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My Neighbor’s Tree Has Grown into My Yard, What Are the Dos and Don’ts of a Property-Line Clearance?

You won't get tangled up in a mess with your neighbors if you know these dos and don't about trees and property lines.

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Find Your Property LinesFamily Handyman

Find Your Property Lines

Iron stakes mark property lines in most communities. They're typically located at corners and places where property lines meet. To get started, request a plot plan from city hall. You may be able to find the stakes by dragging a rake over the suspected location. But more likely, the stakes will be several inches underground. In that case, your best bet is to buy or rent a metal detector (inexpensive ones cost less than $40). When you've found your target, dig to make sure that it's really a stake and not just a lost quarter. Find what to do if your neighbor's tree starts creeping across the property line.

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If Branches Extend Past Property Line

By law, you have the right to trim branches and limbs that extend past the property line, according to FindLaw. Learn these tree pruning techniques so you don't create more problems for the tree.

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Setback Requirements

Each municipality has its own set of rules for setback requirements, how far something can be away from a property line. So before doing anything, make sure you have a clear understanding of setbacks and setback requirements. You need to know these 10 ordinances if you have a nuisance neighbor.

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Homeowner’s Associations

HOAs often have their own set of rules that are more stringent than city code, so talk with representatives of your HOA before doing anything so you can avoid becoming one of these homeowner association horror stories.

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Who Owns the Tree?

According to FindLaw, whichever side of the property line the tree’s trunk falls on is the owner of the tree. When the tree trunk is divided by the property line, then all property owners possess the tree. If the tree is to be removed, consent from each party must be granted. It's best to remain on friendly terms with your neighbor because there are some things they won't tell you.

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What happens when a neighbor who digs in their yard kills a neighbor’s tree?

FindLaw says, “Anyone who engages in tree removal, tree cutting, or injury to the tree without the owner's permission is liable for compensating the tree owner.”

If you've decided to plant a tree, don't make these mistakes.

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Neighbors Tree Looks Like it Could Fall Into Your Yard

First, it's usually best to discuss the potential issue with your neighbor. Second, your neighbor could be held liable for damages, according to FindLaw. Third, if your neighbor doesn’t do anything about it, the tree could be considered a nuisance, and you could file a nuisance claim, FindLaw says.

The city could even come out to remove the tree, if there are ordinances that prohibit property owners from keeping dangerous conditions on their property, according to FindLaw. Don't do these things when cutting down a tree.

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Tree Root Issues

If tree roots rupture something like a septic system in a neighbor’s yard, there could be claims made against the tree owner. Of course, it all depends on the laws in the city and state where the tree resides.

Make sure you know how to check if tree roots are gumming up your sewer line.

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Family Handyman

Don’t Cut Down the Tree

Depending on where you live, if you cut down your neighbor’s tree it could be considered trespassing. According to NOLO, some states have laws on the books that make intentional tree damage a crime that can result in a fine or jail time. If you need to cut a fallen tree in your yard, follow these chainsaw safety tips.

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Family Handyman

Beware of Fallen Trees

If a tree falls into your neighbor’s yard, typically your insurance company will get involved, if it fell over due to an act of nature. But there are a number of scenarios where you, the homeowner, could be held liable, like if they knew the tree was dying and didn’t do anything about it before it fell over. Here's how to deal with a tree stump painlessly.