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Question DetailsAsked on 6/13/2011

How do I politely ask my neighbor to remove the dead tree hanging onto our property?

My neighbor has a large tree that has been dead for at least 5 years. It is close to our property line and wires providing service to our home. The county tells us this tree is our neighbor's problem, not theirs. Last year we mentioned our concerns to our neighbor (falling tree limbs, etc.--there have been plenty in our yard). The matter was acknowledged, but no action taken. Everyone who sees this tree remarks about the potential danger.

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12 Answers

Voted Best Answer

I own a tree service and by law whatever is on you property is part of you property including part of you neighbor's tree whit that being say you allow to cut whatever part of the tree is on your property and leave him whit the rest of the tree to fall on his property.

Answered 9 years ago by Fernando



I would start by picking up any of the dead limbs that fell into your yard and just start piling them up in the neighbors yard so they would have to actually move them before mowing the grass.

Answered 9 years ago by Dabshere


What you describe is neglegence. If so, your neighbor will be legally liable to any damage to your property (fences, out buildings, house, etc) Take pictures. Contact your local gov't code enforcement agency and let them mediate.

Years ago an elderly neighbor related her concerns about the possibility of a limb from a "heritage oak" on my property causing damages to her home. My giant oak was healthy & had been certified as such; therefore, her home owner's insurance would have had to pay for any Act of God damage to her property. (she was a nice lady, unfortunately she didn't outlive my heritage oak)

Answered 9 years ago by tessa89


I would strongly suggest sending your neighbors a certified letter stating that, per your earlier conversation, you consider this tree to be a hazard due to its proximity to the power lines. Then, when and if something bad does happen, you will have a record of having informed them of it and they won't be able to say "we didn't know."

You say the county has told you it is the neighbor's problem. Did you contact the local electric company? They should care very much about the situation.

I would also recommend taking lots of pictures showing the proximity of the tree to the wires and that it is obviously dead.

Dead trees do sometimes stay vertical for a very long time, but it sounds like a tense situation for you. I understand your desire to not inflame the situation, but it doesn't sound like there is anything more you can do that won't have the potential to do so. So it becomes your responsibility to look after your own interests in the most reasonable way possible.

Answered 9 years ago by Commonsense


Have you considered bypassing the owner? If this tree endangers or compromises a power company's assets (poles & lines or service to customers), notifying the power company should prompt action to mitigate a potential hazard. As Commonsense suggested, as a CYA I'd take lots of pictures from various angles using a camera that embeds the date & time.

Answered 9 years ago by tessa89


Pragmatically it is your problem. It only "becomes" your neighbor's problem when their homeowners insurance has to pay for your new roof.

Tell them that the work needs to be done - offer to split it 50/50 (not uncommon).

Sounds like it needs to be taken care of, so your realistic option is to pay for it yourself. Hire a tree service company to cut off all of the tree that is over your property, however they must leave the tree structually undamaged - as healthy as possible.

The sublties vary from state to state but for all it is on your property and you have the legal right to remove it.

Answered 8 years ago by help1968


How do we tell our neighbor politely that we don't have several thousand dollars to pay to have this huge old oak tree removed? Our Insurance Company will not pay to have it removed and they will not cover any "Act of God", so even if it gets blown over by a Hurricane, they won't cover it. However, they will have to pay for any damages it causes to our neighbor's property, and to remove it from our neighbor's property. Our Insurance Company would also have to pay for our defense costs if our neighbor sued us for his damages. We would suggest that our neighbor remove anything valuable from his garage that the tree is hanging over and feel free to cut any limbs or branches on the tree that are on his side of the property line. In fact, he has our permission to remove the whole tree at his expense, if he wants to.


Answered 8 years ago by Neighbor


Commonsense is pretty much spot on. You need a record of their "negligence". Take those photos! If they KNOW (and you can prove it), and then something happens then they are on the hook, for any and all damages. We have watched a LOT of court tv and these exact cases come up with some regularity.

It also seems like a really good idea to contact your local electric company - because his negligence is a present danger to their PROPERTY - they own those lines. And they will be happy to charge them many 1000s of dollars for those repairs.

Sure you can cut the parts of the tree down that are over your property line but since the TREE is dead - then you shouldn't have to - it is HIS tree. So it is his negligence, not yours. It would be a different matter if the tree were alive and you were concerned about the branches that happen to be on your side, near some lines.

Answered 7 years ago by Jefferson


We have had a similar situation. The arborist suggested that we contact our condo insurance agency and have them send a letter to the neighbor about the danger to the property. We never had to do it because they actually removed the tree before we took action. I do think if you offer to share the cost, they might be open to it as well.

Answered 7 years ago by Guest_91998841


I'm not a lawyer and I live in CA, but I THINK when a neighbors tree has limbs growing over the fence into your yard, it is your baby.

Answered 6 years ago by Guest_9638818


A couple of things come to mind about this discussion thread:

1) what kind of insurance policy does not cover an act of god - that is bout half your insurance coverage - I would be looking for another insurer as damage from storms and falling trees and such are a substantiall part of what many people are cuying insurance from.. Granted,, earth movements and groundwater are commonly not covered, and flooding is covered by FEMA Flood Insurance and war, riots and nuclear accidents are usually not covered, but pretty much everything else usually is or can be.

2) On the "negligence" issue - taking pictures is fine, but unless you have dated proof you notified him you considered it a threat and asked him to abate it, you will never prove negilgence - he can just say he did not think it was going to fall down, and that an unusually heavy wind gust (most likley to fail in a wind) was what caused it to fail, so is an act of god and not his responsibility.

3) this is like one case I consulted on a legal case for in a hillside subdivision, where one owner (the plaintiff) saw cracking on the steep fill hillside above his house on his neighbor's land, and pointed it out to the neighbor whose land it was on and mentioned it to neighbors and friends for a couple years, till it finally failed in a heavy rainstorm and took out his entire house and all vehicles. He tried to sue the neighbor on the basis the hillside was maintained as a hazard - lost case in about 5 minutes because while he had pointed out the cracks to the neighbor, his (the neighbor defendants) attorney pointed out that the plaintiff had never identified it as an imminent threat or asked that it be abated, and since the landowner defendant was not a geologist or civil engineer or earthwork contractor he personally had no reason to know or believe the cracks were anything more than the fill drying out and shrinkage cracking. To prove negligence or responsibility, you generally have to be able to prove the defending party ignored a known or specifically identified risk or danger, or willfully took an endangering action. In the case of this tree for instance, unless specifically pointed out as a threat and asked to abate it, the tree owner would likely only be liable if he were a logger or arborist with knowledge that it should be considered dangerous.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


We had a similar issue come up with our neighbors. They have 4 HUGE cottonwood trees growing on their side of the fence. They are getting toward the end of their natural lives and are dying branch-by-branch. The neighbors cut all the limbs off of their side of the trees, but the rest of the trees are hanging over our property. There have been some really large limbs that have fallen across our yard. Luckily, there wasn't anything damaged each time. We spoke to an arborists and he told us that the neighbor is only liable for damages if the limb breaks off on his side of the property line. If the limbs break off on our side of the propertly line, the damages would be paid by our insurance company. He said we had the legal right to cut the limbs off at the property line on our side without getting permission from him. He advised that we get a book called "Understanding Tree Laws-A Handbook for Practioners" by Barri Kaplan Bonapart. He added that having this knowledge could also help convince city/county officials that removing the tree is their responsibility (when in a city easement). Good luck!

Source:  ISBN-13: 978-0314292063 ISBN-10: 0314292063

Answered 5 years ago by Guest_9234115


A thought on the comment by Guest 9234115 about trees in a government easement.

Generally speaking, the LANDOWNER has the responsibility for trees in the easement UNLESS the government agency (road department or whatever) assumes responsibility for the trees - either officially or by planting them in the first place, like landscaping along a roadway project for instance.

Aneasement is only a right of access or use by the easement holder for the specified purpose spelled out in the easement - for access to or to run utilities through, for road and/or sidewalk construction and operation, etc. The landowner still retains the ownership of the land subject to the approvement easement holder use (cannot interfere with it), but natural trees in the area would generally be the responsibility of the LANDOWNER, not the easemetn holder. Though the easement holder (commonly road departments and overhead utility companies like power companies) have the right to trim or remove trees that interfere with their proper use of the easement - as with intersection sightline or power line danger or overhanging tree clearing.

Being in the easement does NOT automatically make tree care, including removal of dangerous trees, the automatic responsibility of the easement holder, though many government right-of-way easement holders will trim/remove them if notified (especially if not by the landowner) for fear of being sued by the complainant or a victim should they fall on an innocent person in their easement.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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