Suppose while driving down the street in a residential area your vehicle’s windshield comes in contact with a low hanging branch dangling from a nearby yard. The branch instantly cracks your windshield. Who should you hold responsible for the damage caused? At first thought you may find the people whose tree struck your vehicle to be the ones at fault. This thought may prove to be deceptive. Most cities take care of trimming branches that overlap into the street since they maintain streets. You may have to fight city hall for compensation. On the other hand some cities make homeowners responsible for proper maintenance of their trees; keeping them trimmed back from the street area.
Other problems’ arising from tree branches is the neighboring dispute of limbs from one property trickling over onto another’s. Branches looming over one neighbors yard from another may automatically make the infringed neighbor take action and trim the tree limbs back out of his property space. Unfortunately, the neighbor can’t just cut off tree limbs and chunk them back over the fence. The only way the neighbor can justly trim back trees is if the trees are prohibiting use of or destroying the property. Examples are branches shading garden space, and branches posing a threat during winds or storms; the branches are close enough to a window of your house that they could crash through them during a storm. If tree branches cast a shadow in your yard from a tree stricken with disease the owner should be notified of the condition of the tree so that efforts to eliminate weakened branches from your yard can be done. If nothing is done you may remove the limbs yourself from your side. Trimming limbs from your neighbor’s side without permission is trespassing. The only time you can legally trespass to chop down branches or cut down the tree is in an emergency such as fire where a branch a-flame can set your property ablaze.
If a rotted branch from a neighbor’s yard falls onto your parked car in your driveway and causes damage you can sue, but you will have to prove the owner knew what shape the tree was in before damage occurred. Prior to the falling limb you could send a certified letter addressing potential problems that could arise from dead branches stemming from their tree and ask for the branches to be dealt with. The certified letter receipt can be your proof plus you should make copies of the letter sent and take both to court.
Ownership of trees on property lines can be tricky, but if trees are clear cut on the line both neighbors co-own the trees and share equal responsibility for their care and upkeep. You can cut branches on your side and your neighbor can cut branches on their side. You may not damage the tree or your neighbor’s property in the process. If a tree is close to or near the property line, as long as the trunk isn’t on the line, it remains the responsibility of the person whose yard it is sitting in.