Who doesn’t love a huge and healthy tree providing shade to shield your backyard from the burning hot sun? Apparently, your neighbor. Has your neighbor cut down a branch with no explanation or have they come onto your property and cut down your tree altogether? Can they even cut your tree without asking? Well, it depends.
In no situation is a neighbor allowed to enter your property and cut down a tree without your permission. This is trespassing and should be reported to the authorities. However, if a neighbor cuts down a part of a tree that is hanging onto their property, they are allowed to cut it down.
In this article, we will go into further detail defining how to tell if a tree is your property and what to do if your neighbor has cut your tree illegally. We will also go into further details of the rules of tree cutting in your neighborhood.
These laws can differ state by state so make sure to check what laws your state upholds. Don’t worry, tree huggers. We have all the information you need to avenge your bark-covered friend.
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Here’s a Quick Pro Tip!
In most cases, your neighbor is not allowed to cut down your tree without your permission. In fact, most of the time this is illegal! If you feel like this is something your neighbor would do, having a good security system will help catch them in the act.
Laws on Neighborhood Trees
Before you lay down the ax on your neighbor (not literally), you should know the laws on neighborhood trees. Here we will show you the real answers that you are seeking.
Can a Neighbor Cut Down My Tree?
A neighbor is not legally allowed to cut down your tree unless they have your permission. But, if they don’t, they have no right morally or legally to cut down your tree.
However, this all depends on a few issues. Is the tree fully on your property? Is it posing a danger to your neighbor’s yard? A branch or root being on their property line can make a difference on whether it is legal or not.
Can My Neighbor Cut Down a Branch if the Tree Is on My Property?
A neighbor can legally cut down a branch from a tree on your property if the branch is hanging on their property line. However, they must do so without damaging the rest of the tree.
To properly cut a tree that isn’t your property, they would need to cut the branch at its collar to not prevent further tree growth. If the neighbor cuts the tree’s flesh it can leave the tree vulnerable to decay.
If a neighbor leaves a stub of the branch after it’s been cut, this will prevent further tree growth and count as damage to your property.
The laws on these kinds of disputes can vary on the state’s bylaws. For example, in Massachusetts, you can face up to six months of jail time or a fine of 500 dollars for injuring a tree.
While, on the other hand, Portland allows you to trim branches that hang onto your property line.
Can My Neighbor Come Onto My Property to Cut My Tree Down?
Your neighbor can absolutely not come onto your property to cut down your tree. Unless your neighbor has your permission, they shouldn’t be on your property, let alone damaging your property.
This is considered trespassing and you should report this case to the proper authorities.
A tree with its trunk sitting fully on your property counts as your property. Before accusing your neighbor of anything, look into the specifics of your boundary line and make sure that the tree is your property.
This information is a big factor in this kind of situation. If the trunk of your tree overlaps onto your neighbor’s property, it will be counted as a boundary tree.
Can My Neighbor Force Me to Remove My Tree?
Your neighbor can’t force you to remove your tree unless it is damaging their property or has the potential to damage their property. If your tree damages another person’s property, you are held responsible for said damage.
This includes fallen trees, roots, and fallen branches. You need to fulfill your neighborly duty and take care of your trees so they don’t hurt others or damage others’ property.
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What if the Tree Is on Both of Our Property Lines?
If you find that the offending tree is on your and your neighbor’s property, both of you have ownership of the tree. You will need both parties’ consent to alter the tree in any way.
However, different states can have different policies on this issue so be sure to look up what policies are set in the place you live.
Any decisions involving said tree will need to be worked out between you and your neighbor. If you can’t agree, consider involving others to help create an agreement between the two of you.
How Do I Know if My Tree Is Considered a Boundary Tree?
If the tree’s trunk overlaps your and your neighbor’s property line, it is considered a boundary tree. This means that both you and your neighbor have ownership of this tree.
Both of you will need to provide consent if you would like the tree to be removed or pruned. If you go against this, you can suffer punishment for the law if your neighbor requires it.
How to Take Action After Your Neighbor Has Cut Down Your Tree
Okay, so now you know that your neighbor has done something illegal. But how do you get justice?
What Should I Do if My Neighbor Is Trimming My Tree Without My Permission?
If your neighbor is trimming your tree without your permission, first, try to work out an agreement with your neighbor. If this doesn’t work you will have to go to the proper authorities to see a recompensation.
Before contacting any authorities, be sure to go to your neighbor’s house and talk with them first. This is the most polite and neighborly way to go about this issue. Try working out a deal or agreement with them before resorting to the law.
Although, if you aren’t sure which neighbor is tampering with your trees, you should ask around your neighborhood to see if anyone knows who is responsible or set up a security system.
If you still can’t identify who, get the authorities involved. Likely, this will cause the offender to come forward or the police will be able to find out who did it.
What Should I Do if My Neighbor Killed My Tree?
If your neighbor has killed your tree, you can request compensation. Your tree counts as your property so if they refuse to pay you, you can take them to court. From there, you will be able to force them to give you compensation for their damages.
A neighbor must have permission before tampering with your tree in any way. If a neighbor has killed your tree by mistake, you are still entitled to compensation.
In some cases, people have had to sell their houses because they have killed a particularly rare or old tree. Make sure to be very careful before even touching another person’s tree!
How Do I Report My Neighbor for Cutting Down My Tree?
First, hire a land surveyor. They will be able to confirm that the tree was a part of your property. Then, hire an arborist. They will be able to access damages and access the state of the tree.
Then, get an attorney. They will be able to take this case to small claims court.
A land surveyor will be able to confirm your property lines for you. They will be able to tell you if your tree is actually your property or not. Then they can provide a record of this for you that you can use if you would like to take your neighbor to court.
An arborist is an expert on trees. They can also be called a tree surgeon or arboriculturalist. Their job is to take care of trees and maintain their health. In this situation, an arborist would be able to access the health of your tree and confirm that what the neighbor did caused damage to the tree.
Lastly, you will need to hire an attorney. As an expert on law, they will be able to confirm that what the neighbor did was truly illegal. Then you will be able to take your neighbor to court and get the compensation you desire.
Most likely the court will rule in your favor and you will be able to have justice for your innocent tree.
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Can I Sue My Neighbor for Cutting Down My Tree?
You are, in fact, able to sue your neighbor for cutting down your tree. The only thing a neighbor can cut from your tree is branches that overhang on their property. If they have come onto your property, you are able to take this issue to small claims court to get compensation.
The New York law states that if anyone cuts or hurts another person’s tree without the owner’s permission, they will have to pay a fine of at least 250 dollars or the value of the tree or both in some situations.
They will also pay for any repairs that are required after their act of violation. All punishment should be enough to restore the person’s land to its previous state.
Laws can differ depending on the state so make sure to research what compensation you are able to get where you live.
What Type of Loss Can I Recover With Suing My Neighbor?
It depends on where you live but you would be able to gain funds for tree replacement, property value decreases, and repair and cleaning expenses. The law states that you should be entitled to three times the amount of the original tree.
The first thing you will be able to get compensation for is tree replacement. To replace a tree, it can cost from 500 to 2,500 dollars.
This price can be even higher for trees that are rare, old, or of cultural value. If your tree fits this description, you will be able to receive 20,000 to 60,000 dollars.
Because you have lost a tree, your property loses monetary value. Your neighbor will have to compensate for this as well. Also, if a tree has special value to you or had a great effect on the look of your property, you will be able to get more money to compensate for your loss.
Then you will need money to pay for the clean-up process as well. This would include stump removal and any other clean-up costs.
Unfortunately, small claims court only allows you to sue up to 10,000 dollars so you will need to take this into account before taking action.
Rules for Cutting Trees
These are related questions for those who might have a certain tree plaguing their life. This section will show how to cut a tree without the law slamming down on you.
What Happens When You Cut Down Trees Without Permission?
It depends but usually you can get into legal trouble if you cut down someone’s tree without their permission. A person’s tree is their legal property and if you damage it you could face a variety of charges.
It is extremely important to talk to your neighbor before committing to any harsh actions. Communication is key in keeping a relationship with your neighbors.
If you would like someone to remove or prune a tree, simply ask them to do this and express why you would like them to. If they refuse, there is no legal way you can force them to remove your tree unless it poses a danger to you or your possessions.
How Can You Cut Down or Prune Trees Legally?
To cut down a tree completely, you must have ownership of the tree. To prune a tree, the branches you cut must reach onto your property.
You must prune branches safely so the tree will be able to continue to grow. Otherwise, your neighbor has a way to charge you for damaging their property.
As long as a tree is on your property, you are able to cut them legally with no permission from others.
Can I Cut Down a Tree Located on My Street?
In no situation are you allowed to cut down trees that are in public areas. These trees belong to the city and they will fine you for the offense.
Depending on the city, you could be fined up to 1,000 dollars and face prison time for up to 90 days. Only those with permits are allowed to prune or cut down city-owned trees. No work or construction is allowed within 50 feet of a city-owned tree without a tree working permit.
Make sure that you have the proper permission or authority before altering street trees in any way.
Can I Cut Down My Boundary Tree Without My Neighbor’s Permission?
You are not allowed to cut down a boundary tree without your neighbor’s permission. You and your neighbor both have ownership of the tree and both sides must provide consent before anything is done.
Since a boundary tree is on your property and your neighbor’s property, you both have shared ownership over the tree. You are required to involve your neighbor in any decisions made about this tree. If this ownership is not honored, your neighbor will be able to take legal action against you.
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Man, if you got to the end of this article, you must really care about your tree! Now that you are armed with all this information, no ax-wielding tree killers will be able to hurt your tree and get away with it.
You are the ultimate tree avenger and we applaud you for that! Groot would be proud of you for bringing ruler breakers to justice.
However, is a tree worth ruining your relationship with your neighbor? As we have repeatedly said throughout the article, talk to your neighbor before calling in any legal services. You will be glad you did.
Often, these disagreements spawn from confusion or a lack of communication. Please, take the first step and find a compromise that will benefit both you and your neighbor.
However, what you want to do is what you want to do and we aren’t going to stand in the way of that. I’m sure our leafy friends will thank you.