You are supposed to "love thy neighbor," but it doesn't mean that you have to love their trees. This is especially true when their trees are causing problems on your property. Tree disputes are pretty common among homeowners. Therefore, if you are purchasing your first home and are just moving into the neighborhood, you may want to familiarize yourself with these real estate disputes in case you run into trouble with a neighboring property and homeowner:
1. Fallen Trees
If a tree from your neighbor's yard falls onto your property and results in significant damage, you may be able to hold the neighbor accountable for negligence. However, the only way for this to happen is if you can provide adequate proof that your neighbor failed to properly maintain the tree, which resulted in it becoming a hazard. Negligence can also be shown with proof that the neighbor knew the tree was dangerous and failed to remove it before it caused damage. If the tree fell due to natural conditions, it is much harder to be compensated other than by your insurance claim.
2. Cutting Down a Tree
It isn't uncommon for trees to partly cover two properties at the same time. As a general rule, the owner of the tree is the person with the tree trunk on their property. The neighbor can typically trim the branches that come over onto their property so long as it doesn't impact the tree's condition or destroy portions of the tree that are on the tree owner's property.
3. A Tree Blocking Your View
If you look out your window and all you see is a big, ugly tree, you may have a claim against your neighbor. However, it depends on the situation and facts. For example, if there are laws and agreements in place that apply to your property, such as a view ordinance or an easement, then you may be able to sue your neighbor. For example, in Seattle in 2013, a MLB player won a suit in court after claiming that the trees in a neighbor's yard blocked his view. The court decided that the neighbors were violating the city's "view obstruction and tree removal" ordinance and ordered them to take down the two trees that were blocking the baseball star's view.
4. Picking Fruit from a Neighbor's Tree
If the tree is not officially on your property, then you may not want to pick fruit from the tree. If you must go onto your neighbor's property to do it, you are essentially trespassing. In some cases, if you pick a fruit, you could be considered stealing. Even if the fruit falls onto your property, you may want to be safe and speak to your neighbor about it first to avoid any unnecessary criminal charges and complaints.
5. Fallen Leaves on Your Property
Ultimately, you probably won't get far if you try to make a claim about the leaves that fall or blow into your yard and onto your property from your neighbor's tree. Sure, these leaves can be frustrating, but they may not be enough basis to file a nuisance lawsuit. However, to reiterate, you do have the right to trim the portions of the tree that are growing over the property line. This may help reduce the amount of leaves that get on your property.
In the end, if you aren't sure whether or not you have the right to sue your neighbor over a tree, contact an experienced and qualified real-estate attorney. He or she will be able to evaluate the facts of your case and help you determine the best course of action moving forward.