There are many things that can cause arguments between neighbors. Sharing land so close to one another is bound to occasionally lead to friction and disputes, and this can create a rather unpleasant atmosphere in a neighborhood in some cases. For this reason, it’s always worth educating yourself as to the law on such matters and trying to find peaceful solutions where possible.
One potential cause of contention is trees. Trees might seem fairly inoffensive, but they can actually be destructive in some cases! Imagine, for example, that your neighbor has a huge tree right next to their fence – your fence.
This may not be a problem, but what if it is growing into said fence and causing it to warp and crack? What if the branches are piercing straight through the fence? What if it’s causing cracks in the wall of your house?
And what if that tree is blocking out all the light to your garden? What if it is casting a huge shadow, or ruining a view that you paid extra for? What if it is causing you an allergic reaction? And what if it is dropping berries or fruits that are potentially toxic for your children or pets?
In that case, you have a problem. So, what do you do?
Can You Cut Down Your Neighbors’ Tree?
To answer the question posed in the title of this article: no you cannot completely cut down your neighbors’ tree. Doing so would not only involve destroying their property, but would also require you to trespass! You can’t enter your neighbors’ property without getting permission, so you cannot enter onto it in order to cut their tree down. That’s pretty simple!
That said, most people reading this probably aren’t thinking of literally breaking into their neighbors’ gardens in order to take down their trees! So for that reason, let’s take a look at this from a slightly more nuanced perspective.
The first thing to consider is trimming. If the tree is causing you issues because it is growing branches that are casting shade/dropping leaves and berries/damaging your property, then you are within your rights to simply cut off those branches if you are located in South Florida. This is a useful thing to bear in mind and can definitely help to solve a number of issues.
That said, before you go ahead and cut the branches of the tree, it is worth first mentioning it to your neighbors. You are under no prerogative to; but it is simply polite to let them know that you intend on making changes to the tree that is growing on their land. There is no downside for you, so why not keep the peace by being polite and explaining what you plan to do?
Note as well that you can also remove roots that are under your property. So, if a particularly large root is damaging your fence or your garden tiles, you can always consider cutting that out specifically.
Something useful to consider, is that if you do decide to cut off branches of your neighbors tree – even if they are in your garden – you are actually then required by law to offer those branches to the tree owner. There’s a very good chance that they won’t want them, but this is their property after all!
What if You Need the Tree Removed?
But in some cases, you might find that completely removing the tree is the only way to solve the problem. For example, if the tree is growing too close to your property, then it might be causing cracks to form in your walls. In that case, the only solution is to completely remove the tree (or move house…).
So, what do you do?
The first port of call should always be to speak politely to your neighbor and ask them to remove the tree. Most good neighbors will recognize that this is a very serious problem and that the structural integrity of your home is more important than the location of a tree – even if they’re fond of it! To that end, you will hopefully be able to persuade them to get to work cutting down the tree.
But what if they are not reasonable? Fortunately, there are things that you can do.
One option is to look into liability. That’s right: as the tree is their property, if it is growing into your home and causing destructive damage, they may be liable. This means they’ll be required to pay for any damage they cause to your home, which might in turn give them reason to reconsider allowing the tree to grow unattended!
You may wish to speak to a lawyer, or to your local government in order to find out more about this option.
If you wish to keep the peace between yourself and the neighbor, then you could always consider offering to help pay for a tree removal company – or even offering to remove the tree yourself! This is a useful option if the individual is well meaning but perhaps a little slow or incapable of handling the issue themselves. They may not have the money or the ability to remove the tree. If the tree is threatening to damage your property, then you shouldn’t need to pay. After all, they are effectively causing criminal damage as long as the tree remains up (even if it is indirect!).
However, you might simply decide that this is the easier solution if it keeps you both happy and if it gets the job done quicker. If the issue is less pressing (perhaps you just don’t like the look of the tree), then this becomes an even more viable option.
If the tree isn’t causing immediate damage to your property but is still causing problems, then you can find some ways to address the problems that are affecting you. Here are some examples.
If you need a tree removed on your property or your neighbors, we can help. Call us to find out more!
If the problem with the tree is that it is dropping leaves and seeds/berries onto your lawn, then trimming back branches is one option. However, if this does not solve the problem, then you could consider using netting underneath the tree around your garden. This way, you can catch any potentially harmful items before they end up in your garden. This is particularly useful if you are struggling with toxic elements that might harm your pets or even your children.
Another option is to section off that part of the garden. For example, you can surround the tree with a small bit of fencing. This will prevent you from needing to get too close to the tree.
You can also make a compromise with your neighbors. They may not wish to completely remove a tree that is bringing them joy… but they might be happy to thin out the top or just to trim it back a little. This might reduce issues with shade for example without them having to completely concede to your wishes.
There are some unique where the issue might be a little bit blurred.
For example, it’s worth checking with your property’s title deeds. After all, the precise layout of your land may or may not actually include the tree that is causing you grief. For example, in many cases the deeds will extend just outside the fence!
It’s also worth researching who owns the fence. If the fence belongs to you, then there is a greater chance that more of that tree will actually be on your property.
In some rare cases, the tree might actually be jointly owned! If the tree is straddling their land and yours, then you might be wondering who has the final say. The law is fairly straightforward here: you own the portion that is on your land!
That’s right: you’d be within your rights to cut down half of the tree. Not terribly practical, but it would certainly help make the case for removing the tree entirely.
You might have a similar issue if the tree falls partly onto public property, or even a commercial property. Speak with the local council, or with the owner of the commercial land. Note as well, that in order to remove a tree on commercial property, you are required to get a permit. This is true even if the land belongs to you.
While all these rules and regulations are generally the case in Southern Florida, keep in mind that there may be differences depending on your precise city. This is up to you to investigate before you do anything hasty!
And keep in mind that the first option should always be to politely request to your neighbor that they remove the tree. Regardless of the law, if you can both agree, then this will make the process quick, easy, and uncomplicated. And it will also mean that you maintain the relationship that is likely to be important going forward as well – particularly if you ever have any other requests!