Advice about neighbors, trees, and keeping peace.

greenhavenrdgardenFebruary 21, 2013

Last fall during the hurricane my neighbors tree snapped in half. We all lost trees and I understand it is expensive to have them removed. My neighbor's tree is still dangling dangerously (I hope you can see in the pic). It's a large tree (compare it to the garden arch in the lower right side of the pic). The tree could fall at any moment. The tree is 1ft from my property line. The picture is taken from my kitchen window looking out at my back yard.

When we moved in my husband and I introduced ourselves to our backyard neighbors because we were clearing out our green space of invasives and replacing them with natives. This particular neighbor very dramatically "surveyed" the area with a buddy of his (while my husband and I were working at pulling out poison ivy in the area) and not so nicely explained not to touch his side. That his how I know for a fact the tree belongs to him.

Now I am faced with the dilemma of not being able to let my kids play in our backyard because of a tree that could fall at any moment. I understand its winter and might be hard to do something about it now but it has been dangling since the fall and he has not once mentioned it to us. My kids miss playing in the yard and part of why we moved here is because of the fact that there are woods for my sons to play in. Now they are playing in the street.

I'm afraid to ask the neighbor of his plans without causing an argument. What would you do?

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carol6ma_7ari(zones 6 & 7a)

So what if this causes an argument? Don't be afraid of an argument about territoriality and boundaries. Don't live in fear of this. He might be blunt and outspoken but fair. Just tell the neighbors that the tree that broke is theirs according to the property line (the line that he pointed out), and that it is endangering your children because it could fall on them, on your side of the line. If he does nothing, THEN you could take some sort of action. Is it possible that he might agree to let you cut it down and then let it lie, either side of the line? Once it's down, it isn't a danger.

If he objects to your crossing the boundary to take down one of his trees, tell him that in that case, he will have to remove it at his own expense. The monetary alert might persuade him to let you do it and pay for it yourself.

At least, it's worth trying.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 11:47AM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

I understand the problem. To my knowledge, in most communities, if any part of any vegetation, trees etc. aren't actually OVER your property line, then you have no right to cut, trim etc. Hard to tell from the photo but it seems it's not actually over your property, From what you say about the neighbor, my opinion is that you could approach him in a nice way and explain your concerns. If he's halfway decent and respects your worries, he may do something about it as soon as possible. If, on the other hand, he's a jerk and gives you grief, what have you really lost? Nothing ventured, nothing gained as they say.

I have a similar problem with a neighbor who doesn't care about anyone else and doesn't respect my property. He is more blatant about it though, and has actually had a large drain pipe spilling over the wall into my property, had been throwing yard waste and other debris into my garden, and most recently placed cinder blocks, boards, a trash can and a ceiling fan on my sidewalk! I have had to confront him on all these things, and although I was polite, I was also very direct in telling him what I thought. Those issues have been corrected except for the refuse on the sidewalk, since I only told him about it yesterday. That's because I didn't see it there until the snow melted. We'll never be friendly, but I figure if he's going to be a jerk, then I have no reason not to let him know how I feel when he does these things. i.e. nothing to lose. It's not like you'd make an enemy or something if he's already acting like one!

So I say let him know of your concerns, in a definite but friendly manner. If he removes the broken limbs, great, and if not, he probably wasn't going to anyway.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 12:00PM
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spedigrees z4VT

Technically and legally, I believe you are within your rights to cut the part of the branch that is overhanging your property. Obviously if you do this, your neighbor may be upset with you. I think I'd probably explain that I wanted to cut the branch because of the danger it poses to your children and see if the neighbor objects. If the neighbor objects and you go forward with the "limbing" anyways, I'd take a series of good clear photos and line up a bunch of witnesses to view the procedure. I would hire a reputable and bonded tree company to remove the overhanging part of the limb without trespassing on the neighbor's property.

But honestly I would be more inclined to just wait for nature to take its course and steer clear of the danger zone in the meantime, especially keeping your kids from playing under the leaning tree branch. Surely they can play in the rest of your yard rather than in the street? Automobiles might be a greater danger than the offending tree, depending on the traffic situation.

Also if the woods in question belong to your neighbors, they may be distinctly unhappy about having your children playing there. I would not welcome children playing in my woods or on my land unless their parents were visiting at the time, in part because of the liability, and also because of the invasion of privacy. But I also would object to adults digging, or requesting to dig, plants on my land, invasive or not.

Good luck. Maybe your neighbors will surprise you by being accommodating about your removal of their leaning branch.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 12:15PM
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Thanks for all of the replies. The branch in question is actually more than a branch. It's the top half of a large tree. It literally snapped in two during the hurricane. Removing it would require hiring someone because of the size. I don't think he cares bc he doesn't have kids playing and it's an unused part of his yard...but it is my backyard where my kids like to play.
Because of the size of this tree the backyard is off limits to my kids. This thing could fall at any moment and I can't trust that my kids won't be hit. I don't even want my dogs out there.
As far as my kids playing on other ppl's land or me digging beyond my line, we don't. Any work I have done and where my kids play is clearly on my side. I only informed the neighbors what I was doing out of respect bc our land boundaries touch each other. After his dramatic 'surveying' of the land he realized we were right about where the property lines are...but the tree is on his side (1ft in) hovering over my property.
I had been hoping Mother Nature will finish the job but so far the darn thing is still hanging. It looks like I'm going to have to ask him about it. Heck, he might be nice about it. I'm just a wimp that hates confrontation. After the scene he made while declaring the property lines I'm afraid to confront him. Thanks for giving me the courage I was looking for.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 12:56PM
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