In the absence of file-specific attribution or copyright, the Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library may hold the copyright to parts of this website. Law #1 :: Any part of your tree that goes over your neighbor’s fence is technically theirs. Following the Dudley case Washington, DC courts simply ask, if necessary: “Did plaintiff make out a prima facie case to show that defendant landowners had been negligent?”  This DC rule was supported by the same highest court in the 2008 case of Tolu v. Ayodeji. If you damage the structure of a neighbor's tree, you may be liable for damages. However, neighbors may only cut the limb back to the property line and may not enter their neighbor's property for further cutting without permission. We use cookies to give you the best possible experience on our website. Options for tree maintenance near service wires or between poles on or near your property are explained below. Although Maryland has had no court case dealing with an invasive species, Maryland’s courts seem to be limiting all plant overgrowth cases to self-help, meaning a neighboring landowner will bear the burden of stopping overgrowth on his/her property. Sunday May 13, 2007 at 12:01 AM May 13, 2007 at 12:52 PM. In Fancher v. Fagella, the Virginia Supreme Court held that where a neighbor’s tree causes harm or poses an imminent danger of harm to an adjoining property, the tree owner “may be held responsible” for this harm. Courts have upheld that a homeowner’s tree rights extend indefinitely upward on his property line, and those rights are protected from invasion by an adjoining landowner. If the entire trunk rests on one side of the property line, that neighbor has ownership regardless if branches, roots, foliage or any other portion of the tree hangs over the property line. Trees located on a boundary line are considered joint property, and no single neighbor can decide to remove the tree. Basic real property law provides that the property boundary goes straight up into the sky and that each property owner has the right to cut down any branches or anything which hangs over onto one's real property. In one example, several lawsuits being filed by homeowners seeking to stop the utilities from removing beautiful mature trees growing on private land. If the entire trunk is in the other yard, the neighbor owns the tree. The rights of a property owner to legally force the removal their neighbor’s trees. However we do not provide legal advice - the application of the law to your individual circumstances. Specifically, the Attorney General made clear that under Maryland law, the right or duty of a homeowner to cut a neighbor’s encroaching tree branches back to the property line depends on the condition of the tree and the nature of the abutting property. While the homeowner may be permitted to cut his neighbor’s encroaching branches, the homeowner is generally limited to cutting back growth the property line and the homeowner may not enter the adjoining homeowner’s property to remove the growth without the neighbor’s consent. If you have a dead tree on your property, cutting it down could be a smart move. Longman & Van Grack’s litigation attorneys consist of lawyers who have handled many different types property lawsuits, tree disputes, tree damage lawsuits in many courts throughout Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. Property owners in every state have the right to cut off branches and roots that stray into their property. We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information and to clearly explain your options. With Offices in Maryland (Rockville or Bethesda), and Washington, DC, the attorneys at Longman & Van Grack assist clients throughout Washington, DC and Maryland including Montgomery County, Howard County, Prince George’s County, Chevy Chase, Darnestown, Gaithersburg, Germantown, Potomac, Silver Spring, and Wheaton. Tree roots that cross over a neighbor's property line cannot be cut, uprooted or in any way destroyed unless the roots are causing damage to that neighbor's property. So your neighbor has been nicely asking that the overhanging branches be cut by you, or that you cut down the tree, depending on how much of the tree is overhanging. Neighboring landowners have legal rights regarding adjacent trees and tree growth, and there is significant law in Maryland, Virginia, and DC regarding tree related lawsuits, tree disputes, and tree litigation. You should only enter that portion of your neighbor’s property to which your neighbor grants you access, and you should comply with any other lawful conditions they may impose. Neighbor law. One often-overlooked legal issue related to storms and property damage in Maryland, Virginia, and DC is potential legal liability related to tree damage, at risk trees, or fallen trees. This article covers some common questions and answers regarding the rights and duties of neighboring land owners. A neighbor’s tree branch that hangs over your property may fall in a storm, resulting in damage to your home, car or other possessions. In this case you must contact your local authority. Learn more about how to file a case. Instead of researching the issue, the day laborer was turned loose on the trees like Jason in Friday the 13th. We have also address property issues related to fence laws and adverse possession. Melnick v. CSX Corp., 540 A.2d 1133 (Md. Phone: (301) 291-5027 Massachusett's Homeowners Rights on Trees Overhanging Property Lines. Property lines extend from the ground up into the sky. If limbs or branches belonging to a neighbor's tree extend over your property line, you are legally allowed to trim the areas hanging over your property. Where a healthy tree straddles the property line, the property owners "each hold title to a portion of [the tree], and thus neither can take any action against their portion of [the tree] that would injure [the tree] as a whole." Generally, if a tree trunk sits on both you and your neighbor’s property, is owned by both of you, and you are both responsible for the tree. According to common law in Connecticut, it’s your legal responsibility to make sure that the trees on your property don’t pose an “unreasonable danger” to others. © Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library, 2021.”, Submit a legal information question to the Thurgood Marshall State Law Library, Call or chat with a lawyer about your civil legal matter, at no cost It extends way over the property line, over your yard or even your house. Tree laws and tree lawsuit can be significant in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC. If any limbs extend over the property line, they fall into that neighbor’s jurisdiction. Hiring an attorney is an important decision which should not be based solely on advertising. There are some things to consider if you have a problem with a tree on a shared property line: Additional Damages and Criminal Penalties for Intentional Damage to Trees in Maryland. However, the law only allows tree trimming and tree cutting up to the property line. You may not go onto the neighbor's property or destroy the tree. This will only be necessary if the trees are blocking the road or causing obstruction. Fax: (301) 291-5028 Maintenance of trees on private property can often lead to disputes between neighbours when a tree has been planted close to the property line. For legal advice, you should consult an attorney. 1988); Dudley v. Meadowbrook, Inc. 166 A.2d 743 (Md. When a neighbors tree branch is over hanging an adjoining property line, the adjoining property owner has an absolute right to cut the branch up to the property line. However, before you take this step, it important that you first get an order from the district court to do the trimming or cutting of the overhanging tree. If the tree is on the property line, both property owners share the value of the tree and are responsible for upkeep on their side of the boundary line. Act of God. If they decide the tree is likely to cause damage, they can take several courses of action. The law is unclear on whether landowners can remove a tree themselves when it sits on a property line. Corp., Maryland’s highest court followed what is known as the “Massachusetts Rule” which in most cases limits the remedy of the landowner that is harmed to self-help – that is, the landowner cannot sue for damage if owner could have removed the encroaching limbs themselves. Can I cut those branches to limit the amount of leaves? If your property backs onto a road and has a problem with overhanging trees, it’s possible the Highways Agency might ask you to remove them. Because of this, it is best practice to get a neighbor’s permission before removing any tree that sits on the property line. Or your neighbors’ trees? The law is unclear on whether landowners can remove a tree themselves when it sits on a property line. In fact, in a 1988 decision, the Maryland Court of Appeals specifically held that a landowner could not bring a lawsuit against a neighbor whose trees and other vegetation encroached and damaged his property. The law allows you to take the branches from your side of the property line, but should you take one splinter more or stray by so much as a fraction of an inch into your neighbor’s yard, you are committing a trespass and could find yourself liable. If the neighbor's tree is near the property line, but not actually crossing it, no trimming can take place by the other neighbor without first obtaining permission to do so. Leaves from the neighbor’s tree consistently clog my gutters and fill my yard. That's right, even if the tree is rooted in your neighbor's yard, if it crashes onto your property, it's your problem. This legal right in Maryland is referred to as “self help.” While self-help is often the remedy to be used by a neighbor in the face of an encroaching living tree, such a remedy is not always the case. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. But he cannot cut the tree down or cause it to be killed. Bethesda, MD 20817 Whether you can cut your neighbor’s tree that has branches hanging over your land, the Maryland courts follow the “Hawaiian Rule” whereby the owner of the tree has no obligation to control the growth of the tree or to pay for damage to your property caused by the overhanging limbs. Maryland Right to Farm Laws Does a homeowner have a similar right? ... and cut off vines and branches hanging over my fence. The Hensley court noted that the general rule was that the rural landowner did not have a duty to inspect rural trees abutting public roads for dead or decaying limbs due to the practical difficulty of doing so, however, in a more urban setting, since the landowner may only be responsible for a few trees (which can be more easily inspected), there will exist a duty to use due care to protect others from damage or injury caused by dead or decaying trees. Trees that start out on your property but grow over the boundary between your property and your neighbor’s property become the joint property of you and your neighbor under Washington state law. 3 One month later, Gary Stocks and Daniel Kirchner of North Carolina were killed in an alleged tree dispute between neighbors. It is essential that you determine the location of your property line. For example, in Hensley v. Montgomery County, the Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals found that the owner of rural or suburban forest land is not liable for the damage done by dead tree limbs falling onto property unless the tree constitutes a “danger to lawful users of abutting public roads and the owner is aware or should be aware of the tree’s deteriorated condition.”  The court differentiated the difference between a rural owner (such as Potomac, Maryland) and an urban or suburban owner (such as Rockville, Maryland or Bethesda, Maryland), But what duty does the rural landowner have relative to learning the health of his rural trees? Your neighbors have a duty not to trespass on your property, and this may include overhanging tree branches or other plants extending from the neighbor’s property onto your property. Washington, DC has less guidance than Maryland regarding tree damage liability. The rights of a property owner when a neighbor’s tree, tree limb, or roots damages their property. In this situation, Maryland has adopted the “Massachusetts Rule” and D.C. has adopted a slightly modified version thereof. In 1960, the highest court in Washington, DC stated in Dudley v. Meadowbrook, Inc.: We think the sound and practical rule is that liability in such cases is to be determined by the test of negligence and that a landowner should be held to the duty of common prudence in maintaining his property, including trees thereon, in such a way as to prevent injury to his neighbor’s property. Simply put, it’s the law. You should also check with your county and municipality to see whether they have other requirements you must follow in order to trim or remove a roadside tree. Legal. Once a property boundary has been crossed, a neighbor's trees can impact one's own property, causing damage to fences, sidewalks and other structures. That was the case for Phyllis J., a Davey blog reader from Arizona who wrote about a palm tree that sits on the corner of her lot. In Melnick v. C.S.X. You cannot cut down the tree without getting the permission of your neighbor. 8:30 am - 8:00 pm, Mon - Fri, From MD Legal Aid; Edited by www.peoples-law.org/contributors. Can I force a neighbor to cut down the branches of a tree hanging over my property? Can I cut down the branches of a neighbor’s tree that is hanging over my property? One of the most common issues homeowners face is when a tree's roots or branches extend over the property line onto a neighbor's adjoining property. Branch of the law: Rules about trees that straddle property lines rooted in common courtesy . An unauthorized entry onto the land of your neighbor constitutes a trespass for which your neighbor could seek damages against you. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established. Is there a rule for trees on the property line? To remove the tree, both property owners must consent. All the owners are responsible for caring for the tree, and one co-owner may not remove a healthy tree without the other owners' permission. Trees located on a boundary line are considered joint property, and no single neighbor can decide to remove the tree. Thus landowners in Maryland are provided with certain legal rights to themselves control their neighbor’s living trees, plants, roots, or vines that have encroached on their land within Maryland. Only if those branches extend into your property line. Courts have upheld that a homeowner’s tree rights extend indefinitely upward on his property line, and those rights are protected from invasion by an adjoining landowner. Specifically, the Attorney General made clear that under Maryland law, the right or duty of a homeowner to cut a neighbor’s encroaching tree branches back to the property line depends on the condition of the tree and the nature of the abutting property. 1961). In most cases this is the only help that is provided by the law, even when damage from a tree is substantial. Maryland does not have a specific law defining and regulating boundary fences, but there might be a local ordinance (in your city, county, or town) that has rules on boundary fences. Situation 2. Relying on the easements granted to them many years ago, the utilities are often permitted to remove trees that they deem to be a future threat to their power lines. Fruit that’s still on your neighbor’s tree belongs to your neighbor, even if the branch it’s attached to is hanging over your property. The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You cannot cut down the tree without getting the permission of your neighbor. As a storm approaches or yearly growth increases, are you prepared for what could happen with your trees? Usually this… You may not enter your neighbor’s property to trim or remove a tree or other plant without first getting your neighbor’s consent. If you do harm the tree, you could be found liable for up to three times the value of the tree. In other examples, our law firm has represented individuals against governments related to tree hazards/damage and against neighbors for tree hazards/damage. In England and Wales the authorities have powers to act against potential damage-causing trees on private property. The rights of a property owner to remove or trim their neighbor’s trees. From branches that inch over the property line to tall trees that block a view, dealing with plants that affect multiple properties is tricky! By continuing to use this site you consent to the use of cookies on your device as described in our cookie policy unless you have disabled them. If a neighbor’s tree encroaches over the property line and presents a danger to the homeowner, the burden is on the homeowner to protect his property by cutting the invading branches and roots to the extent that they protrude on the homeowner’s property. Our tree dispute and property dispute attorneys have handled tree lawsuits and property lawsuits in Montgomery County Circuit Court (Rockville, MD), Prince George’s County Circuit Court (Upper Marlboro, MD), Howard County Circuit Court (Ellicott City, MD), Frederick County Circuit Court (Frederick, MD), Baltimore County Circuit Court (in Towson, MD), and DC Superior Court (in Washington DC). Trees Along Property Lines Overhanging branches, invasive root systems, and falling debris can all cause tensions between neighbors. This tree danger determination was new law in Virginia. Neighbor's Trees Trees and neighbors and the law. Safety: Do not climb trees or trim trees that are located near power lines without taking necessary precautions first. What a person’s rights and obligations are as they pertain to their trees or the trees of the neighbors depends upon state law. A sapling planted 15 feet in from a property line in 1970 could today have branches, limbs or roots that extend far over the owner's property line. The potential legal liabilities of property owners when their trees threaten or actually cause damage to their neighbor’s property. Property owners in every state have the right to cut off branches and roots that stray into their property, in most cases this is the only help that is provided by the law, even when damage from a tree is substantial. Trees and other growth from a neighboring property can often cause damage and legal risk to a landowner/homeowner. This will keep you safe from any legal action. Thus, if a tree falls in Washington, DC on a neighboring property, the ordinary laws of negligence will apply. Self-Sown Trees or branches of the trees extend over the line (Bloch [Tree Law Cases in the USA]). Learn your rights and responsibilities regarding trees on neighboring properties However, it may be difficult to persuade a court to order your neighbor to cut back a tree or other plant, unless you can show that the overgrowth is harming you or your property. No. This can require a survey, which could be expensive. You can not make your neighbor do it or pay for it. A reader wrote asking for more information about tree liability: "Yes, by law you or I can cut back to the property line anything that hangs in or over our property … If you are unable to reach an agreement with your neighbor regarding the removal of the fence, you can file a complaint in the circuit court that requests an injunction as relief. You can cut back anything up to your property line. Being living organisms, trees grow and spread over time. In general, the issues that can develop from fallen trees, dangerous trees, or hazardous trees include: Questions related to tree-damage liability were recently addressed by former Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, whose office was asked to provide written clarification about the state of Maryland law in this area. However, it may be difficult to persuade a court to order your neighbor to cut back a tree or other plant, unless you can show that the overgrowth is harming you or your property. Property owners in every state have the right to cut off branches and roots that stray into their property. Under that doctrine, the neighbor could obtain title to your property if they possess the property for a 20 year period, and such possession is actual, open, notorious, exclusive and adverse to your claim of ownership. Corp., et al., 312 Md. The laws clearly state that if the tree trunk is in one person's property and the branches overhang into another person's property, the other property owner has all rights … You are free to copy the information for your own use or for other non-commercial purposes with the following language “Source: Maryland's People’s Law Library – www.peoples-law.org. In Melnick v. C.S.X. Now, a lot of people ask us why they should have to pay to trim a neighbor’s shrubs and trees hanging over their property. Consult Request. The Law. But disputes over trees near the property line can involve large sums of money, especially if the tree is damaged or dies.” Aside from its aesthetic value and its contribution to the environment, trees may have a monetary value to the homeowner, depending on the location and other specifics. There are trees on my property line that are hanging over on towards my side.they are endandering my home and family.do - Answered by a verified Lawyer . Understanding UK law relating to trees can help everyone grasp the rights and responsibilities of tree ownership. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters, and electronic mail. Your neighbor would technically have the right to prune any portion of your tree that passes over that imaginary line, so long as it does not damage your tree. © 2021 Longman & Van Grack, LLC All Rights Reserved, Montgomery County Maryland Lawsuits & Trials, Administrative Appeals and Petition for Review, Tax Court Appeals and Tax Petitions for Review, Estate Administration and Estate Planning, Estate Planning & Administration Overview, Sports Law & Outdoor Recreation Law Overview, Contract and Document Review for Sports & Outdoors Industry, Liability Waivers for Sports & Outdoors Industry, Olympic and Professional Athlete Legal Representation, Legal Liability for Tree Damage in Maryland, Virginia, and DC. 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