Neighbor Cut Down My Tree

Neighbor Cut Down My Tree

When you own or are occupying a property it is more than just about the building. Everything that is on the property is legally controlled by you. This includes the vegetation on the property. Bear in mind as well that the property ownership or occupation can have extensions. As in, the property can have extensions that may not be immediately obvious to others. For instance, your property might be fenced or enclosed. Yet there can be parts just outside the perimeter fence or enclosure that fall under the property. Just one example, of many, that shows that a neighbor might cut down your tree. Let us explore when a neighbor cuts down your tree.

Some Tree Ownership Considerations

Full Tree Ownership

It is important to appreciate some basics in tree ownership. That is a good foundation to understand what it means when a neighbor cut down a tree. If a tree’s trunk stands entirely on your property then it fully belongs to you. If a neighbor cuts it down they will be held responsible since that is not allowed.

Shared Tree Ownership

Then it is possible that a tree’s trunk can stand on more than one property. Such a tree is termed a boundary tree. For instance, part of it can be on your property whilst the other part stands on your neighbor’s. When that is the scenario it means the tree is owned by both of you. This also implies that your neighbor cannot cut down the tree without your consent. These are the general applicable laws but there can be exceptions depending on your specific location.

Neighbor Cutting Down Your Tree Becomes Neighbor Liable

In principle, your neighbor cannot cut down your tree without your permission. If they do so they become liable and will be expected to compensate you. Charges can be along the lines of trespassing and damage to property. You can even sue them if the circumstances necessitate so. Compensation can be in form of expenses for tree replacement, expenses incurred in efforts to save the tree or clear it off the property. It can also be in line with reduction in property value. If the circumstances are solid you can also get compensated for emotional damages.

Understand that liability also extends to any substantial damage done to your tree. It can either be intentional or by mistake. Examples of such damage are physical and chemical damage. A caveat though, you must be able to prove beyond doubt that they are liable. Another caveat is that it is lawful for a neighbor to prune parts of your tree encroaching into their property. If that pruning results in your tree being damaged and you can prove it, the neighbor does become liable.

Important Details On Pruning An Encroaching Tree

If you have a tree encroaching or hanging over into your neighbor’s property, they have a legal right to prune or trim it. They should only do it from their property unless you allow them to do it from yours. They should only prune or trim to where the property line is from their side. If they go beyond and encroach into yours, it becomes illegal. They must also ensure they do not damage the tree in any way during the process.

You will find that in many places if a neighbor damages your tree they become liable. The law may require them to compensate as much a 3 times the expenses you will incur. For instance, let us suppose it takes US$500 to say, replace the tree the neighbor cut down. You can be entitled to get US$1500 in damages from the neighbor. Damages can amount to thousands of dollars in some situations. The neighbor would be wise to discuss with you first before trimming the tree.

State Laws Or Ordinances May Vary

There are a number of standard laws that apply to situations when a neighbor cuts down your tree. Such laws can hold true no matter which state you go to. However, there can be variations to some of those laws. In certain states or counties there can be totally different laws that apply. There are also ordinances that can apply to specific locations. For instance, properties under house ownership associations (HOAs) can have their own set of ordinances. That is why it is vital that you get acquainted with the laws and or ordinances that apply to your property. What applies in one state might not necessarily apply in yours. Kindly check with local authorities or legal experts on what specifically applies to your context.

Start By Talking It Out With Your Neighbor

This depends on the circumstance surrounding the neighbor cutting down your tree. If it was malicious then trying to talk to them might not yield fruitful results. All the same you could try to talk to them first before exploring your legal options. It is possible your neighbor might not know the legal ramifications of their actions. By letting the neighbor know they could become remorseful and be open to discuss. If maybe the neighbor cut down the tree by mistake you can possibly have a fruitful discussion.

Talking with your neighbor first is prudent in that it can save you the hassle of taking legal action. Legal action e.g. going to court will cost both of you and can be draining. Ultimately your relationship with your neighbor might not recover afterwards. That is why it is best to first seek to settle the issue outside court or other legal routes. If the neighbor is reasonable they can compensate you amicably. Only when you fail to reach a consensus should you explore legal action.

Final Thoughts

Know your rights and do not let a neighbor infringe on them. A tree sitting on your property is yours. You have authority over it so no neighbor can just cut it down without your permission. If your neighbor cuts down your tree you deserve to be compensated. There are laws and ordinances that apply regardless of which state you are in. Get acquainted with them and use them when need be.