure.

There's lots more to this including the fact that our fence is falling over because they built their house so close to the property line that the higher ground is erroding because there is no retaining wall where they dug out the foundation.

This is the immediate issue though..


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if the trees were on YOUR porperty, then you should not have allowed her to remove them. she could legally trim them back to the property line, but not remove them.

tell her to kiss your a$$.

BB guns work wonders on flood lights.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 6:00PM
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I agree with David. Why did you even let her cut down the trees? All she was legally allowed to do was cut downt eh branches that overhung her property (as long as it didn't kill the tree). I would pay $200 to have a lawyer send her a letter telling her that if she doesn't back off and remove the flood lights, you will sue her for the trees.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 7:50PM
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She should only be allowed to trim back the offending limbs and what she is allowed to cut back has to be within a certain percentage of the bulk of the tree. It is not your finacial reponsibility to pay for this tree service. If she had the entire trees cut down without your permission you are within your rights to retain legal counsel and sue for property damage. How large were the trees? Were they diseased? Did she have to get a tree cutting permit? And if you gave permission to have the trees cut, please tell me WHY you did? I sure wouldn't have. Meanwhile, I'd aske them to redirect the lights. If they refuse, buy a spotlight and shine the darned thing into their windows so they see what it feels like. Have you checked into ordinances governing neighborhood nuisances?

One more thing, allowed side easements in your neighborhood are only 3'?

    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 8:02PM
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birdwing -- Do you live in an unincorporated area? I can't imagine where else anyone could build a house only three feet from the property line. (In my city, you can't build less than 20 feet from a side lot line. In Chicago, with its comon 25-foot frontage lots, it is five feet from the side lot line.)

Your neighbor had no right to cut down your trees without your permission, let alone ask you to *pay* for it. If you agreed to let her cut them, that's too bad. You didn't sign anything agreeing to pay for it.

My city has a code prohibiting security lights that are not controlled and activated by an alarm system or a "panic button". (They can't be left "on".) All other lighting must be controlled by a timer set to go off no later than 11 p.m. The light level at the property line must be under 0.5 foot candles and the light must be aimed to shine within the property lines.

Is there no municipality to which you can complain?

    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 11:59AM
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how quick we are to call our neighbors wack jobs and suggest bb guns. many people have said that they dont have the right to cut down your trees and make you pay for it and i think that is quite correct. they could cut some branches that lay on their property without permission.

i think more communication and some willingness to respect others is key. talk to them directly, act responsibly and respecfully. tell them what you dont like, why you dont like it, and what you would like them to do to fix it. figure out what the laws are and follow them. buy bigger property and build smaller homes. peace

    Bookmark   December 15, 2005 at 8:20PM
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Some neighbors are "wack jobs" and no amount of reasoning will motivate them.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2005 at 12:26PM
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I'm sorry I haven't responded and thanked you all sooner. I tried twice but for some reason it didn't post.

As far as the property line I think it's 5 feet in our city. And the fact that we're in the city makes neighbors close to eachother. We do have an unusually wooded lot however and these particular trees were weed trees and (boxelder?) and were crwdingother trees. they probably would have to have gone sooner or later but it was not a priority for us at all. In fact as I've said I've been doing everything I can do to create a screen so that I don't have to look at their big stupid Mcmansion that they've built in a neighborhood of turn of the century homes. Of course it was their right to do this but it says something about their sensitivity to their surroundings.They built this house and primptly went deeply into debt and were unable to complete landscaping(like retaining walls) or even a garage (they park their cars on the cement foundation that was put in for the garage.)

Anyway, after building this house which they obviously couldn't afford in the first place the husband became unemployed in 2001 and hasn't worked or really even left the house since. So, the wife tells us regularly about the fact that they have only one income etc etc. So I was trying to be sensitive and reasonable. Until she called me and basically threatened me about the trees. I figured I'd let her cut them down but she'd have to pay. She was either ignorant to the fact that we weren't obligated to let her remove the trees (let alone help pay for it) or she deliberately tried to mislead us by saying "the city could cite you" I said that's not true but that I would allow her to remove the trees that were leaning towards her property. Of course they started to lean because their roots were exposed by the excavation for their house. I think at this point she thinks we should have contributed to helping with the trees out of sympathy or something.

I don't know if the floodlights are some sort of revenge (since they didn't used to leave them on) or they think we shouldn't have gotten a new hot tub when we wouldn't help pay for the trees and so they shine lights to make it unpleasant for us OR perhaps they are trying to catch us skinny dipping I don't know. Believe me we have fantasized about the bb gun thing while sitting in the hot tub.

I have since found out about something called light trespass which is illegal and THEY can be cited. I plan to call them
this weekend to talk about it. I'll let you all know what happens.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2005 at 6:45PM
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My parents had a similar problem with their neighbors, and the solution they came up with was to paint the side of the floodlight globes facing my parent's property. If you did it with reflective paint, it would even improve the light for their property....good luck!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2006 at 7:27PM
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Thanks everyone.

I had to write and update here about a positive outcome. I took a deep breath and called my neighbor. I was very nervous about speaking to her because in the past she had been so unreasonable. (see my original post)

I was not confrontational and simply told her that the lights really bothered us and that they shone directly into our bedroom etc. At first she was kind of snappy and nasty and said they weren't floodlights and that the paperboy had asked her to keep it on and that's why it was on all night. Then when I was on the phone with her (it was after dark) she began to turn the lights on and off and then it must have been obvious to her,as my totally dark yard lit up like a carnival that it was very invasive. Her tone changed and we started to talk about different ways to change it and that she had no idea it was so bright.

She then turned on the light inside her house. (they have a modern house with big tall windows on the front and their bedroom is in the far rear of the house) And she asked if she could leave that on for the paperboy and if it bothered me. I said not at all and she said we'd try that and I thanked her. Well, for the last 3 weeks it has made such a huge difference. I am so glad I called and I'm very grateful that she was so reasonable. I'm even thinking of sending her an amaryllis or something as a thank you. Anyway, I just wanted to report on a good outcome to what seemed like an impossible situation.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2006 at 11:01AM
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Birdwing, I'm glad you had a positive outcome with this situation. My husband was being one of those jerk type neighbors recently, until he learned a lesson.

The people across the street aren't our cup of tea, for various reasons, but I figure they were in their home longer than we've been in the neighborhood, so I'd let their tackiness (in OUR opinion) slide. My husband wasn't quite so generous.

He used to wave to the neighbors and one day instead of waving he called out a greeting and got no response. So he yelled again, and again, no response. He decided the guy was a jerk.

Every time he saw the guy he'd turn his back and mumble names about him, so this, obviously led to ill feelings between them. One day my husband was talking to our next door neighbor about the other n'bor and found out that the man is deaf in one ear and has little hearing in the other. So he never heard my husband calling out to him, he wasn't ignoring him.

Boy, was my husband ever sheepish after that.

Your story reminds me of how we shouldn't make assumptions and how sometimes it's worth it to take the high road. Sometimes people are having a bad day (or week or year!) but that doesn't mean they're always jerks. I'm so glad it's working out for you. Too bad for your neighbors who got in over their heads (it's a phenomenon in our area too) and I really am grateful that our lot, and those on either side of us are 1/4 acre. There is a subdivision behind our lot that is zero lot line, so the houses are literally less than 8 feet apart. Thankfully it's at the very rear end of our property!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2006 at 3:23PM
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What a great outcome, birdwing. I hope that your neighbor also let go of the tree issue.
I had a light issue too. The neighbor on one side had a motion sensor light with a windchime right next to it! And I was in the hot tub, just like you, waiting for the light to go out so I could scramble my naked butt out of the tub and into the house before the light came on again. Well, her new boyfriend must have said, "Honey, that light is shining right into the bedroom..." I don't know what she was thinking. And it used electricity too. Anyway, she ditched the chimes. I never asked her to fix it because we have been a little icily polite and I didn't want her to think I thought she was stupid or anything...
I just had 4 large trees taken off my other neighbors' property, 2 double trunked Norway maples, weed trees if you ever saw one. They gave permission, it cost me $500. I had the guys chunk the trees and leave them in my yard. I am getting a lot of exercise sawing them, and will have lots of firewood and mulch, more than $500 worth.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2006 at 9:32PM
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Fuel to the fire , Check to see if they had a building permit, i'll bet they didn't some areas make you completly remove new structures when they do not conform ,...

    Bookmark   March 19, 2006 at 9:52PM
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