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Overhanging Trees

Posted by knoto55 (My Page) on
Fri, Apr 1, 05 at 17:04

We just moved into our new house and wanted to get a fence. Our neighbor to our back (who usually walks his dogs on our lot) was advised that we were going to put a stockade fence in our backyard - for privacy and for our two dogs. At the time he said if we ever had a need to cut overhanging branches back, we could do so. By his attitude - "I own all the trees" I knew he could be a problem so to be on the safe side I paid a surveyor to do a property boundary search. Turned out that we owned a couple of trees on our side of the line - and those trees were in bad shape - infested with borers.

For our fence to be built we had to clear out the brush along the rear property line. We spoke to a tree company and they said they could take out the brush and take out the bad trees. Also, since many of our neighbor's trees were overhanging our property - and in bad shape, the tree specialist said he would cut them back.

They began taking out the bad trees on our lot and trimming the bad overhanging branches. Immediately my partner spots the neighbor's wife making it up the hill to our backyard. She's yelling and pointing and shaking her head. I ignored her but the tree men pointed out the survey stakes and said they were only cutting down my trees and not hers. She went running down the hill to her home and about 5 minutes later her husband comes trotting up the hill. I ignored him too. I saw him speak with the tree men and they continued to do their work - however they did not complete their job - they did not trim the remaining overhanging branches. Neighbor and his wife kept silent watch while I was painting a mantle with primer and then paint.

Now, I know that the trees I had taken out were on my property - wholly within my lot. The branches were not however, but he had given my permission. I did not talk with the tree men, but I'm assuming that he rescinded his permission for them to cut back those dangerous hanging branches.

What should I do? Should I write him and tell him that those tree limbs are dangerous? That I had planned on paying the tree experts to take them off because I had his permission - that they did not complete the job because of his say so? If I do that, then he would be liable for correcting the dangerous situation, correct? I really don't want those limbs coming down on my fence or my dogs if they happened to be in the yard.

Anyone have any advice?

Thanks,

Ken


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Overhanging Trees

My neighbor has a large oak tree near our property line, and part of it hangs over my roof. I am allowed to trim back any branches which hang over my property, and I have done that.
I checked with our city, and with my insurance company before I did that, in addition I spoke to my neighbor and he had no problem with it. According to what I was told, I could have trimmed back the branches even if the neighbor objected, since they were hanging over my property. What I cannot do is trim back the branches so much that the tree would be damaged.
Perhaps you can check with your local authority to see what the rules are where you live?

Abbey


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RE: Overhanging Trees

Abbey,

Thanks for the advice. This gentleman gave me permission to remove any overhanging branches but he must have barred the tree men from climbing his trees. As a result there are numerous large branches, some diseased and dead, overhanging my back yard. I really fear for the safety of my family if one of those branches should come down. What did they used to call those big dead branches? Oh - now I remember - they were called "Widow-makers".

I think I'll apologize if there were any misunderstandings, but I'll tell him that those limbs are a safety hazard and a danger to my family. I'll let him take them down.

One thing I should note - when we were waiting for our house to be completed we met this guy. He told us that then he owned all the trees in the woods beyond my property line. I wasn't so sure so I had a Boundary Survey done on my lot. That showed that I owned a couple of smaller trees, but all of them were infested with borers. Those are the ones that got taken out today.

Ken


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RE: Overhanging Trees

If the tree service people can cut the overhanging limbs without climbing his trees have them do it before any damage to persons or property occurs. It is within your legal right to do this to any branches hanging over your property line. If branches from HIS trees damage YOUR home, fence, or other property he is not responsible for any financial damages. It's up to you and your insurance company to pay for any repairs. Go the least expensive route and take preventive measures. If you don't care about keeping a good relationship with this neighbor, ask him to sign an official and witnessed statement that he is refusing to allow you to cut back the threatening branches and that he agrees to pay for any damages in full if they should fall and harm your property. I bet he lets you cut them right away.


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RE: Overhanging Trees

Monablair,

I found out from the tree service company that he refused them admittance to his property. So they could not cut down the bad branches.

I checked around for legal advice, even contacting my County Office. I was told that I have to inform him that those overhanging limbs are a public nuisance and a danger to myself, my family, my pets and my property and should be removed. Once I do that the ball is in his court.

I tried to have the matter taken care of by my own expense but he refused to let my tree surgeons to do their work. Now it will be his responsibility to take care of any dead, diseased, infested or weak tree limbs/branches overhanging my property line.

This guy believed that he owned all the trees and I knew he did not. That's why I had the original survey company come back and do a Boundary Survey. Now I know that my fence will not encroach on his property. In fact on one side it's inside my line by a little more than a foot, while the other corner is inside my line by about 3 feet. It's off because I had the fence company build the fence parallel to the house and the builder did not place the house squarely on the lot - it's built at an angle.

I think his problem is that even though he knew where the one corner of my lot ended, he didn't know where the other ended. He thought he owned part of my lot but he did not. The survey showed him that. That's why he's upset. The four small trees I had taken down were all infested with borers. They were Sassafras trees - and when they were cut down, sure enough the inside of each one was rotted.

Yesterday the tree people came back to grind the stumps out. Sure enough Mr. Neighbor came up to watch. He didn't say anything, he just watched. At one point he stood too close to the grinder and the treeman advised him to step back.

Yesterday afternoon my partner looked out back and he saw neighbor and wife examining the two survey markers. His wife was saying one thing and neighborman was pointing to the markers and shaking his head.

One other thing that may be making him upset - this guy had created a pathway from his house, up the hill and onto my lot. He used it daily to walk his dogs. Now he will not be able to come onto my lot because of the fence. He used to come up all the time and enter my home when it was being built. The builder caught him a few times and told him to stay away, but he kept coming back.

Anyway, my fence will go up today. My letter to him will also go out today. I apologized to him for any misunderstandings, but I told him he had given us permission to take down those overhanging branches. He then rescinded that permission and was rude to the tree servicemen. I told him that I had the survey done because I did not want to encroach on his lot. I told him I took out dead/dying trees on my lot not his. I told him that his overhanging branches were a public nuisance and a danger to my property. And I asked him to remove them because he would not allow my men to remove them. The legal authority I spoke with said that if he knows those trees are a nuisance and a danger to others he should take them down. If he doesn't and there is damage to my property, I can have my attorney go after him.

I hope he takes them down. But he's one of those peeps who have nothing better to do so they complain about everything. I don't want to cause any trouble with him; I don't want to get into a war. That's not productive. In my letter I told him that if he had any problems with our property lines, or the tree issue, that he should come and talk to me. But like a wimp, he took his anger out on the tree service men when he should have come to me to discuss his problems.

Neighbors - yeesh! And his home sits out of view of my lot. From the end of my lot his lot goes down a steep hill to his home. Thank God I cannot see it nor can he see my house from his house. And once my six foot stockade privacy fence goes up - he won't be able to see into my lot at all. And if I plant something real thorny along the back of my fence it will prevent him from creating a path along the fence line.

Ken


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RE: Overhanging Trees

What I don't understand is, why did the tree removal team, listen to the neighbor about removing the tree branches, when you were the person paying for their service? If you had directed them to remove certain branches, why did they not remove them? Were the branches too high, or not accessible from your property?
I hope you'll come back and let us know how this all turned out. I'm curious as to his reaction when he received your letter informing him of the danger of "his" branches, to anyone on your property.


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RE: Overhanging Trees

Hi Carol,

First - the branches were not accessible from my lot - they were too high and required the tree surgeon to climb the tree to get to the branches - something the neighbor would not allow.

As for his reaction - he came by the next day. He said he was upset and thought we overreacted. He said his wife lost her cool with the tree folks - she's the one who ordered them to stay off their property - because she thought their property line was actually inside our lot by about 10 or 12 feet. The husband said he showed her the survey markers and later on told her that their property ended at the marker and did not extend into our lot.

The neighbor said we could invite the tree surgeons back to finish the cutting. I told him it was too late for that, as they finished what they considered their job - and left it up to him to get them cut down.

So that's where we stand. He'll have to pay to get them cut down. If he doesn't and a branch falls off one of his trees and damages my property, he will be liable. Why? Well, we advised him of the dangerous situation and he failed to do anything to take care of it. I'm not spending any more money than I already have spent. He may not like it, but his wife made the bed - and he's has to lay in it.

Ken


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RE: Overhanging Trees

If you warn him of the danger of the overhanging limbs and he doesn't do anything about it, any injury to anyone or property from the trees can be his liability. If you knew his insurance company, you could probably talk to them. They would more than likely have them trimmed.


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RE: Overhanging Trees

Btw, would add one more thing. I don't know about the laws of your state, nor do I know how insurance companies act in your area. However, back in my home state of CA, my mother and stepdad went through a similar situation regarding a tree encroaching on their property.

They are allowed to cut back ANYTHING that hits the property line. The tree in question was leaning, and they could have literally chopped the trunk.

However, since the damn thing is about 60 feet tall, this is both expensive and impractical. The owner refuses to do anything about this. There has been numerous court issues behind it. They were able to get the worst of the limbs down, but the tree itself is still leaning dangerously.

One thing that I got from that is the issue of liability is not just a legal issue, but it can also be an insurance company issue.

My mother was told by her insurance company that IF the tree fell and damaged her house...and IF the owner KNEW in advance that the tree was dangerous and yet did nothing about it, it's entirely possible that his insurance company wouldn't pay the cost of her damage because he would be deemed negligent.

What this means is that if a similar situation exists with your insurance companies, Mr Neighbor might not just find himself liable civilly, he might find himself without resources to pay because his insurance company might bail on him.

I would call your own insurance company and ask them about this and if it's common practice in your state. I would also want to be REALLY clear that those widow makers hanging over your fence are not your responsibility and GET IT IN WRITING.

The reason I say this is that a branch might fall on a guest in your home, not just you. You might not be covered by your homeowner's insurance. Because wouldn't the same thing apply to you? I don't know the answer to that question, but I seriously think that you need to know.

I wouldn't just take anything regarding this verbally. I would want copies of the law, etc.

Because you could be in a pickle if whomever spoke to you was incorrect.


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Insurance issues.....

What you have to do with trees threatening or potentially threatening your property is to write a letter and send it by certified mail, copied to your insurance company, informing your neighbor of the problem and requesting action. You should state that any damage to property, life or limb and/or subsequent claim caused by the neighbors trees will be your neighbors responsibility and that any claim will be a claim against your neighbor and his insurance company (which means he will be liable directly for the appropriate deductible).
Writing such a letter and delivery by certified mail is a necessary legal step or you will have to claim for any damage from YOUR insurance policy. You will find that the certified delivery and the letter - unless your neighbor is a total simpleton - will produce immediate results.


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RE: Overhanging Trees

In reference to Chester Grants comment on sending a certified letter to our neighbor I would like to know exactly how to word the letter to him. I spoke to my insusrance CO. and they would not give me a letter or any help (that would come only after damage occured). I want to make this as legal as possible because my neighbors are nuts.
We have a 60 foot tree hanging over a 1200 sq ft house in a hurricane zone. We now have an algee problem and mildew because of lack of sunlight which is ruining our deck sidewalks, and lawn furniture. Also all the root system is on our property causing serious erosion. I need help and don't have the bucks for an atty. I live in Connecticut and can't find any real law for this issue other than the right to cut whatever hangs over my property.
Someone help. Thanks.


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RE: Overhanging Trees

knoto55 wrote: "The legal authority I spoke with said that if he knows those trees are a nuisance and a danger to others he should take them down. If he doesn't and there is damage to my property, I can have my attorney go after him."

Is the legal authority willing to put this in writing? I'd check with my attorney on that one.

I talked to a neighbor who was moving. I noted he had many nice trees in the back yard. He said in the time he had lived there, a storm had caused a tree to fall onto his neighbors garage. Not just once, but TWICE.

The first time it happened, he called his insurance company. He asked them to contact the neighbor so they could sort out who was paying for the repairs. The insurance company told him it was his neighbors problem and that HE would have to have HIS OWN insurance company fix it!

"One other thing that may be making him upset - this guy had created a pathway from his house, up the hill and onto my lot. He used it daily to walk his dogs. Now he will not be able to come onto my lot because of the fence. He used to come up all the time and enter my home when it was being built. The builder caught him a few times and told him to stay away, but he kept coming back.
As for his reaction - he came by the next day. He said he was upset and thought we overreacted. He said his wife lost her cool with the tree folks - she's the one who ordered them to stay off their property - because she thought their property line was actually inside our lot by about 10 or 12 feet."

How silly (stupid?) for the wife to get in a lather about something she wasn't absolutely POSITIVE about. Have they ever have their own lot surveyed? If they had, they would KNOW this was not their property. Glad your getting a stockade fence. With neighbors like these, your going to need it.

marietrees1 wrote: " I need help and don't have the bucks for an atty. I live in Connecticut and can't find any real law for this issue other than the right to cut whatever hangs over my property.
Someone help. Thanks."

Regarding form letters to send to the neighbor. You might go to Findlaw.com and post your question here.

A link that may be useful:

CID: Homeowners Storm Claims

If the owner of the tree is sued by his neighbor, the liability section of the homeowners ... If the tree is blown over and does no damage to structures, ...
www.ct.gov/cid/cwp/view.asp?a=1271&q=254640 - 25k -


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RE: Overhanging Trees

Dreamgarden -

1. This happened over 2 years ago - so I forget exactly what my attorney said at the time. I do know that my back neighbor refused the tree surgeons access to "jointly" owned trees, so we could not cut off any dead or dying branches overhanging our property lines.

2. This is a bit different than your friends problems - there he fully owned the trees that came down on his neighbor's home - and his neighbor was responsible for any overhanging branches on his side of the property line. So if those trees in the one person's backyard happen to mostly overgrow the garage, it's the owner of the garage who is responsibe for that tree. That's why his homeowner's policy paid for the damage. To alleviate the potential problem, the one with the damaged garage should ahve removed the branches from the second tree that were overhanging his garage. Since he did not, when that second tree came down - again he was responsible.

I know the logic sounds a bit convoluted - but think of it this way -
a) you own what's overhanging your property line.
b) you have a right to cut that tree's branches back to the property line.
c) If you do cut the branches back, you cannot kill the tree when you do so. If you do, you're responsible for the tree.
d) If the tree is on the property line, both landowners jointly own the tree.
e. Each landowner still has a right to cut that tree's branches back to their property line,
f) but again, they cannot kill the tree.

In my situation, the joint owner refused me my right to safely cut the branches off of those trees that overhung my property. I think that's why my attorney suggested that I write that email to him. Maybe the liability rules are different when joint owners own the tree that does the damage. I don't really know. And like I said, this happened over two years a go.

Ken


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RE: Overhanging Trees

Forgot this thread is so old!

I hope your neighbor comes around. He wouldn't like it if the situation were reversed.


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