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Question DetailsAsked on 1/14/2018

Seeds from a 50 yr old palm tree fall from tree in our yard down onto neighbors property. The neighbor asked...

Asked us to remove as the dust gets on the paint of the cars he fixes up at his home (ie. illegal auto body shop). We no longer occupy the home & our tenantes don’t care but I don’t feel we should pay for it when we’d prefer the tree remain. How should we handle it? Any advice is appreciated.

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1 Answer


While there have been a few more recent court cases where newly or recently planted trees (commonly related to rows of trees on a property line) have been deemed a nuisance and the courts have required they be trimmed or cut, usually this relates to the ages-old "spite fence" rule or state laws regarding blocking of sunlight on adjacent houses - recently extended in California (of course) to include blocking the view of significant view properties.

But natural debris falling from your tree on a neighbor's property is considered an act of nature, and the neighbor's responsibility to handle it by protecting against it (like with debris fall and sap and such) or by cleaning it up. There are some exceptions for obvious dangers like major overhanging dead branches, but falling sap, seeds or fruit, tree debris and pollen, leaves, etc which naturlaly fall onto the neighbor's property are his problem. Also exception to officially designated invasive plants like bamboo and such - but I have never heard of a palm falling in that category.

On the flip side, generally, in most states (and excluding historic landmark trees and such special cases), a neighbor does have the right to trim the tree on his side, to the property line. In many states he has to give advance legal notice to you of his intent to allow you to get it done in a less destructive manner or by a professional - but there have been a lot of cases where a neighbor has had a tree trimmed straight to the property line - like putting in a mime wall along the property line. There are also some exceptions in some states if it will kill the tree, but basically this seed falling is his issue, and his responsibility to protect the cars from it by covering them or moving them elsewhere or putting them in a garage.

Also, even if he is legally able to trim it to the line, he would have a hard time finding a tree service company who would actually do it, at least not without an official survey of the property line and a court order authorizing or mandating it, because it is a lose-lose situation for them if the tree owner objects to it after they do the cutting.

Obviously, you would need legal advice from an attorney if he gets nasty, but it sounds like you might have some leverage if he is illegally running a commercial operation with significant outdoor exposure or continuing evidence of the business operation on a residential zoned property.

Course, you do have to be careful not to get into a spite situation, and not knowing anything about this guy, like how likely he is to fly off the handle ... Might pay off to do bit of google research and find a newspaper article or two from your state about this issue which you could give him a copy of, with them (presumably) stating what I said above - that you have no repsonsibility to mitigate natural tree materials falling from the palm tree. This subject is addressed every 5-10 years in a paper in most urban areas - some city planning and zoning departments even have a FAQ page on their websiste about it.

Also - if it looks like it may get nasty or you want the tree out (considering 50-100 years is pushing the age limit ofr most palm tree, depending on species), like if your species has a life near 50-60 yesars or it is losing its crown and looking poorly, you could come to an arrangement with him to pay the cost, or at least a substantial part of it, for a tree service company to take it down and remove it for you. But I would not take it down without payment up-front from him, because once it is down I certainly would not count on him paying up for something which is then already a fait accompli.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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